‘Out of Africa always something new,’ wrote Pliny the Elder in Historia Naturalis. This wide-ranging survey, The Fortunes of Africa, spanning 5,000 years, offers ample proof of Pliny’s observation. Although much of the information contained in Martin Meredith’s vast and vivid panorama will be familiar to readers, such a wide-angle viewpoint gives his ambitious continental history a fresh and important basis for comparison and reappraisal. Elegantly written, purposeful and extremely readable, his book is a genuinely valuable compendium, for non-specialists in particular.
Africa is the second largest continent in the world after Asia. Its land mass covers some 30 million square kilometres. Its current population is estimated to be around 1.06 billion, a figure expected to reach 1.2 billion by 2017. Throughout Africa some 1,500 languages are spoken; Sudan alone accounts for