Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Review of "The Changing Map of Africa," by Robert D. Hodgson and Elvyn A. Stoneman

 Review of

The Changing Map of Africa, by Robert D. Hodgson and Elvyn A. Stoneman

Five out of five stars

 Published when countries were being born from colonies

While the European powers had established their presence on the African continent centuries before, it was not until the years 1881 to 1914 that they decided to carve the continent into spheres of control. Some nations did so eagerly and with gusto, others entered the race with a bit of reluctance. German Chancellor Bismark was one that considered the acquisition of colonies to be a waste of resources.

 After World War II ended, it was clear that the colonial era was coming to an end. India, the crown jewel of the British Empire gained independence in 1947 and there was no doubt that Africa would soon be carved up into nations based on borders of the European spheres of influence. One very important point made several times in this book is that the international borders of the countries in Africa were drawn up with no regard to any ethnic territory or allocation to the needs of nomadic tribes.

Before 1951, there were only four independent nations in Africa, eight became independent in the late fifties and fifteen in the year 1960 alone. While these countries generally did not have to wage a war of independence, as the authors make clear, there were many difficulties with some internal bloodshed. The colonial powers allowed for the creation of a wide variety of local governments before they relinquished control, in some cases there were functioning local governments while in others there was in essence a dictatorship of one tribe over all others.

 Some European countries did not relinquish their control until the 1970’s, ending twenty years of struggles and problems trying to acquire and manage self-rule. The authors of this book give an excellent recounting of the problems of independence, some of the causes of the difficulties and the state of the countries when the Europeans transferred control. It is an interesting look at what was a series of complex actions in creating countries.

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