Monday, 2 May 2011

African History a Very Short Introduction

African History a Very Short Introduction, is a book in the "a Very Short Introduction" series of books from the Oxford University Press.

African History a Very Short Introduction, by John Parker and Richard Rathbone is a very interesting book.

The authors themselves point out that their task would be a difficult one. After all, it is known, or widely accepted, at any rate, that mankind originated in Africa some time ago. Some experts say 6,000,000 years ago. So... a history on that scale would be a stupendous and most daunting task!

The authors ask many interesting questions. What, exactly, is history? Can the Westernised idea of what history is be transferred to Africa? The authors do raise the very interesting point about oral histories, which are an important part of the cultures of many civilisations, including those in Africa who still value the old ways.

The book also deals with the concept of slavery and wonders if, as part of the history of Africa, the history of slaves and their descendants living in -for example, America- should be included in the history of Africa? An interesting concept, which the authors do not take very far. When I read this point in the book I realised if this were to be taken literally, as mankind originated in Africa and then populated the Earth, surely the whole 6,000,000 years of the history of the world's population should be considered as part of the history of Africa?

The book, for its size, is profusely illustrated with photographs, drawings and maps, all of which are very helpful to bring them to life.

Sadly, what history is related is that of cultural genocide, greed, indifference, hostility from outsiders and problems caused by the interference of people who thought they knew best.

It is a thoughtful and though-provoking little work which will be idea for students of the history of Africa (both ancient and modern) and there is an extremely useful guide to further reading on the subject.

The book is £6.99 the ISBN is 978-0-19-280248-4.  

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