Archive for January 7th, 2010

Top Five: African history

7 January 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

With a nod to Nick Hornby, John Cusack and High Fidelity, this post is the first in an occasional series of introductions to lesser-explored corners of history.

Martin Meredith, The state of Africa: a history of fifty years of independence (London: The Free Press, 2005)
Never far from the eye in the history section of your local Waterstones, Meredith’s book has become the book of choice for the uninitiated. And for good reason; The state of Africa is a brilliantly written, accessible introduction to the history of the continent from a knowledgeable and vastly experienced author. For those of you looking for some extra detail, try Paul Nugent’s Africa since independence: a comparative history (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).

Richard Dowden, Africa: altered states, ordinary miracles (London: Portobello, 2008)
Like Meredith, Dowden draws extensively on his first-hand experience of Africa, from his time as a teacher in Uganda in the early 1970s to his work with the Independent, Times, Economist and latterly as director of the Royal African Society. The result is an expertly nuanced mix of personal experience, history and investigative journalism bound together in a subtle narrative of a continent of many contradictions – its war, corruption and poverty, but also its abundant generosity, hospitability and ingenuity. Read More