This book is excellent as an introduction to West African history. It begins with a brief overview of region's history from earliest times but the focus of the book is on the thousand years between the 9th and the 19th centuries A.D.
Comprehensive overviews of the political histories of both well and little known West African states and cities are recounted. These include the histories of the empires of Ghana, Mali, Songhay, Kanem-Bornu, Oyo, Benin, Dahomey and Asante. Accounts of several other smaller states are also detailed such as the Hausa city states, the Wollof kingdom, the Bambara states, the Niger Delta trading states, the Fulani states of Futa Jallon and Futa Toro, the important cities of Timbuktu, Jenne and Gao and several others.
Apart from these political histories, Davidson also provides an insight into the social fabric of West Africa, especially at the dawn of the 17th century. He describes economic features (like trade items, routes, currencies etc), religion, arts and learning in the region, social stratification and dominant trends. These provide the reader with a real "feel" of the society at that time.
Like all of Davidson's writings on this subject matter, this book dispels the myth that Africa had no history or civilization before contact with Europe. It is clear, concise and very easy to read.