British Empire Books

West African Resistance

The military response to colonial occupation

Contributed by Prof. Richard Norton

EditorMichael Crowder
Published byAfricana Publishing Corporation
This Edition1971

This book is a collection of articles written at a time when the conquest of West Africa was usually dismissed as a minor sidebar to the scramble. It is also indicative of the period that the editor boasted that three of the articles were written by Africans. The apparent lack of attention to the field aside, this volume is a find.

As histories go, Packenham's "Scramble For Africa" is the best general book on the subject. This makes a lovely addition, going into much deeper about resistance and battles that get passing mention at best in other works. While there is some variance between chapters, the best of the crop are excellent -- especially the account of the conquest of the Ijebu. There are maps, Orders of Battle, and even some descriptions of uniforms.

I would not recommend this book - assuming you could find it - if you are trying to build a solid generic colonial library. But if you want more on Darkest Africa, or the scramble, or the colonial powers conquest of some of the roughest country on earth, this is a major find.

Oh, perhaps the most poignant aspect of the book are the continued attempts to explain why the Europeans did so well and their opponents fared so poorly. The authors tend to identify the usual suspects: better discipline, better weapons, better tactics. All these are right of course, but they are symptomatic of a more potent power and comprehensive explanation - the Westphalian state married to the Industrial Revolution.

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