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The Scramble for Africa
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on 10 April 2015
The Scramble for Africa was a term coined to describe the great rush in the late 19tth Century by the European powers to claim a slice of the African continent. In a period of some 30 years the continent went from scattered European control (except at the Cape and on the North African coast) to be completely divided between Great Britain (receiving the Lion's share), France (the runner up with the bulk of North West Africa), Germany, Portugal and surprisingly Belgium. The Europeans would hold onto their territories for only a short period (most were out of Africa by the early 1960s) yet in that time, they shaped the fate of the continent, which is being felt now and for many years to come.

While over 20 years old, this book may be the definitive guide for the topic. Thomas Parkenham's work goes into great detail, but not in a dry way, looking at the not just the scramble, but also at events leading up to it over different time periods. The book is broken into 4 parts, the situation in Africa before the scramble begins, the start of the actual scramble lading up to the Conference of Berlin of 1885 where rules were put into place to govern the allocation of territory from the African cake(though these rules were not enforced) and where Leopold of Belgium managed to manipulate the great powers and had his possessions in the Congo (over 1 million square miles!) ratified. The next section deals with the main land grab of Africa and then the last main part shows the resistance to the European powers and the reform efforts that were undertaken by said Powers.

We look at the great figures like Livingstone (briefly), Stanley, the Englishman who became an America and who found Livingstone then continued his great exploration and ended up working for Leopold of Belgium and his great rival Brazza the Italian who became a passionate Frenchman who challenged Stanley in the face for the Congo in opening it up and adding to the sum of human knowledge We look at the great statesmen and the business men who led the charge into the continent and the reasons why, with exerts from their writings public and private in order to provide greater insight and humanize them. The book is crammed full of maps and illustrations which help us and bring this book to life.

My only complaint with this and it is minor, is that the paperback version of this is written in small type, making it harder to read for those of us with weaker eyes, otherwise this is one great work.
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on 21 April 2017
THE AUTHOR THOMAS PAKENHAM HAS THE KNACK OF JOINING SEPARATE HISTORICAL EVENTS INTO A SEAMLESS NARRATIVE AND HIS WRITING STYLE IS VERY READABLE. ALTHOUGH I AM ONLY 80 PAGES INTO THE 700 PAGE BOOK (WITH A VERY SMALL FONT SIZE) IT IS A MOST INFORMATIVE AND ENJOYABLE READ, APART FROM THE HARD LESSON OF LEARNING HOW THE EUROPEANS TREATED THE INDIGINOUS AFRICANS.
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on 15 November 2016
A very interesting book. A detailed vision of the scramble but unfortunatelly only from the british point of view. As an example of this the important portuguese territories are completelly ignored. Anyway a fascinating reading.
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on 14 January 2011
As an informal reader of history, I found this book to be absolutely brilliant. Having watched a few films, read a few things on wikipedia and realizing I knew nothing at all about those countries I've been staring at on a globe for so long, Google and Amazon told me that this was the book I had to read as an introduction to the history of Africa.

The focus of the story is the approx 30 year period of history when Europe ended up grabbing virtually all the land of africa and divided it up into pretty much the boundaries that we see today when we look at the map. And for me - this was the main draw of the book. I was fascinated as to how and why africa looks the way it does today and in that respect the book is fantastic.

It is a story with plenty of great characters - just to name a few - the politicans, Kings and Queens in the offices and palaces of Europe. Individual explorers cutting their way through the jungle, dragging themselves through the deserts and hauling themselves upstream on the great rivers. Money grabbing pioneers turning over the land, pure hearted missionaries looking to give redemption and last but not least the African tribes... well mainly being f****d over.
Personally, my favourite chapters were that regarding today's Democratic Republic of Congo. In King Leopold II, Henry Morton Stanley, the River Congo and its rainforest and the cannabalistic tribes there are surely some unforgettable episodes.

Furthermore, the story of the Arab and Muslim world, and how its own seeds have been sewn into African history adds to the mix of stories told.

As a reference to another comment which suggests that this story is told a two horse race between France and England, I do agree to some extent. However, almost from the title of the book itself, you have to go in understanding that to even try and provide a complete picture on the topic, from every perspective, would be nearly impossible. It is eurocentric, and ultimately I feel that the book's focus on each of the European powers probably reflects the amount the proportion of land they ended up with. That is except Portugal (Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bisseau) about which there is virtually no mention either about the homeland politics or the annexation of the african land, which was dissapointing.

Nonethless, I have still given the book 5 stars which says a lot about what is written. A period of history that comes between the Africa of today and the Africa that was is a story that is well worth the read and in this book has been told in an utterly compelling way.
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on 30 April 2015
This should be compulsory reading as a set text concerning the selfishness, greed and inhumanity any human can sink to. Frightening that 'western' civilisation quickly capitalised on low-cost 'slave' labour and how willing the 'african' nations were to sell their brothers and sisters for profit backed and supported by those people of the 'One' God!
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on 31 July 2013
When you first see this book, it looks daunting! 670 tightly printed pages! But once you get started, you can't put it Down. It tells the story from the early explores to the 1st World War, of how the European Powers explored and divided Africa between them, in a very living language, with cliff hangers at the end of chapters, and with very colorful details.
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on 21 July 2014
Full account of European interest and involvement in this continent helps to complete the picture of facts accrued from one sided view of events from your national perspective of history. I had only a vague idea before of the history of involvement of other European nations and I wanted to know and understand how we might be perceived from an African's point of view given that history and legacy.
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on 10 August 2015
A book that everybody should read. I've two of them, the fist one starting to loose his pages (reading and coming back too much to some chapters).
I will never be the same after this reading.
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on 24 February 2018
Sad and disturbing account. It says many things about Imperialism and white man. It's book about robbery and sacking of the Africa told in best and honest manner. 6 stars, not 5.
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on 16 November 2017
very good read
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