In This Review

Africa's Development in Historical Perspective
Africa's Development in Historical Perspective
Edited by Emmanuel Akyeampong, Robert H. Bates, Nathan Nunn,
539 pp, Cambridge University Press, 2014

Why is sub-Saharan Africa the poorest region of the world? In this collection, a group of eminent economic historians investigates the most plausible answers to that question. Generally erudite and authoritative, the volume is essential reading for anyone interested in African development or in growth theory more generally. The essays consider the geographic constraints undermining Africa; the institutional, political, and cultural obstacles to economic growth in the region; and the devastating impacts of colonialism and the slave trade. The book presents a wide range of views on the root causes of the area’s persistent woes, and the editors wisely recognize that none of these explanations are mutually exclusive. Indeed, by the end of the book, the region’s poverty seems almost overdetermined, even though the contributions emphasize the variation in each country’s economic path. The impact of colonialism varies from country to country, for example, and some countries have been harmed more than others by factors such as endemic malaria and the legacy of slavery.