In This Review

The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective
The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective
By Crawford Young
Yale University Press, 1995, 356 pp.

The assertion that Africa's authoritarian leaders learned their politics at the feet of their former colonial rulers is not new. But this erudite study by a senior American Africanist probes the colonial state in new depth to decipher the particular logic and processes that eventually gave birth to independent African governments. Drawing on contemporary theory about the state and civil society, and surveying the contrasting nature of colonial rule in a wide array of non-African countries and regions, he argues that in several respects colonialism in Africa bequeathed a distinctively destructive legacy to its successor regimes. Readers may be discouraged by the stark solution the author proposes: that Africans must invent a new kind of state that "sheds the debilitating traditions of the past." As an authoritative synthesis on the rise and fall of colonialism in Africa, however, this book should be warmly welcomed.