website statistics The Fortunes of Africa: A 5,000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and Endeavor - PDF Books Online
Hot Best Seller

The Fortunes of Africa: A 5,000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and Endeavor

Availability: Ready to download

A sweeping history the fortune seekers, adventurers, despots, and thieves who have ruthlessly endeavored to extract gold, diamonds, and other treasures from Africa and its people. Africa has been coveted for its rich natural resources ever since the era of the Pharaohs. In past centuries, it was the lure of gold, ivory, and slaves that drew merchant-adventurers and conquer A sweeping history the fortune seekers, adventurers, despots, and thieves who have ruthlessly endeavored to extract gold, diamonds, and other treasures from Africa and its people. Africa has been coveted for its rich natural resources ever since the era of the Pharaohs. In past centuries, it was the lure of gold, ivory, and slaves that drew merchant-adventurers and conquerors from afar. In modern times, the focus of attention is on oil, diamonds, and other rare earth minerals. In this vast and vivid panorama of history, Martin Meredith follows the fortunes of Africa over a period of 5,000 years. With compelling narrative, he traces the rise and fall of ancient kingdoms and empires; the spread of Christianity and Islam; the enduring quest for gold and other riches; the exploits of explorers and missionaries; and the impact of European colonization. He examines, too, the fate of modern African states and concludes with a glimpse of their future. His cast of characters includes religious leaders, mining magnates, warlords, dictators, and many other legendary figures-among them Mansa Musa, ruler of the medieval Mali empire, said to be the richest man the world has ever known.


Compare

A sweeping history the fortune seekers, adventurers, despots, and thieves who have ruthlessly endeavored to extract gold, diamonds, and other treasures from Africa and its people. Africa has been coveted for its rich natural resources ever since the era of the Pharaohs. In past centuries, it was the lure of gold, ivory, and slaves that drew merchant-adventurers and conquer A sweeping history the fortune seekers, adventurers, despots, and thieves who have ruthlessly endeavored to extract gold, diamonds, and other treasures from Africa and its people. Africa has been coveted for its rich natural resources ever since the era of the Pharaohs. In past centuries, it was the lure of gold, ivory, and slaves that drew merchant-adventurers and conquerors from afar. In modern times, the focus of attention is on oil, diamonds, and other rare earth minerals. In this vast and vivid panorama of history, Martin Meredith follows the fortunes of Africa over a period of 5,000 years. With compelling narrative, he traces the rise and fall of ancient kingdoms and empires; the spread of Christianity and Islam; the enduring quest for gold and other riches; the exploits of explorers and missionaries; and the impact of European colonization. He examines, too, the fate of modern African states and concludes with a glimpse of their future. His cast of characters includes religious leaders, mining magnates, warlords, dictators, and many other legendary figures-among them Mansa Musa, ruler of the medieval Mali empire, said to be the richest man the world has ever known.

30 review for The Fortunes of Africa: A 5,000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and Endeavor

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chris Jaffe

    I found this to be an extremely disappointing book. My disappointment partially came from how much I enjoyed and got out of the two previous books by Meredith about African history that I've read: The Fate of Africa and In the Name of Apartheid. Actually, what I liked so much about those books helps explain why I was so disappointed in this one. Let's look at The Fate of Africa. This was a broad overview of Africa since independence. It is a work of pop history. I don't mean that in any sort of i I found this to be an extremely disappointing book. My disappointment partially came from how much I enjoyed and got out of the two previous books by Meredith about African history that I've read: The Fate of Africa and In the Name of Apartheid. Actually, what I liked so much about those books helps explain why I was so disappointed in this one. Let's look at The Fate of Africa. This was a broad overview of Africa since independence. It is a work of pop history. I don't mean that in any sort of insulting way. Heck, no - it was great pop history. But all I mean is that in Fate, Meredith took the most well-known stories of African countries since the 1950s and spend a chapter on each one. Essentially, he was a teller of twice-told tales. But he did a really good job telling those tales (and many weren't that familiar to me). Meredith is by no means a world class expert on Africa. He's more a guy who reads what the experts have written and reports on it (hence why I called him a teller of twice-told tales). But he knew enough about his material and he aimed at an achievable goal based on his knowledge of the material. And that leads to the problem with this book. He's aiming way too high. The title tells us it's a 5,000 year history of the continent, but it's clear he doesn't know that much about huge chunks of the continent. Let me put it to you this way - this book consists of 71 chapters -- and the Portuguese voyagers show up in Chapter 10. Yeah, the first 4,500 years out of 5,000 cover just 9 out of 71 chapters. Look, I know there is a lack of written records for much of the continent. I don't expect the book to spend equal time for each era. But ... damn, that really ain't much. Actually, it's even worse than that. Those first nine chapters? Two are on ancient Egypt. One is on the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage. One is on the Roman Empire in Africa. One is on Christianity and another is on Islam. Sure, those are all worthwhile items to talk about - but that means you only have three chapters on all the rest of the continent over the first 4,500 years the book's title claims to cover. (And even in those three chapters, two are about trade with the outside world. You basically get just one chapter on sub-Saharan African until the Portuguese show up. That chapter is 5 pages long. Then, once the Europeans do show up, the focus of the book is on European activity in Africa. Out of 675 pages of text, nearly 300 are on the 19th century - and the focus is on Europeans dividing it up. Again, this SHOULD be an important topic and should be a key theme. But there is a distressing trend here. Africans rarely are actors in a story on Africa. They are more the passive objects in a story of other people's actions. And when we do get stories of Africans, it's rarely of black Africans. While sources are a problem in African history, it is possible to tell something of the story. Books like "Africa in World History" by Erik Gilbert and Jonathan T. Reynolds, or "History of Africa" by Kevin Shellington give you LOTS more insight on what was going on across the continent during all phases of its history. Well, those are textbooks. Maybe it isn't fair to compare a pop history like Meredith to the authors of actual college-level textbooks on Africa. You know what, though? It IS fair. It is completely fair. Because when Meredith attempts to write a book on the entire history of Africa, that's the competition he's setting out for himself. And he fails. What's weird is how little time he spends on modern Africa. After spending a huge amount of time on the conquest of Africa, he spends about 35 pages on the colonies from 1900ish to WWII, then about 65 pages on the end of white rule in Africa, and a final section of about 85 pages on Africa since independence. It's odd that a history book spends more time on the 1800-1899 then on 1900-onward, but that's the case here. It's especially odd because Meredith has written an entire book on post-independence Africa, but here he just glosses over it. I guess he didn't want to repeat himself too much. I can respect that, but it adds to the overall effect of marginalizing black Africans in a book on the history of Africa. There is one spot of Africa that Meredith does seem to have quite a bit of knowledge; one area that he more than just a pop history. But, unfortunately, his knowledge of that country just further amplifies the problems with this book. He really knows his history of South Africa. I already noted that I read and loved his "In the Name of Apartheid." Well, he's also written several other books on that country, too. It's his specialty. Sure enough, you get more on that place than any other part of the book. About 12-13 chapters focus just on South Africa (Chapters 22-25, 34-38, 49, 51, 56, and most of 64. While he does a solid job there, it's also the country where whites have had the most inroads and impact. So that just adds to the overall problem I have with the book. I don't mean to imply that a writer should ignore the impact of whites (or Arabs or any others) from the history of Africa. That impact is huge and not including it would be a terrible oversight. I'm well aware that that Africa is more than just sub-Saharan blacks. But in a book that purports to be a history of the entire continent of Africa, there is far too much focus on Europeans.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Domhnall

    We can be confident that the Garden of Eden was in Southern Iraq and not in Africa, but we also know that there have always been people in Africa and throughout recorded history it seems they have traded in slaves, gold and ivory with the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Black Africans have typically been represented as mysterious people without a history of their own. Now we have this superb, single volume history of Africa, providing the raw material to investigate a thousand interesti We can be confident that the Garden of Eden was in Southern Iraq and not in Africa, but we also know that there have always been people in Africa and throughout recorded history it seems they have traded in slaves, gold and ivory with the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Black Africans have typically been represented as mysterious people without a history of their own. Now we have this superb, single volume history of Africa, providing the raw material to investigate a thousand interesting and important questions. In order to cover so much ground, it is inevitably very concise and many major stories are compressed to a few pages, which can have the effect of making them a bit too simple and too definitive. I would have liked another few hundred pages, to spend a bit more time on description and explanation, and to include more anecdotes and human details. As it stands, this history is terribly stark and pretty fearful. The book brings its history up to 2014, and it had every prospect of an upbeat ending, with developments like majority rule in South Africa, the Arab Spring in the North, the spread of democracy, but sadly it also reports on the disappointing aftermath of those changes and the final pages seem close to despondent. I can imagine a separate volume of essays to draw out some of the themes in this history and I can imagine heated debates as people use and interpret this history to suit conflicting value systems, because let’s face it - people will read the facts in a way that fits their prejudices and prior commitments. Even so, I cannot imagine such debates ever being better informed or more balanced than now, having the benefit of such a lucid and comprehensive survey.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    It's important that you realize one thing about this book: it is a history of how the peoples and land of Africa have been exploited from Egypt to the present; it not a history of Africa. I'd like to read Meredith do the latter, but this isn't it. It's important to mention this because I can easily imagine someone criticizing this book for its focus on the various peoples who have done the exploiting, whether ancient Egyptian, Muslim, African or European. There's a great deal less in here about It's important that you realize one thing about this book: it is a history of how the peoples and land of Africa have been exploited from Egypt to the present; it not a history of Africa. I'd like to read Meredith do the latter, but this isn't it. It's important to mention this because I can easily imagine someone criticizing this book for its focus on the various peoples who have done the exploiting, whether ancient Egyptian, Muslim, African or European. There's a great deal less in here about the good and great things that the various African peoples have done for themselves. Also, he's writing about thousands of years of history of a place that isn't really coherent at all. If you get nothing else out of this book, you'll get the huge differences between the regions of Africa. That means he has to make some big generalizations, and they can probably be picked apart by specialists. That's okay. We need the specialists. We also need the generalists. With those caveat in mind, this is a glorious book. Meredith writes well, the structure is intuitive (i.e., though he jumps around in time and space, the jumps are never jarring, and are always signaled with section breaks etc...) I cannot explain how much I learned from this book. And if you're concerned about political bias, which you should be in any book of this kind, know that Meredith is seriously biased against everyone. A typical string of argument leads from, say, the horrors of the intra-African slave trade, to the horrors of the slave trade to Europe, to the greater horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Here most accounts fall silent. Meredith, instead, proceeds to discuss the ways that African leaders, from the earliest contacts with Muslim states through to the end of the American slave trade, used their people as a way to make wealth and consolidate their power. Most slaves, in other words, were sold by Africans. The trade only ended once the entire continent (minus Abyssinia) was colonized by European powers who opposed the slave trade. Such is the history of the exploitation of Africa: if you think something's getting better (e.g., slave trade ends), rest assured that something else is getting much worse.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ian Casey

    I hope one day to find a history book with a solid overview of the broad sweeps of African history across millenia, with a workable compromise between competing aspects such as the social, cultural, economic, theological and military. Martin Meredith's The Fortunes of Africa goes some way to achieving it, but in all fairness is not trying to be that book for which I hope. This is a synthesis of other works that aims more at regurgitating information in piecemeal manner rather than offering any co I hope one day to find a history book with a solid overview of the broad sweeps of African history across millenia, with a workable compromise between competing aspects such as the social, cultural, economic, theological and military. Martin Meredith's The Fortunes of Africa goes some way to achieving it, but in all fairness is not trying to be that book for which I hope. This is a synthesis of other works that aims more at regurgitating information in piecemeal manner rather than offering any cohesive or new insight, which is fair enough. Its 71 chapters average 10 densely packed pages each, giving bite-sized chunks of times and places without particular emphasis on broad trends interconnecting and contextualising them. Another book I read recently, Edwin Williamson's The Penguin History of Latin America (2nd ed.) covered a comparable scale and scope of history and did balance those aspects. A clue is in the full title, though, that Meredith has a different focus. 'The Fortunes of Africa: A 5,000 Year History of Wealth, Greed and Endeavour' lends itself to a Euro-centric work more about what was done to Africa than one truly about the Africans themselves. Hence this places the book in largely the same territory as others such as Empires in the Sun, The Looting Machine and The Scramble for Africa. As others have alluded to, it's also more like a history of five hundred-ish years than five thousand. A handful of early chapters gloss over ancient Egypt, Carthage and Rome, which is understandable given that those are massive subjects on their own. However, more than a handful of pages about what was happening in the rest of Africa in those millennia would have been welcome. I understand sources may be severely limited, but surely more could have been offered in the way of summarising anthropogical and archeological evidence, at least to the extent of pointing in the direction of further reading. Again, Williamson tackled this well with his genuine attempt to explain what little was known about the ancient South and Central Americans. I'm often dubious about statements in this book, which have the sound of being regurgitated from the source (usually something like a journal or letter from a European) without any critical enquiry as to their truthfulness. To the extent that Meredith talks about African cultures and customs, he frequently emphasises violent traditions of executions, ritual sacrifice and cannibalism, again without any discussion as to their veracity. The phrasing is usually such that he appears to be stating these as facts rather than recountings of limited European perspectives, and little effort is made to consider cultures in a holistic manner. In a work of this length, the writer's tics often reveal themselves and Meredith has a few. He's partial to saying 'month after month' or 'year after year', which feels lazy compared to a more specific phrasing on the timing of events. He's also awfully fond of the word 'acephalous'. Literally it can be taken to mean 'without a chief', though I have trouble believing large parts of Africa were without chiefs at all at various times. Hence, within context, I presume he means more decentralised government wherein local chiefs - perhaps even as low as the village level - had little involvement with or fealty to an overarching power. I should be curious to know what the accepted usage of the term is among historians and anthropologists. If nothing else, the bibliography and chapter notes open up a wealth of hundreds of suggestions for further reading, so that in itself is a resource. In total though, I found the book disappointing and feel that another author could tackle a general history of the continent in quite a different way.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alex O'Connor

    A very informative, expansive book. However, I have to knock one (if not two) stars off because this book was also very disappointing. I was hoping for a book on the Africans of Africa- their politics, culture, and societies, especially before Europeans and after the Independence movement of the 1950's. Disappointingly, this book seemed to feature primarily a European outlook, with the Africans not as individual societies, cultures, and places but instead as a single large mass that was oppresse A very informative, expansive book. However, I have to knock one (if not two) stars off because this book was also very disappointing. I was hoping for a book on the Africans of Africa- their politics, culture, and societies, especially before Europeans and after the Independence movement of the 1950's. Disappointingly, this book seemed to feature primarily a European outlook, with the Africans not as individual societies, cultures, and places but instead as a single large mass that was oppressed/ taken advantage of for quite some time. While that is true, it still annoyed me that the author hardly touched on the cultures themselves. Instead, we were given countless political debates in Britain and various other Western places on culture. Like, very interesting, but I knew that already and have studied that. There was also a big focus on South Africa, to the exclusion of other countries that I had more interest in. I have heard this authors other book, the Fate of Africa, is better, as it deals with Africa post independence, so I will probably give that one a shot. In all, very informative and well written, just not really what I wanted to learn about/ the way the book marketed itself.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Randall Wallace

    Africa is larger in size than the US, China, India, Japan and most of Europe combined. At 700 pages, this one volume history of Africa is no short book, but it’s subject is vast. Africa’s early history is of warring kingdoms with two trades: slavery and ivory. Know that ivory was the plastic of it’s era. Sadly, those trying to stop the slave trade had to travel with members of the ivory trade; those trying to stop ivory poaching travelled with slavers. If you could go back in time anywhere in Af Africa is larger in size than the US, China, India, Japan and most of Europe combined. At 700 pages, this one volume history of Africa is no short book, but it’s subject is vast. Africa’s early history is of warring kingdoms with two trades: slavery and ivory. Know that ivory was the plastic of it’s era. Sadly, those trying to stop the slave trade had to travel with members of the ivory trade; those trying to stop ivory poaching travelled with slavers. If you could go back in time anywhere in Africa, good luck choosing a safe time or location to visit; use of force rather than cooperation has been the standard for rulers there for most of its recorded history. Forced to choose in this book, I’d go for Alexandria during Ptolemy I or Timbuktu during the pre-Moroccan Sudanese Songhay rule. Meredith does not attempt to portray Africa (aside from Egypt) before colonization so it’s hard to know how much of the control through violence was taught by European invaders and how much was indigenous to African culture. But when the Europeans were done, some 10,000 kingdoms had been shoehorned into 58 African states, many filled with seething ethic tensions encouraged by prior occupiers. Britain forced the occupants of two of its protectorates together in 1914, to create Nigeria with its 300 languages; so its not surprising that Nigeria and other countries forced by Britain like Iraq have such fractious problems today. This book also confirms the violent “steal the land and move the people” technique the Europeans perfected in Africa (discussed in depth in the outstanding Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz’s “An Indigenous People’s History” and Sven Lindqvist’s “Terra Nullius” and “Exterminate All the Brutes”). British intent through Shepstone’s 1877 dispatches was clear: civilization wasn’t benign; native hope had to be destroyed in order to make it submit to the rule of “civilization”. The British develop their template for “indirect rule” in Buganda (Uganda) and they then “sold” this form of rule throughout the globe. The Germans, not to be outdone by Belgium and Britain, exterminated the Herero People in 1904 with lovely “cleansing patrols”. The German pre-holocaust notion was that such peoples respond only to force and in fact their leader General Trotha wrote that he wanted a campaign of “absolute terrorism and even cruelty”. Charming… Time and time again, Western Civilization causes more problems that it purports to solve for those occupied or under it’s will. Fun harmless facts learned: Khufu’s Great Pyramid was the tallest building in the world for 38 centuries. Geometry comes from Euclid in Alexandria, home of the great library, as does the Archimedes’s screw. Finally I learned why Bob Marley talked about Abyssinia. It was Africa’s sole connection to Christianity when Islam took over elsewhere and it was hard to invade and so left alone. It’s leaders declared they were the King of Zion to the sound of trumpets and drums hundreds of years before Ziggy Marley was a zygote. Haile Selassie’s title was Ras Tafari so there you go - Rastafarian, man… Great book…

  7. 4 out of 5

    J

    The ambition of this book is astounding. The kind of detail and narrative history that Meredith is trying to write was simply beyond his ability - the balance between excruciating detail and larger movements requires an endless stream of judgements that ultimately only allow you to glimpse a concise version of Meredith's view of Africa, partially. Significant parts of history are simply not given the import they were due - others, again to appeal to a narrative style, are given undue space in an The ambition of this book is astounding. The kind of detail and narrative history that Meredith is trying to write was simply beyond his ability - the balance between excruciating detail and larger movements requires an endless stream of judgements that ultimately only allow you to glimpse a concise version of Meredith's view of Africa, partially. Significant parts of history are simply not given the import they were due - others, again to appeal to a narrative style, are given undue space in an attempt at microhistory. But you cannot write a 5000 year narrative history of a continent like Africa with microhistory without seriously compromising the view. How can an historian balance social, cultural, pre- and post-colonial, economic, political, diplomatic, micro- and macro, environmental and other histories? Imagine a biography of 5000 years of Europe (in comparison to Africa: a significantly smaller continent, inhabited for a shorter time, only recently highly populated, less linguistically and ethnically diverse etc.) Meredith really tries, but this simply cannot be done.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sunkaru

    In about 700 pages, "The Fortunes of Africa" is a well written narrative of African history. It describes in good detail a lot of events that occurred over a span of 5 millennia and provides the reader with a good context within which to situate the current state of affairs on the continent. I found the material well referenced and as an African I learnt many things about our history that I didn't know prior to reading this book. The book provides an impressive breath of historical narrative at t In about 700 pages, "The Fortunes of Africa" is a well written narrative of African history. It describes in good detail a lot of events that occurred over a span of 5 millennia and provides the reader with a good context within which to situate the current state of affairs on the continent. I found the material well referenced and as an African I learnt many things about our history that I didn't know prior to reading this book. The book provides an impressive breath of historical narrative at the expense depth. I thought that the author skimmed over the details of many historic events, understandably so as that would be unachievable in one book. For this reason, I consider this work an "abstract" of the history of Africa that will motivate an interested reader to delve more into the history of this fascinating continent.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This is a meaty and fascinating overview of Africa's history, from the earliest civilizations to the aftermath of colonization. The problem of any overview, of course, is that there are always parts that I'd want to read more about, but given my meager knowledge about the history of Africa, this was a great place to start. It's a reminder of how rich and complex Africa's many societies are, and that there is hope for the future of the continent despite the horrific suffering of the past and some This is a meaty and fascinating overview of Africa's history, from the earliest civilizations to the aftermath of colonization. The problem of any overview, of course, is that there are always parts that I'd want to read more about, but given my meager knowledge about the history of Africa, this was a great place to start. It's a reminder of how rich and complex Africa's many societies are, and that there is hope for the future of the continent despite the horrific suffering of the past and sometimes the present.

  10. 5 out of 5

    J. Turner

    This book is extremely ambitious. It seeks to cover the millennia-long, seemingly unceasing rape and pillage of the continent of Africa. The best part of this book is its shear wealth of information. It is absolutely jam-packed with information on the different civilizations and empires that plundered Africa. The author makes clear that Africa--with an abundancy of natural resources and the perpetual availability of trade in slaves--has always been at risk of foreign domination. While the book d This book is extremely ambitious. It seeks to cover the millennia-long, seemingly unceasing rape and pillage of the continent of Africa. The best part of this book is its shear wealth of information. It is absolutely jam-packed with information on the different civilizations and empires that plundered Africa. The author makes clear that Africa--with an abundancy of natural resources and the perpetual availability of trade in slaves--has always been at risk of foreign domination. While the book discusses the complicity and willingness of indigenous Black African rulers to engage in the slave trade with Arabs and Europeans, it did not give nearly enough attention to the widespread and persistent resistance to the slave trade by African people. No mention of the hundreds of mutinies / rebellions on slave trips making the Middle Passage, and very little discussion of the many African Kings & Queens who organized mass rebellions and wars against Euro-colonial powers. Because the book essentially tells the story of the domination of Africa by foreigners, it pretty quickly removes Africans from the history of Africa. While the book does briefly discuss some of the African empires in existence during the Middle Ages and early colonial period, it doesn't spend much time detailing the structure of any of the prominent African states, nor does it depict these empires / states in a very good light. Also interesting is how critical the author is of Africa's independence / post-independence leaders. Some of the heroes that are venerated in Africa (Nkrumah, Nyerere, etc.) are reduced to mere "authoritarians" or "dictators." Not much is said about their underlying ideologies, nor the challenges that they faced. Further, while the author rightfully discusses the role that corrupt and selfish African leaders played during the failure of the post-colonial period, the author does not analyze the continued involvement of Western Imperialism at all. He does not mention the word "neo-colonialism" once, and only provides a surface level account of the financial indebtedness of newly independent states to Europe and America (largely blaming the indebtedness on African mismanagement and corruption, rather than the predatory nature of Western Imperialism). Also, I found it interesting that the author--who clearly has a distaste for the socialist statecraft that many African nations sought to build in the post-colonial world--focused on the "failures" of these projects, but made no mention of the successes (i.e. Thomas Sankara and Burkina Faso). Thomas Sankara was not mentioned at all. While I would recommend this book simply for its breadth of information, don't expect any real analysis of the “why." At most, this book details the plunder of Africa and at times comes closer to blaming Africans for the plunder than it does the actual plunderers (Arabs and Europeans).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sue Flynn

    I found this to be a very interesting and fascinating history of Africa. I learned a lot about the various countries that were involved in trying to control the various tribes. If one reads this book it will help you to understand the plight and frustration of all the peoples of Africa and why it bleeds out into the rest of the world. For a people to always be treated as subservient and never given an opportunity to either continue with their religions and traditions it makes sense why there is I found this to be a very interesting and fascinating history of Africa. I learned a lot about the various countries that were involved in trying to control the various tribes. If one reads this book it will help you to understand the plight and frustration of all the peoples of Africa and why it bleeds out into the rest of the world. For a people to always be treated as subservient and never given an opportunity to either continue with their religions and traditions it makes sense why there is so much anger in Africa. As a reader you become aware of the incredible amount of slave trade that was going on between all sides. This includes both white and colored. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand not just Africa but all the other countries that were involved in the history of this continent.

  12. 5 out of 5

    QOH

    If this were clickbait, it ought to read "Europeans act like dicks over an entire continent for several hundred years. You'll never guess what happened next." This year I decided I wanted to read the history of places that are not often told in the west (but should be). I was more or less familiar with the Europeans acting like dicks in Africa narrative from European history classes. (I wasn't aware the Belgians had been as incredibly awful as they were.) I was hoping for more nuance. In reality If this were clickbait, it ought to read "Europeans act like dicks over an entire continent for several hundred years. You'll never guess what happened next." This year I decided I wanted to read the history of places that are not often told in the west (but should be). I was more or less familiar with the Europeans acting like dicks in Africa narrative from European history classes. (I wasn't aware the Belgians had been as incredibly awful as they were.) I was hoping for more nuance. In reality, that isn't fair: 680 pages or so for an entire continent and 5000 years isn't really doable. It has given me a scaffolding I can use in studying different regions, and the evolving maps tell a story by themselves.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Smooth Via

    Utterly fascinating. This was my bathroom book, so it took me over a year to complete it, but that doesn't mean it was boring. Quite the opposite: it was fascinating and informative. I will say that there were times when I wanted more detail about certain events, people, or time periods. Likewise, there were other times when the sheer amount of details that Meredith included felt entirely unnecessary. Nevertheless, the book flows quite well and is a much easier and enjoyable read than you would an Utterly fascinating. This was my bathroom book, so it took me over a year to complete it, but that doesn't mean it was boring. Quite the opposite: it was fascinating and informative. I will say that there were times when I wanted more detail about certain events, people, or time periods. Likewise, there were other times when the sheer amount of details that Meredith included felt entirely unnecessary. Nevertheless, the book flows quite well and is a much easier and enjoyable read than you would anticipate for a 5,000 year history of Africa.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    Review title: This is the mess Meredith has written a sprawling narrative survey of the whole African continent in a book nearly as big as the topic. It is a valiant effort and a good introduction to a continent that is often given short shrift and little attention, and yet the book still feels like it has barely scratched the surface. Just like Mercator projection maps that I recently learned substantially undersize the African continent at the center to show the continents and oceans surroundin Review title: This is the mess Meredith has written a sprawling narrative survey of the whole African continent in a book nearly as big as the topic. It is a valiant effort and a good introduction to a continent that is often given short shrift and little attention, and yet the book still feels like it has barely scratched the surface. Just like Mercator projection maps that I recently learned substantially undersize the African continent at the center to show the continents and oceans surrounding it translated from the 3 dimensional globe to paper, attempting to treat such a massive subject in a one volume history is bound to unwittingly diminish its scope. But it is a starting point, and Meredith realizes that he must take the broad brush view while providing references for those who wish to see the finer brushstrokes of details in smaller panels;his bibliography lists about 500 secondary sources, and brief chapter notes point to the major sources for each topic. Another way he ensures consistent broad coverage is breaking the continent into three geographic sections which he uses throughout the chronological arrangement of the text, starting out with the northern Mediterranean-facing countries because of their ancient civilizations, then moving to the southern tip of the continent where coastal explorers and then early European colonists made the next inroads into the continent, then finally the middle third of "darkest Africa", the last explored and most aggressively exploited for slaves, ivory, and rubber. One bit of the early history of the continent that I was surprised to learn was how early and how far into Africa Islam had come, moving westward from its beginning in southwestern Asia and the Middle East around the Mediterranean rim and south along the Atlantic Coast through and beyond the Sahara. Meredith gives fair coverage of pre-exploration civilizations, tribes, and kingdoms, such as the Eastern nation of Abyssinia (later Ethiopia) which was an early adopter of Christianity with a long and often forgotten history which includes the tradition of housing the Ark of the Covenant. But because much of the documentation of history has either been lost, forgotten, or never written, much of the story of Africa, as his subtitle makes clear, is of the exploitation of the continent by outsiders. The track record of cultural exchange both between African ethnic and language groups and between Africans and outsiders is simply abysmal. Slave trafficking between local tribes and with other countries remained a powerful incentive for war and profit for a millennium that only staggered to an end in the 20th century. Discoveries of gold, diamonds, rubber, and oil brought modern exploitation every bit as harmful for individuals, tribes, regions, and ecologies around the continent. King Leopold of Belgium ran the Congo region as his personal rubber plantation with the ruthless Heart of Darkness described so unforgettably by Joseph Conrad. The modern history of Africa is little better, starting with the colonial land grabs of the 19th century, and then the drawing of artificial borders with no consideration of historical, cultural, and linguistic boundaries, which were often fluid and seldom documented. When the 20th century world wars provided impetus for national self-determination and an end to political imperialism, the former colonies became struggling countries with little infrastructure and less experience in self-governance. A period of "Big man" dictatorial rule in most countries for the first 50 years post-colonialism was followed by Cold War revolutions and then a period of Islamic insurgencies in the last 30 years that have left more of the population of the continent in poverty with no education, health care, and access to basic needs like electricity and clean water then at any time in the last 200 years. This is the mess; we need not wait for the mess to get here. As Meredith brings the history up to date as of the time of his writing in late 2013, he covers the Arab Spring that held promise to bring democracy to Egypt and other northern tier nations. But he also concludes with less encouraging words that within the year most of those gains in freedom from internal and external oppression had turned into new regimes of suppression and dictatorship. There is no happy ending here. But there is knowledge, and from knowledge and experience can come wisdom. To be educated and informed citizens of the world we need to know more about this vast continent at the center of our maps.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Polansky

    I am that peculiar sort of person for whom a single-volume, political/military history of some fair swathe of the planet is about the most enjoyable form of literature. I LOVE these sorts of things, I could eat them up like candy. This is a very good example of the form, detailing African history from Ancient Egypt to the modern-age, with a primary focus on the exploitation of its resources, which essentially ends up being the interplay between 'foreign' and native African forces. At eight or ni I am that peculiar sort of person for whom a single-volume, political/military history of some fair swathe of the planet is about the most enjoyable form of literature. I LOVE these sorts of things, I could eat them up like candy. This is a very good example of the form, detailing African history from Ancient Egypt to the modern-age, with a primary focus on the exploitation of its resources, which essentially ends up being the interplay between 'foreign' and native African forces. At eight or nine hundred pages it is, of course, much too short for so vast a topic but still choc full of insight to any non-expert. The writing is skillful if not particularly memorable, but then again only a very small number of historians are capable of writing truly captivating prose in its own right (Barbara Tuchman and Simon Schama come to mind). All the same, Meredith excels in clearly ordering vast quantities of information into a coherent narrative, the most difficult and essential task in a book of this sort. Depressing, of course, as histories generally are, but you can hardly blame that on the author. Strong recommendation, if you share my affection for this sort of thing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lois Plale

    Easy-to-understand history of the exploitation of Africa.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sriram

    Very detailed account of African civilized history. Very little is known and hence written about the history of the African tribes in the south.Quite a long read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth

    This is a decent general survey of the history of Africa such as is known from the most accessible historical and travelers accounts and a fairly good though not particularly thorough history of decolonization and the fate of Africa since independence. I suppose I should rate it more highly because it really is a decent general history if you don't know anything about Africa to begin with, but I was hoping for something more. This is not in fact a 5,000 year history of the whole of Africa, but r This is a decent general survey of the history of Africa such as is known from the most accessible historical and travelers accounts and a fairly good though not particularly thorough history of decolonization and the fate of Africa since independence. I suppose I should rate it more highly because it really is a decent general history if you don't know anything about Africa to begin with, but I was hoping for something more. This is not in fact a 5,000 year history of the whole of Africa, but rather the parts of Africa for which there is a written historical record or, put another way, it is a history of Egypt and Mediterranean Africa with a few mentions of the Bantu migration and early Christian communities in the Horn of Africa until the penetration of the Sahel by Islam. Then there are a few vignettes of the West African empires as seen through the eyes of Ibn Battuta and then the rest of the book is Africa through the eyes of European explorers and chroniclers. To me this was highly disappointing as I had been hoping for a more robust history of Africa south of the Sahara. To be fair to the author, a journalist, this is a subject that is closed to all but specialists on account of the fact that there are no written records of Africa south of the Sahara and the archaeological record is very thin. So this remains the preserve of linguists, archaeologists, sociologists and anthropologists and I should have known better. What the author has done is not produced an academic work detailing and reconstructing the whole of sub-saharan Africa from the fragmentary remains but rather aggregated up the written record such as it is. There is value to this and if you are looking for a highly readable, even entertaining, though somewhat pessimistic account of African history, this is a good book to read. If you are looking for the origins of the civilizations of Africa south of the Sahara, you will be disappointed.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dave Schoettinger

    Three years ago I read a book by Nigerian-American journalist Dayo Olopade called The Bright Continent. This was an upbeat and optimistic account of the author's experiences in Africa and gave the perception that the African people were up to the challenges facing them. Professor Meredith has, in this volume, described those challenges in detail. Without the perspective provided by Ms. Olopade, I would have found Meredith's efforts even more disheartening. From the pharaohs to Robert Mugabe and Three years ago I read a book by Nigerian-American journalist Dayo Olopade called The Bright Continent. This was an upbeat and optimistic account of the author's experiences in Africa and gave the perception that the African people were up to the challenges facing them. Professor Meredith has, in this volume, described those challenges in detail. Without the perspective provided by Ms. Olopade, I would have found Meredith's efforts even more disheartening. From the pharaohs to Robert Mugabe and the current roster of kleptocrats, Mr. Meredith has summarized the greed, corruption and lust for power that seem to be the defining characteristics of the African historical milieu. Even more distressing, since last November I no longer feel entitled to look down my nose at citizens of countries who seem indifferent to the ethical shortcomings of their political leaders. For Americans, like myself, who shave more or less assumed that enlightened democracy was generally the type of government that we would be enjoying and that the rest of the world aspired to the same, the history of Africa, as presented by Professor Meredith, is a disquieting reminder that maintaining a democracy requires a greater degree of commitment than appears to prevail in most places at the current time.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ajay Palekar

    The book has a broad scope, at 5,000 years of history for an entire content. It is way too broad. This book has 71 chapters and the first 4,500 years are just 9 out of the 71 chapters. That's a severe lack of balance in the historical narrative. More over the book is highly focused on European activity in Africa and on European actors as driving the historical narrative. The recurring theme of the book is that the people of Africa have been exploited by the pursuits for wealth, greed, and conque The book has a broad scope, at 5,000 years of history for an entire content. It is way too broad. This book has 71 chapters and the first 4,500 years are just 9 out of the 71 chapters. That's a severe lack of balance in the historical narrative. More over the book is highly focused on European activity in Africa and on European actors as driving the historical narrative. The recurring theme of the book is that the people of Africa have been exploited by the pursuits for wealth, greed, and conquest for thousands of years. Pharaohs, Romans, Caliphates, European Colonizers, and Military Strongmen have all had there turn profiting from the wealth of the continent and in turn have left the people of Africa to suffer some of the worst things imaginable. This is a thesis that I felt could have been incredibly powerful, but what this book achieves is less cohesive and complementary to that tale. One of the greatest complaints I have is that some moments in the book, e.g. the incident at Fashoda nearly led to a French-British War, were relegated to a single sentence or page. The book simply enough barely scratches the surface. Still for those looking to get a broad overview of the history of Africa from Egypt to the present day, this book is an intuitive introduction.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Miroku Nemeth

    If you are looking for an objective book on African history free of European imperialist and colonial bias, this is definitely not a book for you. It is also nothing like an actual 5,000 year history of Africa. Most of it focuses on the periods after European exploitation of Africa and Africans, blaming much of that exploitation on Africans themselves. In that sense, it is part of a long tradition of European writings on Africa that makes you wonder as a reader how such discourse is still around If you are looking for an objective book on African history free of European imperialist and colonial bias, this is definitely not a book for you. It is also nothing like an actual 5,000 year history of Africa. Most of it focuses on the periods after European exploitation of Africa and Africans, blaming much of that exploitation on Africans themselves. In that sense, it is part of a long tradition of European writings on Africa that makes you wonder as a reader how such discourse is still around in writings on Africa in the twenty-first century. But it is "up-to-date" on a certain version of African history in its own biased way, and is informative in that sense, and also in the sense that one can use the book as a limited survey of some aspects of African history, and I think it should only be read in that way. It is unfortunate that there aren't really enough truly decolonized accounts of African history available in English, though there are some, and we can hope that as time progresses, more and more become readily available to readers seeking historical frameworks that are more objective.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Igor Mendonça

    This audio book was very difficult to understand. Not because it is confusing, but because I lacked even the basic knowledge of Africa's geography and history. The author cites locations, such as cities, regions and even countries that I simply never heard before, so I had to pause and check it out several times. Get at least one map before starting it. The content is pretty fascinating. It seems like hearing a story about a fictional world, because of the many many completely new history info I This audio book was very difficult to understand. Not because it is confusing, but because I lacked even the basic knowledge of Africa's geography and history. The author cites locations, such as cities, regions and even countries that I simply never heard before, so I had to pause and check it out several times. Get at least one map before starting it. The content is pretty fascinating. It seems like hearing a story about a fictional world, because of the many many completely new history info I never had before. I can't say I will remember names, dates, faces and places, but at least now I have a sense to what I see in the news. At least... Africa isn't just pictures of hungry children and dictators for me anymore. #historyspoiler But it is rough to listen. When the author says that Egypt would not be ruled by an Egyptian until the 20th century, things get soured. And it keeps get worse literally until the last paragraph. Be prepared to feel frustrated, angry, humiliated and useless

  23. 5 out of 5

    Pavlo Tverdokhlib

    Meredith's work is a fundamental overview of the history of the African continent. By virtue of being an overview, it's not a particularly deep book- if it was, it'd have to be much, much thicker. Still, as an overview, it works fairly nicely. In general, it goes through different historical eras, tracing the separate development of North, West, East and Southern African lands. While certain areas of Africa engender a continuous narrative, others appear in the story only when it's felt they beca Meredith's work is a fundamental overview of the history of the African continent. By virtue of being an overview, it's not a particularly deep book- if it was, it'd have to be much, much thicker. Still, as an overview, it works fairly nicely. In general, it goes through different historical eras, tracing the separate development of North, West, East and Southern African lands. While certain areas of Africa engender a continuous narrative, others appear in the story only when it's felt they became important. Meredith's work is primarily exposition. He makes few attempts to analyze facts or try to interpret them. While this obviously leaves his work feeling "dryer" and less "deep" than one might expect, I actually liked it, because it leaves the reader interested in trying to ask any questions with a more systematic approach with enough reference points to start further research, while providing a very broad overview.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carl

    I read Meredith's "The Fortunes of Africa" & Reader's "Africa: The Biography of the Continent" at the same time & found remarkable similarities in the two works so I will review them together. Both are large volumes covering the history, geography, people, & colonization of the continent. Probably 90% or even more of the material covered overlaps and very few instances are found where the authors contradict each other in their conclusions. Readers' work covers more detail of the prehuman history I read Meredith's "The Fortunes of Africa" & Reader's "Africa: The Biography of the Continent" at the same time & found remarkable similarities in the two works so I will review them together. Both are large volumes covering the history, geography, people, & colonization of the continent. Probably 90% or even more of the material covered overlaps and very few instances are found where the authors contradict each other in their conclusions. Readers' work covers more detail of the prehuman history & geology of the continent & Meredith's work is more extensive in the coverage of the politics of post-colonial Africa. I liked & recommend both books & not as an either/or alternative but for their complementarity. There is much to be learned about the unfortunate continent & these works are a wealth of information.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gavin Haughton

    This was a very interesting book to introduce African history to a complete newbie. It is mainly a tour of powerful men and changing empires throughout Africa. I had hoped for a bit more about the cultures and how they changed, eg music, language, art and the such. There was a lot of discussion about how different governmental systems changed and how the imperial era affected the country. I was glad to hear the slave trade discussed in its entirety. The book also strikes me as being very imparti This was a very interesting book to introduce African history to a complete newbie. It is mainly a tour of powerful men and changing empires throughout Africa. I had hoped for a bit more about the cultures and how they changed, eg music, language, art and the such. There was a lot of discussion about how different governmental systems changed and how the imperial era affected the country. I was glad to hear the slave trade discussed in its entirety. The book also strikes me as being very impartial, although there is very little mention of women. The great man of history vibe made me deduct one star. It is a huge undertaking to cover this much history in one book so I understand why the author used this approach, I think a better method would have been that used in Europe by Norman Davis. I Liked it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dirk G. Van Waelderen

    Despite the author’s predisposition and lack of scientific depth in many parts of the book, it is a good book refreshing existing research and knowledge. However, readers need to be aware of the author repeating sometimes hardly accurate and over the top viewpoints of old research. Especially disappointing are the chapters on last decades. Still, the author’s attempt to bring such a history in one book needs to be applauded and it is a recommendable and interesting holiday lecture (but definitel Despite the author’s predisposition and lack of scientific depth in many parts of the book, it is a good book refreshing existing research and knowledge. However, readers need to be aware of the author repeating sometimes hardly accurate and over the top viewpoints of old research. Especially disappointing are the chapters on last decades. Still, the author’s attempt to bring such a history in one book needs to be applauded and it is a recommendable and interesting holiday lecture (but definitely nothing more) 👍🏻

  27. 5 out of 5

    Balthazarinblue

    Only read a 100 or so pages but what I read was very surface level, which I should have expected given the length of the time period covered and the breadth of the geographical region covered, but I felt like I was reading stuff I already knew. It was also kind of disorganized in how it was written? The first chapter jumped from Tutankhamun to Hatshepsut to Akhnaten without attempting to clarify the chronology there; I felt like once I started hitting chapters where I didn't come into them with Only read a 100 or so pages but what I read was very surface level, which I should have expected given the length of the time period covered and the breadth of the geographical region covered, but I felt like I was reading stuff I already knew. It was also kind of disorganized in how it was written? The first chapter jumped from Tutankhamun to Hatshepsut to Akhnaten without attempting to clarify the chronology there; I felt like once I started hitting chapters where I didn't come into them with a pre-existing knowledge of the timeline, I was going to end up misinformed.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Brown

    Deeply disturbing. A litany of assaults and disasters, which I read as a way to at least hold space in honor of the people. Little to no historical analysis, so the dreadful facts pile up, higher and higher. A long book, of course, but actually a cursory review of the historic record. And more a history of people doing things to Africa, a eurocentric gaze, rather than information about the cultures of indigenous peoples of Africa.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Drasko Kovrlija

    Probably the only 675-page book I would describe as "concise." The author took on a project of astronomical scope and tried to capture 5000+ years of history of a vast and very diverse continent. The result is a well-written and very readable set of narratives, perfect for someone with little familiarity with African history. Probably the only 675-page book I would describe as "concise." The author took on a project of astronomical scope and tried to capture 5000+ years of history of a vast and very diverse continent. The result is a well-written and very readable set of narratives, perfect for someone with little familiarity with African history.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kudakwashe Manjonjo

    It is important for Africa to realise that Africa has been looted for centuries. this book does a lot to show exactly how and why. conversely, it allows us to realise the importance of our continent to the world economy and what we can do once we harness it and realise that noone will develop us more than ourselves.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.