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The Penguin Atlas of African History (Penguin Reference Books) [Paperback]

Colin McEvedy
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Sep 1995 Penguin Reference Books
This invaluable reference work provides an account of the development of African society from 175 million years ago, through the first appearance of humans to the complex polity of the twentieth century. Colin McEvedy tracks the development of modern man, the differentiation and spread of languages, the first crossings of the Sahara, the exploration of the Niger, and the search for the 'fountains of the Nile'. Gold and ivory lure traders from far away; Christendom and Islam compete for African attention. Names from the distant past become nation-states with aspirations appropriate to the modern world. With sixty maps and a clear, concise text, this synthesis is especially useful to African studies and history teachers, but is also a fascinating guide for the general reader.

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Frequently Bought Together

The Penguin Atlas of African History (Penguin Reference Books) + The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Civilizations + The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History (Hist Atlas)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 2Rev Ed edition (28 Sep 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140513213
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140513219
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 14.7 x 20.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 437,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Colin McEvedy is the author of The Penguin Atlas of Ancient History; The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History; The Penguin Atlas of Recent History (Europe Since 1815) and The Penguin Atlas of North American History. He lives in London, W6.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential 17 Aug 2002
By A Customer
Africa is a continent who's history prior to the Scramble For Africa is often unknown or ignored. This book gives great detail about Africa's history with helpful maps to give the reader a geographical aspect. The text is in the form of a series of essays about each map, allowing quick access to the desired time period.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - but where is the new edition? 17 Nov 2008
Africa is often left off the history table, or only gets mentioned through the colonization period - well, here's the perfect antidote. In 59 maps it takes you from Pangaea to 1978, which is quite a lot of long hops! From the basics like the Great Rift, Olduvai and the Omo River Valley, soon yu're taken to 8000 B.C. and the first subgroups of modern mankind. The great migrations, the first empires, the great empires; trade routes, population densities, and foreign incursions. It is all here, laid out clearly and concisely, and a great introduction to African history with a continental viewpoint.
Highly recommended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Africa for beginners or bluffers 18 Mar 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
McEvedy packs more detail into 130 pages than you could imagine - from Gondwanaland to the African Union. Whichever region of Africa or period of African history you are interested in, this book gives a crash course in its past and its context. The text is crisp and informative - I read it almost straight through and now dip in to remind myself. It is not a coffee table book - the maps are pretty basic, and there are no photos or other illustrations. Nor should you expect to become much of an expert on anything. But it's clear, straightforward and readable, and all most people need to know. And a classic within Penguin's excellent Historical Atlas range.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good But Incomplete History 5 Oct 2000
By "kingsransom" - Published on Amazon.com
The Penguin Atlases of Ancient, Medieval and Modern History covered only the history of Europe. This offering gives a bit more balance to the series and has a better claim to be the "Penguin Atlas of Human History" since it begins with maps of the oldest known hominid fossil finds. As with the other books in the series, the maps are very well laid out and will be irresistible to history buffs like myself. The emphasis is definitely on political history, but there are a few maps of population densities and trade routes.
The text that accompanies the maps is not bad, but is definitely not up to the same standard. Some of the information is even a little dubious (especially in the discussion of human evolution). There is also a tendency to see things from a European point of view, and I would have preferred a little less on the "exploration" of the continent and a little more on cultural history.
The Penguin Atlas of African History is a reference work that should be on everyone's shelves, but it should probably be backed up with a more detailed history of the continent.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent Atlas & outline of African History 29 Aug 2004
By events3 - Published on Amazon.com
The maps in this book provide an excellent visual history for anyone who has read a plethora of books involving different peoples and locations in Africa. Now one can compare the locations (and times) at which these different events occur!

While acknowledging that the African slave trade (both intra-African & Trans-Saharan) existed long before the Europeans arrived on the scene and accepting the historical accuracy of Berbers and Moriscos such as Ibn Battuta and Leo Africanus as well as of Westerners like Mungo Park and Dr. Livingstone, McEvedy attempts to maintain a neutral position throughout.

The work is not without flaw, for McEvedy could have left out pages 8 - 19 and actually improved the work. More importantly, he fails to give any sources or references. This limits the usefulness of the book's text and indicates that this is just an outline for use with more scholarly texts.

Still, the book provides a decent consideration of the early ethnic groups of Africa from the Afro-Asiatics (Hamito-Semitic), Niger-Congolese ("Negro") and Nilo-Saharans to the Pygmies & San. It also gives a clear picture of the expansion of the Nilo-Saharans toward the west and of the Niger-Congolese (especially the Bantu peoples) to the south and east and the growth and expansion of Egypt, Carthage, the Roman Empire, the Vandals, Byzantine Empire and the Arab Caliphate.

We also get a clear picture of the break-up of the old Caliphate and the establishment of independent and virtually independent kingdsoms of Arabs (and Moors in Morocco & Spain)and their expansion (as well as that of Islam to the south with the development of the Trans-Saharan trade routes around 900 A.D.). The rise of the Ottoman control of eastern North Africa, the beginnings of the relatively small Portuguese (and Afro-Portuguese) settlements at the Angolan and Mozambique coastsand the beginnings of Cape Colony. The French slowly begin to establish colonies in Algiers and Senegal, the expansion of the Boers and the beginnings of the "scramble" (see Packenham's THE SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA) which resulted in almost all of Africa being made into colonies of the different European empires.

Of special interest are the maps showing the routes taken by the various Muslim and Western explorers and the growth of different parts of the population such that the Afro-Asiatics went from being the majority of peoples in Africa to the Niger-Congolese (along with the Nilo-Saharans) making up the vast majority of the African population. McEvedy does an excellent job of explaining why, despite the very large number of slaves which were taken from sub-Saharan Africa, the local populations managed to actually increase in size (the number of people sold, captured or kidnapped into slavery was less than 1/2 the expected rate of increase and most were males thus only making minor reductions in the number of local women able to reproduce).

Again, an excellent introduction to African history and reference, but it should not be - and was not intended to be - a scholoarly work. Indeed, the author even eschews the term "reference" in support of the idea that it is just an outline.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great historical atlas from Penguin 26 April 2008
By Michael Magoon - Published on Amazon.com
This entire series is superb and is absolutely essential for any lover of historical atlases. I have been an owner of virtually all of them for at ten years and I can honestly say that they are most read books of all that I own.

The reason is their unique portability and scope. Most historical atlas are huge, heavy and expensive. They are difficult to read unless you are sitting at a table and very difficult to carry. This limits their utility (even though I still love them). Most history books have lots of dense detail about one nation or one period. Virtually none cover the broad sweep of an entire region over centuries.

This atlas covers Africa and a bit of the Middle East as well. It starts in 175 million years ago and finishes in 1994. In all, it has 60 maps. Unlike most of the other Penguin Historical Atlas, there is a quite a bit of focus on pre-history and ethnicity.

Like all Penguin Historical Atlases, it is small, light, reasonably priced and incredibly broad in scope. These atlases offer a unique perspective on history than is otherwise impossible to achieve. Their size and weight make them perfect for travelling. Whenever I go on a trip, I take the most relevant ones with me. That way I can brush up on my history of the region.

The format is extremely useful. Each two-page layout represents a specific time period. On the right is a historical map. On the left is a very brief overview of the important events that happened since the previous map. Each event usually consists of one paragraph or at most a few paragraphs, just enough to peak the interest. Most of the maps document boundaries and note a few key cities or battlegrounds. Occasionally, the maps focus on population, religion or economics.

What is most fun for me is to trace the history or one nation, province or sub-region through the entire atlas. In just a few minutes I can learn as much as spending days reading an entire book. You can also see how individual nations interact with each other, a subject often left out of typical history books.
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Geological, Political, and Social History 30 Mar 2014
By Re-bop - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you go all the way back to the supercontinent, Pangaea–showing how the land masses separated from it and assembled in the configuration that we now know as the map of the world–you are certainly ambitious in the scope of your study. McEvedy is ambitious and, in a study that contains extensive use of maps–every facing page, in fact–he creates an integrated whole, without it being tedious or belabored. It's a very interesting and unique perspective on African History.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another priceless work from Colin McEvedy 8 Sep 2008
By J. Michael - Published on Amazon.com
This is yet another great work by Colin McEvedy. How one man could be the repository of so much information, I'll never know. If this book isn't as interesting as his atlases of Europe and North America, it's not his fault. African history just isn't that interesting in comparison. Until the mid 19th century, it played out mostly on the extreme peripheries, and until the mid 20th century, the prime actors were Arab and European. However, of what history it does have, we are well informed by Mr. McEvedy. I have two complaints though. I wish he could have included a map showing the Cold War divisions of the independent African states. The continent was a Cold War battleground, so I think it would have been beneficial to show which states leaned which way. My other complaint is that I wish he would have explained exactly what some of these "kingdoms" consisted of. I wonder if it's really accurate to speak of "kingdoms" and delineate borders when dealing with illiterate, Stone Age tribesmen. Besides that, this is a must-have addition to your library.
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