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A Short History of Africa: Sixth Edition Paperback – July 19, 1990


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised edition (July 19, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140136010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140136012
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,853,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

An intelligent short history of this vast and fascinating continent, with its diverse population, its tumultuous past, and its complicated present, is a timely choice for audio. But in this program, first written in 1962 and presented here with only minor revisions, the vibrant genius of a people is eclipsed by a recitation of economic, religious, and political developments in a manner more suited for academics. Its treatment of Africa's great Iron Age, its early Portuguese colonies, its seemingly endless torments of slavery, the growth of Islam, famine, and warfare have no anecdotal interest to recommend it to general listeners. Geoffrey Howard's fine narration supplies dignity and sparkle, but the prose remains dull and unengaging. With so few tapes on this subject available on audio, it is a pity that Blackstone has offered a dry, 35-year-old research tool that is more serviceable in print. Not recommended for general audiences.
Barbara Mann, Adelphi Univ., Garden City, N.Y.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From AudioFile

This short work encompasses the history of the entire continent of Africa from the Paleolithic era to the late 1980's. Dividing the continent into four geographical and political areas, Oliver and Fage examine the history of the people, their conquests and experience of being conquered. Geoffrey Howard delivers a flawless narration, twisting his tongue around, not only the native African words and places, but also the multitude of European languages. Howard's reading is slow enough for the listener to contemplate the issues and events, yet fluid enough to entice the listener to learn what happens next. M.B.K. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on July 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read the 1966 (second)edition of this volume and was not aware of updates until opening this site. Despite much political and demographic change in Africa over the last 30-odd years, and despite the availability of much more research and the advent of DNA-based studies, not even heard of in 1966, I found Oliver and Fage's work a pleasure to read. Their chapters are intelligently organized, the flow of ideas and trends unblemished by superfluous detail or tedious asides. The entire continent is covered, North Africa as well as Sub-Saharan, though personally, I felt a little more could have been said about Madagascar. As a reader without a professional stake in African history, I found this book just the thing. It raised many issues that I had not thought of, told me about many patterns and issues of which I had known nothing, and did so in clear, concise language which kept my interest throughout. I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in African history. I myself will look for an updated edition to see what the authors say about the last third of a century.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Francois-Xavier Jette on April 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
The authors did a great job. They could have made this too high-level and impossible to understand for those who don't have enough background in African history, but they haven't. They could have made it too simplistic and abbreviated so that the reader would be missing important information, but they haven't either. They found just the right balance and the right approach to cover the entire history of Africa without dwelling on any details for too long and without skipping anything that would prevent the reader from getting a good understanding.

In some chapters, the book is a little heavy, but you can't put that much information without it feeling dense sometimes. Whenever I found one chapter a little too much to handle all at once, I simply re-read a few of its pages and I was ready to move on.

I must say, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a primer on African history, I learned so much from it.

The only parts I wish they had given a little more information on are the former colonies of Italy and Spain. In particular they didn't say very much about Somalia, Libya, and the Spanish colony west of Morocco.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Theoni Lussos on September 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
It is very obvious that the authors, Oliver and Fage, know their stuff very well, that said I found the book highly technical with little explanation for the historical voyeur, making me constantly have to resort to the Britannica to fill out my understanding as they never gave an general introduction for me to hold onto. By chapter 5, this grew wearisome, and I jumped ship. I think if you have a good understanding of anthropological and archaeological terms you would do better than me but if you are looking for a leisurely general overview, like I was, this is not it.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mary E. Sibley VINE VOICE on August 8, 2003
Format: Audio Cassette
The first domestication of animals and cultivation of cereals occurred in south-west Africa. The oldest cereal crops of sub-Saharan Africa were the millets and west of the great bend of the Niger there was also rice. Maize and cassava were introduced from South and Central America in the 16th and 17th centuries. The ancient languages were Hamito-Semitic languages of the north and north-east, click languages of the Bush and Hottentot peoples, and the Eastern Sudanic languages and Western Sudanic languages. The Bantu languages spoken today are closely related to each other. The introduction into Aftica of South-East-Asian food plants, for example the banana and the yam, made possible the growth of dense populations. There was a great expansion and dispersal of Bantu farmers.

The idea of kingship probably originated in Egypt. The organizational efficiency caused the politco-religious ideas to be widely distributed. Trading expeditions had an effect on the material culture of a wide region. Then Egypt declined. It had neither iron or ore. Northern Kush had ore but no fuel. The southern region had both commodities. Meroe could provide for its own subsistence and trade and conquer in the Sudanic belt of Africa. As to the Sudanic civilization, the typical state was not feudal, it was bureaucratic. Around the royal person there formed a galaxy.

The book goes on to detail Africa's encounter with the Mediterranean world and then with Islam. Trading in East Africa and West Africa is delineated carefully. Ihe slave trade did not create disequilibrium until late. European colonization was not substantial until the the last quarter of the nineteenth century when matters became frenzied as each country sought to assure itself of a piece of the action.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Book Lover on January 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
This books perceptive can be summed up from a sentence on page 94- "... from the eight to the fourteenth centuries [Africa] almost certainly gained more from her partial inclusion in the civilization of Islam than she lost from lack of contact with Europe, then passing through a dark age redeemed only by the surviving light of Christianity." Tragically for Africa and it's people, when the Europeans arrived in Africa, they used Christianity to rob Africans of their land, resources and Independence. Africa was carved up by European countries and have not recovered yet. Dr. John Henrik Clarke and Basil Davidson's books are true books about Africa and it's people, not Africa from a European perspective disguised as African history as this book purports to be.
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