The British Empire Library

Africans: The History of a Continent

by John Iliffe

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Brian Eccles (Colonial Administrative Service, Zanzibar, Tanganyika, Nigeria 1952-1989)

This is not a documentary history of Africa but rather an inspired and inspiring investigation of certain aspects of African history from the origins of mankind, which as far as we know occurred on the continent, to the South African General Election of 1984. The author is Professor of African History of the University of Cambridge, but at the beginning of his working life was a lecturer at the University College of Dar es Salaam. He looks from an African point of view (in so far as he can achieve that) at the iron age, Christianity, Islam, the slave trade, the Colonial invasion, colonial change and independence as occurrences affecting Africa as a whole, albeit in a variety of different ways. He asks questions which have not been asked before and suggests answers which are frequently controversial, possibly not acceptable by everyone, but invariably worth thinking about. An underlying theme is the amazing demographic growth (peaking between 1950 and 1990 in a population increase from 200 million to 600 million) in spite of the harsh geographical and historical conditions of the continent. This is a book written in an easy-to-read style which cannot fail to Interest the reflective overseas pensioner who has served in Africa.

British Empire Book
John Iliffe
Cambridge University Press


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