AFRICA: PAST AND PRESENT by Elizabeth Bartlett Thompson


Email this review


It provides a glimmering but not illuminating insight into the dark continent. The author has undertaken to summarize the history of Africa as a whole from prehistoric times to the present, and the primary emphasis is on Africa as infiltrated by or reacting to the rest of the world. The opening chapters define to some extent the vast scope and variation of the African territories but as the book progresses the differentiations are frequently unclear. Roughly the first third of the book summarizes the development of the ancient civilizations in North Africa, distinguishing the important social/historical/political trends. The period from the Middle Ages through the nineteenth century is described almost entirely in terms of European exploration and colonization, with perhaps too much emphasis on the reactions of outsiders, too little on internal, tribal developments. The final chapters will be useful in setting the groundwork of an understanding of the movements toward independence throughout Africa. The author was probably wise in avoiding extending the scope of the book to include anthropological detail, and its usefulness is in placing the continent within the context of world history. Of necessity this skims the surface and it does a satisfactory job introducing basic material to the novice, but without the special clarity that the outstanding survey can provide.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1966
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin