In This Review

The Postcolonial State in Africa: Fifty Years of Independence, 1960-2010
The Postcolonial State in Africa: Fifty Years of Independence, 1960-2010
By Crawford Young
424 pp, University of Wisconsin Press, 2012
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In this political history of Africa since the 1950s, Young reviews the political science literature on such important issues as the legacy of colonialism, the reasons why African states turned autocratic soon after independence, and the best ways to assess their performance since then. Unlike similar books, Young’s considers the areas north and south of the Sahara, focusing on the political and diplomatic links between the two, as well as their common history. The book is at its strongest when addressing the relationship between ethnic identity, nationalism, and the state, a subject on which Young has produced seminal analyses for several decades. With remarkable command of the evidence and a keen grasp of theoretical nuance, Young shows how colonialism and the patterns of modernization it wrought dramatically altered cultural identities and created cleavages between groups, which still shape domestic conflict throughout the region, sometimes with devastating consequences.