THE RACE TO FASHODA: European Colonialism and African Resistance in the Scramble for Africa by David Levering Lewis

THE RACE TO FASHODA: European Colonialism and African Resistance in the Scramble for Africa

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From the author of Prisoners of Honor: The Dreyfus Affair (1973), When Harlem Was in Vogue (1981), etc., a rich narrative account of a much-neglected episode in the European partition of Africa: the Fashoda crisis of 1896-98. Drawing on previously unavailable archival documents, Lewis' meticulous study brings into sharp focus an incident which ""has generally been considered little more than an historical footnote, [when] it is in fact one of the great galvanic moments of the last century."" Lewis examines the dynamics behind the European rivalries (England, France, Italy, Germany, and Belgium) and the intricacies of insurgent colonialism that transformed the crumbling and nearly forgotten African fortress at Fashoda (on the west bank of the White Nile) into a vital prize to be won at all cost. His emphasis on the African response to the Fashoda debacle redresses the all-too-common Eurocentric approach to the scramble for Africa, demonstrating that African resistance was more organized and effective than generally acknowledged. But, more importantly, he underscores how African rulers (such as Menilek II and Tippu Tip) capitalized on European rivalries and manipulated one power against the other. Lewis weaves fascinating details into a highly complex and potentially dry story, including astute and vivid profiles of the principal European and African protagonists. Still, his overabundance of details tends to distract and his conclusions only hint at the repercussions of the Fashoda crisis on the tense European political climate preceding WW I. In the end, then, Lewis fails to make full use of the wealth of material and de. tail at his disposal in this otherwise accomplished study.

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 1987
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson