The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence by Martin Meredith; Africa: A Modern History by Guy Arnold - review by Tom Stacey

Tom Stacey

A Continent’s Curse

The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence


Free Press 752pp £20

Africa: A Modern History


Atlantic Books 1028pp £35

Two formidable books, in unwitting rivalry, present us with the chronicle of Africa’s politics, wars, disease, and political and tribal violence over the past half-century, during which forty-eight of its lands, islands and archipelagos were released into sovereign statehood from colonial rule or calved from greater neighbours (Namibia from South Africa and Eritrea from Ethiopia), a further four (Egypt, South Africa, Ethiopia and Liberia) being already independent. 

Both works purport to give us histories. This is true to the extent that they lay out, with varying clarity, those events and statistics which provide a frame for the cascade of rule or misrule and the collapses or reassertions of order such as characterise the period, above all in

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