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4.0 out of 5 stars More a history of African history than a history of Africa, 14 Sep 2013
This review is from: African History: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
This is part of a series by the Oxford University Press entitled "Very Short Introductions" that certainly lives up to its title. They are small, pocket-sized books with texts of, I would guestimate, about 40,000 words plus illustrations and maps. The title of this book is, significantly, "African History" not "A History of Africa". Much of the work is devoted to how successive wave of historians and political activists have viewed and used African History and to the problems caused by the absence of written records and monumental ruins and also of questions of definition. Is "African history" the history of the continent or of "Black"/Sub-Saharan Africa? Early on the authors point to the significance of the discovery of the ruins of Jenne-jeno, as it showed that sub-Saharan Africa had a pre-Christian, pre-Islamic urban history.
The second half of the book deals with broad-brush coverage of major themes such as slavery, colonialism and post-colonialism. While African history is not a topic I know much about I found their coverage balanced. They point out that the Indian Ocean slave trade was on a par with the Atlantic trade and - something I didn't know - that the suppression of the oceanic slave trade by the British led to an increase in the internal slave trade and that, after the abolition of slavery in Brazil, the Sokoto Caliphate became the world's largest slave society.
In the coverage of colonialism they point out the relative brevity of European rule in many parts of the continent (e.g. in Morocco from 1912 to 1956 and in Ghana from 1911 to 1957).
If you do want to learn more about Africa's past I would recommend reading "African History" before reading a history of Africa.
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