The collective efforts of a group of Irish and British scholars have given us an excellent survey of contemporary West Africa. Eschewing answers for questions and theory for narrative, their common perspective is shaped by modest expectations-their approach leans heavily on political history to explain outcomes. Looking at the bleak record of recent decades, one of the editors, John Dunn, takes a very long and marginally positive view, concluding that West African regimes have "done a great deal less damage than they might have done," and have succeeded in providing a measure of protection for their people. More than this-e.g., economic development-he implies, would be asking too much.
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