Becoming Zimbabwe: A History From the Pre-colonial Period to 2008

In This Review

Becoming Zimbabwe: A History From the Pre-colonial Period to 2008
Edited by Brian Raftopoulos and Alois Mlambo
Weaver Press, 2009
296 pp. $32.95
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As Zimbabwe's political and economic collapse enters its second decade, this book summarizes the historical and structural factors that led to it. Western observers tend to blame Robert Mugabe's regime for the crisis, whereas the Zimbabwean scholars represented in this volume place it in a broader historical context (although they certainly do not exculpate the regime). In particular, the highly unequal distribution of arable land bequeathed by British colonialism, which left several thousand commercial white settler farmers in control of a hugely disproportionate share of the land, was a political and economic time bomb. The contributors could have devoted more space to the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement, which brought about majority rule but did little to defuse the land issue. Nor do they particularly probe the Mugabe regime's disastrous macroeconomic policies, which made impossible a level of economic growth that might have provided the regime with better choices. Still, they have written a balanced and informative introduction to Zimbabwe's troubled history.