In many parts of Africa ordinary people are worse off today than at the end of the colonial era. What or who is to blame? Davidson, Africa's preeminent popular historian, pursues a line of argument that is alternately subtle and romantically simplistic. He places ultimate responsibility at the door of non-Africans, aided and abetted by those Africans who too enthusiastically embraced alien ways, in particular the foreign political model of the nation-state. It is not clear what practical modern alternative to that model ever existed by the author's reckoning-he vaguely commends "community self-government" and "participatory democracy"-but his comparisons of the historical evolution of Africa with that of eastern Europe and, more briefly, Japan are thought-provoking.