Friday, July 18, 2008

ARC 1: "The Fate of Africa"

My first review for the African Reading Challenge:

The Fate of Africa:  A History of Fifty Years of Independence by Martin Meredith, 752 pp., published by PublicAffairs, 2005.

This lengthy volume, by a journalist and historian who has spent much of his life in Africa, provides an excellent introduction to post-colonial Africa.  Beginning with a brief survey of the "Scramble for Africa," the European rush to claim territory in Africa during the late 19th and early 20 centuries, Meredith traces the 50 plus years of post-colonialism by focusing on individual countries and detailing what has happened in many of them.  Although it would not be realistic to cover each of Africa's 56 countries  in a single volume, he does deal with many of them, enough to provide the reader with a remarkably clear and  surprisingly comprehensive view of current Africa.  Among the countries covered in some depth are Ghana, Egypt, Algeria, Cote d'Ivoire,  Senegal, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, Libya, Zambia, Congo, and Zimbabwe.  In the process, the reader is introduced to the major figures who have shaped contemporary Africa, including Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal Nasser, Leopold Senghor, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba, Joseph Mobutu, Haile Mariam Mengistu, Robert Mugabe, and Nelson Mandela.  Meredith has a remarkable ability to present concise but detailed portraits of both individuals and countries; it is this ability that makes this work so successful at informing the reader about Africa, allowing him to have a good understanding of what has happened as well as why.  I cannot recommend this book too highly to anyone who wants to learn about contemporary Africa.


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