The one hundred year history of how Europe coerced the African continent into its various empires—and the resulting story of how Africa succeeded in decolonization.
In this dramatic (and often tragic) story of an era that radically changed the course of world history, Lawrence James investigates how, within one hundred years, Europeans persuaded and coerced Africa into becoming a subordinate part of the modern world. His narrative is laced with the experiences of participants and onlookers and introduces the men and women who, for better or worse, stamped their wills on Africa. The continent was a magnet for the high-minded, the adventurous, the philanthropic, the unscrupulous. Visionary pro-consuls rubbed shoulders with missionaries, explorers, soldiers, big-game hunters, entrepreneurs, and physicians.
Between 1830 and 1945, Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Italy and the United States exported their languages, laws, culture, religions, scientific and technical knowledge and economic systems to Africa. The colonial powers imposed administrations designed to bring stability and peace to a continent that appeared to lack both. The justification for occupation was emancipation from slavery—and the common assumption that late nineteenth-century Europe was the summit of civilization.
By 1945 a transformed continent was preparing to take charge of its own affairs, a process of decolonization that took a quick twenty years. This magnificent history also pauses to ask: what did not happen and why?