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on 5 July 2004
This is a book to make you cry and reform your life. Lindqvist meticulously and mercilessly traces the development of excuses and justification that lead to unspeakable massacres (in the league of the nazi concentration camps or the Battle of Omdurman) - it is about what people slaughtering the underdog in the most soul-destroying manner tell themselves while doing it. By way of style, it is flawless. Lindqvist stays well away from the moral high ground and self-righteousness, and subtly makes us realise that we all harbour the mind-patterns of an executioner.
It is also extremely readable and intersperses a Saharan travelogue through the history of the ideology and science of racism and violence.
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on 24 November 2003
This book is a terrifying account of how the Holocaust was a replay in Europe of the hideous, murderous assault on africans by the imperialists of the late nineteenth century. It spares nobody - those who think the Holocaust was the product of a purely German exterminationist racism, neo-imperialists who look back on "Empire" as a golden age, believers in the benevolence of the Christian church and its missionary work in the "dark continent".
One of the most powerful books on racism ever written, and a gem of concision. Buy it and be awed and shocked by the depth of Europe's brutality a century ago, and wonder why it has taken so long for this story to reach us.
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on 12 January 2003
Strictly chronological retellings of history can be a little dull, and reminiscent of the stuffy school classroom. Lindqvist's approach is very different - he mixes up history, theory, travel writing, and his own dreams to create the effect that you are discovering history with him. The conclusions he draws - or rather, invites the reader to draw - are surprising, and should make sobering reading for anyone who mourns the decline of the British (or French, or Spanish) empire. He links the origins of Darwinian theory through to the eugenics of the Third Reich, showing how science can be misused to further misguided and murderous projects. If it has lost any impact in the translation, it isn't missed.
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on 8 February 2010
Quite Eurocentric - but then we are trailblazers of mass murder aren't we? A short and disturbing read, it shows you the depth and danger of our tribal intolerance. Just remember its not just Europeans/Westerners slaughtering others; never has been.

As a Brit it was fascinating to learn the nastiness of Stanley's expeditions, of Darwin's 2-faced part in Western racist thought, and of the imperialism to which Joseph Conrad and H.G. Wells responded.

I read it in half a day. Its a pacy fusion of travelogue, history, and comment. I'd snap up any book by this author.
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on 29 July 2007
This book is let down by the author's informal and highly idiosyncratic 'travel diary' narrative style. Also, it tends to dwell rather too much on his personal experiences travelling through Africa (I mean, do we really need to know about his benchpressing in an african gym?)If you are looking for a more robust study on european imperialism in africa, try 'King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism by Adam Hochschild - without doubt a much better and more powerfully-written book.
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on 10 October 2010
From the moment I started this book it was clear the author has no positive biases towards European imperialism (which many of us still have today), which allows him to examine the harshest realities of the colonisation process and make fair judgement. Particularly interesting is the mixture between the 'real' history (detailing what the colonisers did in the colonies) and intellectual history of the time period (in which the intellectual justifications for the atrocities are detailed). The real strength however lies in the communication of the main argument that the Holocaust was a logical continuation of European racism in the colonial age. It is argued in such a gradual way that I realised the link between the Holocaust and European imperialism (forming the argument) at the same time the author mentioned it - he didn't have to convince me, as I'd read the evidence (previously in the book) and gradually made a logical connection. Note how I saw 'a logical connection' - there are other ways in which the Holocaust can be explained, I don't wish to say this here author's is the definitive one.

My issues with the book are the non-history parts and its ethical approach to history. The non-history parts, in which he writes this weird travel diary, made no sense to me, and even after really thinking I couldn't find them having any relation to the historical topic (extermination of the 'brutes') at hand; this begs me to question why they were included at all. Secondly, the author approaches the process of colonisation almost purely from an ethical standpoint - I know in the introduction he says it isn't a piece of historical research, but because he's writing about an historical topic, it ultimately comes across as a heavily biased history book as opposed to a book written to criticise racism. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just a bit weird.
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on 2 January 2010
I began reading this book out of curiosity, but very quickly became totally engrossed in it. Although set within the context of a travel book in the deserts of Africa, it is quirky, extremely readable, and paints a lucid picture of European imperialism that has an uncanny relevance to current events in the Middle East and elsewhere.

It mixes a detailed general history with personal reminiscences in a fusion that fascinates as it informs. I can highly commend this book to anyone wishing to understand the origins of racism and the widespread occurrence of genocide in the battles for land and resources.
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on 24 July 2009
If you want to understand anything about Africa this book is THE place to start- probably the best book about Africa i've ever read that wasn't written by an African!
This book made me understand so much about colonialism, it's motivations and it's impact. All the bits of knowledge i had accumulated before reading this were, having read it, 'joined up' and made to make sense as part of the bigger picture.
I would recommend this book to everyone.
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