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The first edition of Murphy's Understanding Africa (1969) was necessarily concerned with countering stereotypes; now he must deal also with disillusion--try to explain, that is, why nascent democracies turned to one-party, one-man rule, nationalist aspirations succumbed to internal dissension, and economic development faltered. The result, which also reflects the recent spurt in historical studies, is a substantially new volume putting the geography of Africa into fresh, variegated perspective; distinguishing between the peoples and nations of the seven large regions, and further differentiating among them (to the point, for instance, of describing Senegal as ""an economically poor nation"" with ""a well-educated population""); summarizing successive periods of African history (apropos of the reminder that ""only during the brief colonial period [was] Africa temporarily dormant""); and, finally, examining the problems of African nations today. On the basis of the groundwork he has laid it is reasonable, then, for Murphy to point out that ""the idea of a strong national leader is traditional in Africa"" and to decry the concentration of resources in the cities at the expense of the once-flourishing rural hinterland. Though one might feel that he is less candid about Soviet and Chinese communism than about Western imperialism, political or economic, his insistence that Africans will find African solutions seems, if optimistic, at least no less tenable than any other prognostication. A lucid, positive synthesis for uninformed readers of any age.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1978
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell