This is a richly detailed political history of Liberia authored by its present de jure president, a former dean at the national university. It recounts the passage of Liberia from nineteenth-century settler oligarchy to twentieth-century patrimonial autocracy, connecting the country's patterns of political culture and conflict to the evolution of an economy based solely on the extraction and sale of primary products, proceeds from which have always been closely controlled by a privileged elite. Though rather ponderously written, it is an enlightening look at one of Africa's most atypical countries. The American role in shaping Liberia's history receives attention up to the arrival of Firestone Rubber and the Garveyists in the 1920s, but gets little mention thereafter.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.