Saul David

Hearts of Darkness

Empires in the Sun: The Struggle for the Mastery of Africa – 1830–1990

By Lawrence James

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 391pp £30 order from our bookshop

In the wake of the failed student campaign to remove the statue of the controversial empire-builder Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College, Oxford, a book on the colonisation of Africa could not be better timed. It is surely more important to try to understand why men like Rhodes behaved in the way they did, for good or ill, than to simply erase them from history. ‘Debates over whether imperial rule was a blessing or a curse,’ comments Lawrence James, ‘invariably end up by telling us what we already know. Good men can do bad things and bad men can do good things, and propensities towards virtue and vice are fairly evenly distributed in all races.’

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