Africa Since Independence: A Comparative History Paperback – 24 Jun 2004
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'This is clearly a fabulous study - perhaps the best, most incisive, and most comprehensive treatment of African history and politics that I have seen.' - Joshua Forrest, University of Vermont, USA
'This is an impressive book. Those who know little of modern African history - start here! And those who have read everything before this publication, add this to your collection.' - Bruce Baker, Democratization
'Nugent's book is easily the best single-volume history of postcolonial Africa written in the last 20 years.' - Nicolas Van De Walle, Foreign Affairs
'Writing the history of continents is difficult...Nonetheless, it is possible to provide a comprehensive single-volume view of short period of continental African history. David Nugent's Africa Since Independence deals excellently with the problem by taking a thematic approach in which the main features of African history are considered within a broadly chronological structure. Although it is a scholarly work that addresses the arguments of other authorities, it also provides a clear narrative account of African experience that is interesting to informed general readers.' - Times Higher Education Supplement
'This is comparitive history as it ought to be written: thematic, wide-ranging, scholarly and full of insights'. - Alan Cousins, History
'It is the success in narrating these complex varied historical and cultural inheritances, as well as the subtle forms of foreign intervention that have influenced events in Africa since independence, that makes this book a valued resource for students and the general reader...few will resist the urge to read it from cover to cover. - Ukoha Ukiwo, African History
About the Author
PAUL NUGENT is Professor of Comparative African History and Director of the Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh, UK.
Top customer reviews
Nugent himself admits that the book is probably better used in small doses, for dipping in and out when information on a particular issue is wanted. To read from cover to cover is quite a heavy effort; I only did this as it was a recommended summary text for a course on Postcolonial Africa. The density of the information makes this quite dry and in certain instances, he assumes a certain level of knowledge - in other words extending a narrative, rather than building it up from rock bottom.
In saying that, throughout the course of the book, he charts the histories of a vast array of different African countries from the colonial period, through the struggle of independence, to the present day (2003-ish). As well as documenting the individual stories of countries, he analyses by theme as well so the reader can approach the text looking for country-specific information, or concept-specific content (i.e. liberal democracy, socialism, military rule and so on).
As with many histories of Africa, it is quite date and name heavy; ironically, one of the chapters talks of the 'invasion of the acronyms'; as much as this can be applied to NGOs, SAPs and the like, it could also be applied to African history texts. This book does not change that theme. In a couple of instances, pages are so covered in abbreviated party names that it is very easy to lose the thread of what is going on, especially when there are a few clear misprints. At a very picky level, there are quite a few niggly printing errors but not so many as to become completely annoying.
All in all, it is a thoroughly comprehensive and engaging, if challenging, text. An excellent resource for study and consolidating / expanding learning; it is probably not a good text if the reader seeks a general, light overview or introduction to African history. There is also a new edition due for release in June 2012, which will no doubt include useful updates (at one point, he talks of South Sudanese succession seeming more distant than ever (!)).
He mixes broad brush with fine detail, and in this he is perhaps less successful. At times it is too easy to lose the thread as he dives off into close examination of conflicting ideas on a topic, suddenly resurfacing into the bigger picture a little further downstream in the narrative. That's good stuff for the historian who's interested in who's said what about event X, but harder for the general reader who loses track. The 11 pages of abbreviations which follow the preface warn of the complexity and the detail of national party politics described later on.
Martin Merediths ' State of Africa' is a more compelling read for the non-specialist, but of course ends up simplifying the 'whys' of such a turbulent and multi-factorial history. Prof Nugent's book is a better reflection of reality, but as a non-historian I'm glad I read Meredith first
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