Thursday, 23 April 2015

THE SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA – Thomas Pakenham, 1992

It is easy to be put off by the sheer size of this but I read it steadily over the course of a week and it was no chore at all.
Pakenham gives a broadly chronological account of how the continent was gradually explored, mapped and claimed by the European powers.
Leopold’s personal crusade is one of the most riveting aspects, along with the British campaigns in the Sudan. I knew snippets of information beforehand but I think I have absorbed more about African colonisation in the past week than in the rest of my entire life so far. The detail does not become overwhelming, though. Instead it builds a clear picture of the chaos before, during and after the ‘scramble’.

It is a pity that there is no updated version. Stopping, as it does, in 1991, it feels unfinished in the light of even greater change.

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