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Charles Taylor and Liberia: Ambition and Atrocity in Africa's Lone Star State Paperback – 13 Oct 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Zed Books Ltd (13 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848138474
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848138476
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 630,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


'A book destined to become essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the tragedy that was Liberia. A truly fascinating read.' -- Linda Melvern, author of 'A People Betrayed'

'Bold in its design as is it piercing in its content, this study dissects Charles Taylor's ruthless and bloody quest for power and wealth. More than a mere account of the enigmatic Taylor, this illuminating analysis is ultimately a biography of the Liberia Civil War, one which examines the politics of violence in relation to the economic, socio-political conditions and processes that underpinned and led to war, terror and corruption.' --Prof. Mamadou Diouf, Institute of African Studies, Columbia University

'Colin Waugh's book reads like a thriller. Carefully researched, it gives us remarkable insights into the life of one of the most notorious warlords, turned national leader to emerge from Africa in the later part of the 20th century. 'Charles Taylor and Liberia' is an invaluable contribution towards understanding the brutal civil wars that ravaged Liberia and Sierra Leone and their ramifications on the West African sub-region.' --Ambassador Francis Tsegah, Diplomat and Senior Research Fellow, Ghana Centre for Democratic Development

About the Author

Colin Waugh grew up in Scotland and was educated in the UK before pursuing careers in writing and publishing, financial markets and international post-conflict work. The latter led him to live and travel in over twenty countries in Africa over the past two decades. In 2004 he wrote 'Paul Kagame and Rwanda', a career narrative of the current President of Rwanda. From 1996-97 he worked in Sierra Leone and later in Ghana, a country of refuge for many Liberians, before returning to Sierra Leone and Liberia itself in 2002, Charles Taylor's last full year in power.

Mr. Waugh currently lives in London, and recently has served on the advisory board of Columbia University s Institute of African Studies and as director of Lombard Street Associates in London.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is neither a biography of Charles Taylor, nor a history of Liberia and its civil war. Rather, it is exactly what the title suggests - a study of the both Taylor and Liberia and how each affected and continues to affect the other. The book is impressive in its meticulous portrayal of multiple viewpoints. We rarely, if ever, see only one side of the story. This inclusion of multiple viewpoints enables us as readers to weigh the evidence for ourselves and contributes significantly to the thought-provoking nature of the book.

In terms of the evidence probided, the author gives us not only a multitude of statistics, but also numerous, well-selected quotes from a variety of relevant people, including those close to Taylor. This kind of evidence brings the events to life for us as readers and gives us insight into the context in which these horrendous events took place.

Waugh has succeeded in creating a highly readable account. For the most part, especially during the places where the story is told chronologically, the narrative flows in a way which makes you not want to stop reading. On occasion, however there are some disjointed transitions. These generally occur in places where Waugh has digressed to give further detail on topics such as the general conditions prevailing in Taylor's Greater Liberia. It can be difficult in these places to keep hold of where each of the pieces fit within the complex story being told. Overall, however, these are few, and do not detract from a generally fluid style. I highly recommend this book to all who want to undestand this period of history and the personalities who made it.
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Format: Paperback
Founded by freed American slaves, Liberia has been for a long time a lonely exception in the geopolitical African situation, an outpost of western capitalism in Africa. Because of its hard-currency economy, employment opportunities and stable government, people from around the region were drawn to it. Not only did the country fare well by regional standards; in a century when Africans and descendents of Africans struggle for basic rights, the self-governing black settlers of Liberia had it all. However, all that glitters is not gold. For a long time the Americo-Liberians were the only power holders in Liberia, stressing the difference between settlers and natives, between the rich coastal cities and the poor internal countryside. When finally in the 80s a native with indigenous roots, Samuel Doe, became head of state, he wasn't able to unify the country. In fact, he stressed this time another type of difference, that of his minority group and of all the other tribes. On top of that, he depleted the economical prosperity of the country. This is the scenario in which Charles Taylor, the main "character" of this essay, moves his first political steps. Colin Waugh follows his personal and political life from the beginning to the very recent present, this book being published in 2011. Through one of Liberia's and Africa's most controversial figures, he traces all the main moments in Liberia's history, and some of Sierra Leone's too, considering the close links between these two countries.
This is not a novel, of course, but it's a thorougly accessible essay. You don't need to be an expert about African history and issues to be able to enjoy it. I personally found a little bit too detailed the part referring to Taylor's war in the 90s, but this could be a merit for some other reader. To sum it up: well written and deeply informing.
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I very much enjoyed reading this book as I know little about West Africa and wanted to expand my knowledge. I found most of the book enthralling and eye opening in terms of Liberian history and internal politics (by which I mean oppression, patronism and kleptocracy). The book does really read as a biography of Charles Taylor set to the context of Liberian politics but as a reader you develop a disturbing sympathy for the protagonist. Maybe I mis-interpreted the writing but I detected a certain admiration for Taylor's character (which you should realise is described alongside portrayals of equally vicious although less famous political players). The part of the 'Taylor story' I was most interested in was his period as president and his involvement in Sierra Leone, but this part seemed to be dealt with summarily with little hard information on his activities.

What was also eye opening was the extent to which countries instigate or support insurgencies in their neighbours' territory, in some cases for quite personal reasons. There is also some interesting information regarding Sirleaf's (the current President and doyenne of the donor community) relationship with Taylor and her involvement in the civil war.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book on the warlord, president, chieftan and dictator 3 Feb. 2012
By James D. Crabtree - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Charles Taylor story has to be read to be believed. Waugh opens the book with background, first on Liberia and then on the origins of Taylor. Liberia was begun as an American experiment, a possible way of resolving the issue of slavery in the United States by "repatriating" freed blacks to Africa, in this case a West African territory called Liberia. However, the freedmen had little in common with the tribes already inhabiting this stretch of the African coast. The newcomers had superior technology and had adopted the culture which they were familiar with in the U.S., giving them a model for ruling their own colony. The Americo-Liberians based in a few settlements wound up dominating the "aboriginal" inhabitants of the interior.

Charles Taylor was born of an Americo-Liberian father and a native mother. Educated in the United States he served in Sergeant Doe's government went the disgruntled soldier overthrew the admittedly flawed but democratically-elected government. Then he went to Libya where he and some followers received terrorist training. A combination of terror tactics against the hated Doe regime turned him into a warlord in control of much of Liberia in the 1990s. Later his unpaid "army" of looters would be involved in wars amongst all of Liberia's neighbors. It is hard to believe that one man could cause so much suffering.

Well-written but repititious in places. Illustrated with black-and-white photos.
5.0 out of 5 stars Holed up in Boston 14 Mar. 2016
By Mister Glashaus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a black American whose family might have emigrated to Liberia in the 1800's I have always been very curious about Liberia in general and about Charles Taylor in particular. Mr. Waugh's excellently written book has gone far towards addressing my questions.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 24 May 2015
By Tyrone Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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