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Africa: A Biography of the Continent Kindle Edition
|Länge: 816 Seiten||Word Wise: Aktiviert||Sprache: Englisch|
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Although sub-Saharan Africa was a topic of intense interest in the West during the 19th and early 20th Centuries, little of any value has been published about Africa in recent decades, largely due to the depressing performance of liberated African states. Much of what little gets published today is simply self-esteem therapy, like Henry Louis Gates' silly new coffee table book that accompanied his embarrassing PBS miniseries about the supposed architectural treasures of black Africa, although he wasn't actually able to find many.
In contrast, John Reader pulls off the difficult feat of being both highly sympathetic toward black Africans and quite realistic about their relative lack of tangible accomplishments. For example, although Africans' accomplishments in music and personal decoration were outstanding, their architectural achievements (the purported main topic of Gates' documenataries) is neglible. Other than in peripheral regions like Ethiopia and Zanzibar where black Africans came in contact with other races, there are almost zero ruins of any size. The main exception are the tall walls of Great Zimbabwe, but Reader's depiction is much less ecstatic than Gates': Reader says the most amazing thing about Great Zimbabwe is that it's in sub-Saharan Africa. The quality of construction is "poor" -- it's just a lot of local flat stones piled on top of one another. Nor did it require an enormous mobilization of manpower on the scale of the Pyramids -- a contemporary dry wall contractor gave an estimate of 200 men working for one year to build it. In Reader's view, Africa was traditionally too underpopulated and under-urbanized to generate impressive cities in the black heartland. He gives a variety of reasons.Lesen Sie weiter... ›
The book covers African history from archaeology and anthropology through present era. (It stops at the 1994 Rwanda crisis and Mandela's election in South Africa).
I picked up the book after reading an excellent review in The Economist. I knew very little about African history and reckoned I should know more. I was not disappointed.
John Reader writes clear and concise prose and chooses his words carefully. Each chapter is fairly "portable" and can be read indpendently and, as a bonus, has an abstract at the beginning which help clarify the author's ideas and direction.
The two shortfalls I found were trivial:
1) I find the archaeology and anthropology less interesting than portions which dealt with the Portugese on. That said, I found the subject matter of the first 200 pages a bit dry.
2) It needs more maps inserted in the body of the book, i.e. detailed enough to support some of the texts. The Appendix in the back contains some interesting maps, not in the level of detail necessary to follow some discussions. (E.g. the Congo headwaters and locations of Brazzaville/Leopoldville.)
That said, I found the book worthwhile and have given it to two friends moving to Kenya. They liked it also.
Those looking for a conventional history will be a bit puzzled at first. Reader spends more time talking about the prehistory of Africa and the development of homo sapiens in general than he does about 20th century African events. Nevertheless, the episodes he chooses to focus on are memorable. His description of the slave trade and its effect on the African continent is notable both for its horror and for the unbiased eye he casts on both the Europeans and Africans involved in perpetuating it.
Reader draws upon a huge number of sources for the book (the bibliography is huge) and synthesises them into a lucid narrative, despite the gaps and omissions (nothing much on North Africa, for example). He is especially opinionated about the West's stereotypical image of Africa as a verdant, unspoiled land. Still, he presents a wide variety of information drawn from his voluminous reading, and he always identifies speculation as speculation.
It is impossible in such a short space to do justice to a book that basically defies description. While it focuses on Africa, Reader's book deals with so many subjects, and does it so well, that it will leave you almost breathless.
Die neuesten Kundenrezensionen
Considering the magnitude of his undertaking, Mr Reader did a superb job of covering his subject in nearly every aspect possible. Lesen Sie weiter...Veröffentlicht am 20. Februar 2000 von Atheen
Despite the fact that this book attempts to cover many parts of African history, it does so with a great deal of completeness. Lesen Sie weiter...Veröffentlicht am 11. Februar 2000 von Amazon Customer
The author combined (1) exhaustive research, (2) analysis and sysnthesis of the information and data researched, and (3) a wonderful writing style to produce an extremely... Lesen Sie weiter...Veröffentlicht am 7. Februar 2000 von David H. Fowlkes
I picked this one purely on a whim, because I felt I hadn't learned a darn thing in my school years about the Continent of Africa. This book is a great starter to get you going. Lesen Sie weiter...Am 9. Dezember 1999 veröffentlicht
Is rare to find a book about history that is so gripping. The writer indeed does a wonderful job in keeping you amused and surprised. Lesen Sie weiter...Veröffentlicht am 16. Oktober 1999 von Amazon Customer
Reader's is a journalist's (rather than a historian, geographer, or economist's) take on Africa, with all the pitfalls of that approach. Lesen Sie weiter...Am 11. September 1999 veröffentlicht