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The Black Man's Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  118 ratings  ·  11 reviews
An absorbing, highly acclaimed examination of Africa's transition from colonialism to revolution to the social turmoil of today.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 27th 1993 by Three Rivers Press (first published 1992)
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William Leight
This book is subtitled "Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State", but I assume that this was added by a timid publisher, afraid that the more accurate subtitle "Africa and the Curse of Imperialism" would make the book less salable. It would nonetheless have better expressed Davidson's argument, for the curse of the nation-state is just one of many curses that have befallen Africa thanks to Western domination. Essentially, the pattern of Western imperialism ran as follows: first, the slave trade ...more
Matthew Quest
An excellent study by the greatest popular historian of Africa. Davidson asks can the crisis of the nation-state in Africa be best understood comparatively with the crisis of the nation-state and ethnic conflict in Eastern Europe? This is an important contribution for two reasons. First, Africa is too often evaluated as "the dark cotninent" where there is perennial irrational forces from tribalism to civil war. Where European history can go through many atrocities and it is perceived these are e ...more
A good critique of post-colonial development in Africa, though liberal and not a radical analysis on the imperial relationships that some might argue were purposefully constructed between African nations and Europe and the U.S.
Frank Van soest
Gives insight in the (failed) nation-state forming process in Africa. To understand this Davidson (not Davisson!) goes back in time and tells the history from the pre-colonial times, when already nations with structured societies and state forms existed. Then he explains how the colonial period and the one after the liberations didn't contribute to the nation-state forming process as both periods were based upon European concepts and not on African origines. The sad story is that the old society ...more
Jim Swike
A good textbook, but goes back and forth with chronology, confusing. You may feel differently, enjoy!
Still one of the best books on Africa I have ever read. If you like historical pairs, why not historical triplets, or quadruplets, or even sextuplets. His ability to put things into a historical timeline that crosses continents and literatures, brings old events into contemporary light. It's all about fractals. Funny how history is repreated.
I'm really enjoying this book so far, but I really, really, REALLY wish that they had scrapped the main title and just used the subtitle - go figure. Or at the very least, designed the cover differently - perhaps using a font for the main title that was so small it was invisible to the naked eye.
Jonathan Haley
The language is a little impenetrable at times but the big points stand out. Well worth the read to understand why nations are not the easiest way forward to development.
May 07, 2007 Alice rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those willing to toil through boring prose
Shelves: read-in-2007
Whatever the author had to offer from the book was lost on me. Fighting to stay awake through the dry, boring prose was an uphill and, ultimately, losing battle.
While the writing style in this book takes some time to get used to following, the author has a lot to say with some very valid points. It made me think.
Olumide Olusanya
Truthfully provoking!!!
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He is an acclaimed British historian, writer and Africanist, particularly knowledgeable on the subject of Portuguese Africa prior to the 1974 Carnation Revolution .

He has written several books on the current plight of Africa. Colonialism and the rise of African emancipation movements have been central themes of his work.

He is an Honorary Fellow of the London School of Oriental and African Studies
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