Empires in the Sun: The Struggle for the Mastery of Africa
In this compelling history of the men and ideas that radically changed the course of world history, Lawrence James investigates and analyses how, within a hundred years, Europeans persuaded and coerced Africa into becoming a subordinate part of the modern world. His narrative is laced with the experiences of participants and onlookers and introduces the men and women who, for better or worse, stamped their wills on Africa. The continent was a magnet for the high-minded, the philanthropic, the unscrupulous and the insane. Visionary pro-consuls rubbed shoulders with missionaries, explorers, soldiers, adventurers, engineers, big-game hunters, entrepreneurs and physicians. Between 1830 and 1945, Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Italy and the United States exported their languages, laws, culture, religions, scientific and technical knowledge and economic systems to Africa. The colonial powers imposed administrations designed to bring stability and peace to a continent that seemed to lack both. The justification for occupation was emancipation from slavery - and the common assumption that late nineteenth-century Europe was the summit of civilisation. By 1945 a transformed continent was preparing to take charge of its own affairs, a process of decolonisation that took a mere twenty or so years. There remained areas where European influence was limited (Liberia, Abyssinia) - through inertia and a desire for a quiet time, Africa's new masters left much undisturbed. This magnificent history also pauses to ask: what did not happen and why?
Lawrence James was a founding member of the University of York and then took a research degree at Merton College, Oxford. After a distinguished teaching career he became a full-time writer in 1985 and has emerged as one of the outstanding narrative historians of his generation for works including The Rise and Fall of the British Empire and Churchill and Empire: Portrait of an Imperialist.