Nugent's book is easily the best single-volume history of postcolonial Africa written in the last 20 years. It starts with a scintillating chapter on the legacies of colonialism before moving on to a discussion of half a dozen issues that faced African governments after independence, from the dangers of irredentist and secessionist pressures to the role of traditional chiefs vis-à-vis state authority, the impact of ideology on economic policy, and the role of the military. Nugent then examines the more recent economic crises and the democratization pressures of the 1990s before ending his analysis with a probing look at the reasons so many central states in the region have failed to establish a viable political community and then collapsed or failed. Throughout, an impressive knowledge of the scholarly literature is evident; even more impressive is the invariably judicious analysis and evenhanded discussion of highly charged issues. This book is likely to be a standard text for years to come.
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