THE BLACK MAN'S BURDEN

AFRICA AND THE CURSE OF THE NATION-STATE

For 40 years, Davidson (Can Africa Survive?, 1974, etc.) has fought to secure Africa's place in world history. The stakes in this battle have been more than academic, as the commonly accepted notion that ``Africa had no history'' served as justification for the European colonial domination of the continent and its peoples. Here, Davidson shows how that historical denial not only allowed colonialism to take root but also contributed to the imposition of European-style national governments after independence. At independence, according to Davidson, a Western-educated African elite rose to power over traditional African leaders because it was commonly assumed that Africa had no indigenous models for ruling nation-states. Gathering the historical evidence, Davidson shows that, before the imposition of colonialism in the late 19th century, Africa was well along in the process of evolving its own models for the nation-state. The Asante kingdom of modern- day Ghana, for example, was ``manifestly a national state on its way to becoming a nation-state with every attribute ascribed to a Western European nation-state.'' Historians, though, neglected or were unaware of Africa's rich political history; and so Davidson portrays an Africa stripped of tradition. Africans under colonialism were told that, in order to be civilized, they must cease being African—while at the same time they could never be European. Ironically, this view didn't change after independence, with adherence to African tradition still derided as ``tribalism'' and seen as an obstacle to development. What Africa's leaders inherited, says Davidson, was ``a crisis of social disintegration.'' From here he charts the plummeting spiral of economic and social decay that has brought Africa to its current political crisis. Davidson's reach extends through medieval Europe, 19th-century Japan, and to the quandary faced by Eastern European nations today. He offers a rich and fascinating history, essential for any understanding of modern Africa's troubles—and a welcome contrast to the blame-the-Africans-for-their-problems books that have proliferated in the past decade.

Pub Date: May 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-8129-1998-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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