Prof. David Campion

Maasai women and children from Ololosokwan village, Loliondo, Tanzania



As part of the course requirements for IS 240: Modern East Africa each student will submit two critical review essays immediately upon our arrival in East Africa. For the reviews, you must select one of the nine books listed below along with an additional book of your choice in consultation with the instructor (the second book may also be from the same list). Students must declare their two book selections by May 2.

Each of your reviews should be a critical evaluation of the book you have selected. You should provide a general description of the narrative and content of the book and then consider the perspectives, experiences, and expertise of the author. If the book is a travelogue or memoir you should also consider the time and circumstances in which the author wrote. If the work is an academic study is the research, thesis, and methodology convincing? If it is a literary work what are the main themes? If it is a political manifesto is it persuasive? Be sure to evaluate the various strengths and weaknesses of each book. You may compare the treatment in other books of issues or controversies raised by the author, but the review should articulate your reaction most of all.

Since you are reviewing only one book in each review, you should use parenthetical citations containing the author and page number—i.e. (Anderson, 145) and give a full bibliographical citation at the end of your review. If you refer to another work in your review, provide a full citation at the end of the paper. Each book review should be 4-6 doubled-spaced, numbered pages (1400-1600 words) using standard fonts and margins. Both reviews are due on August 30, the first full day of the program, and will constitute 30% of the final course grade for this course.

The completion of the book reviews before we arrive in East Africa serves several purposes. The first is that it will give you a bit of historical and cultural background when we convene for our first class in Olasiti. It will also allow you to complete some of the workload of our course at your leisure over the summer, thereby allowing you to spend more time during the program experiencing East Africa firsthand rather than reading about it while you are there. Since we are studying the history of the larger region of East Africa, there are books about Kenya even though we will not be traveling to that country.

Suggestions for the second book can be found on the list of suggested reading. Many of these titles can be obtained from Watzek Library or through Summit.

Thomas Pakenham, The Scramble for Africa, 1876-1912

In scarcely half a generation during the late 19th century, six European powers sliced up Africa like a cake. The pieces went to Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Belgium; among them, they acquired thirty new colonies and 110 million subjects. Although African rulers resisted, many battles were one-sided massacres. In a dramatic, gripping chronicle, Pakenham floodlights the so-called "dark continent" and its systematic exploitation by Europe. At center stage are a motley band of explorers, politicians, evangelists, mercenaries, journalists and tycoons blinded by romantic nationalism or caught up in the scramble for resources, markets and slaves. Pakenham offers a well-researched, readable, and highly detailed account. In an epilogue Pakenham tells how the former colonial powers still dominate the economies of the African nations, many of which are under one-party or dictatorial rule.

Interests: geography, exploration, comparative imperialism

Crawford Young, The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective

In this comprehensive and original study, a distinguished scholar of African affairs argues that the current crisis in African development can be traced directly to European colonial rule, which left the continent with a “singularly difficult legacy” that is unique in modern history. Young proposes a new conception of the state, weighing the different characteristics of earlier European empires (including those of Holland, Portugal, England, and Venice) and distilling their common qualities. He then presents a concise and wide-ranging history of colonization in Africa, from the era of construction through consolidation and decolonization. The persistent, virulent racism that established a distance between rulers and subjects was especially central to African colonial history.

Interests: comparative politics and history, imperialism, state formation

David Anderson, Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire

This authoritative history of the last days of the British Empire in Kenya focuses on the colonial judicial system, which sent over 1,000 Kenyans to the gallows between 1952 and 1959, during the state of emergency triggered by the Mau Mau insurrection. At the heart of the tale, along with blustering colonial ineptitude, is white settler ignorance of how its land grabs wreaked havoc on the Kikuyu tribe, Kenya's largest ethnic group and a people viciously targeted by the British, who were intent on rooting out Mau Mau activism at all costs. Anderson, a lecturer in African studies at Oxford, shows how paternalistic land reallocations and relocation of the Kenyan tribes to settlements fostered deep resentment, sewing the seeds of a bloody conflict in the 1950s. This is vital reading for any student of British colonial and African history.

Interests: Kenya, colonialism, decolonization, law, politics, human rights

Martin Meredith, The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence

When the decolonization of European empires in Africa began fifty years ago, the process was greeted with jubilation and immense hope for the future. Blessed with bountiful natural resources and led by Western-educated elites, the continent seemed to have a realistic chance to create stable, prosperous, and democratic societies. Meredith's massive but very readable examination of African history over the past century unfolds like a drawn-out tragedy. The arrogance and ignorance of European masters planted the seeds of many of Africa's current problems including the endemic violence, corruption, and political repression that plague so many African states.

Interests: comparative history, postcolonial Africa, political science, development studies

Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Petals of Blood

The puzzling murder of three African directors of a foreign-owned brewery sets the scene for this fervent, hard-hitting novel about disillusionment in independent Kenya. A deceptively simple tale, Petals of Blood is on the surface a suspenseful investigation of a spectacular triple murder in upcountry Kenya. Yet as the intertwined stories of the four suspects unfold, a devastating picture emerges of a modern third-world nation whose frustrated people feel their leaders have failed them time after time. First published in 1977, this novel was so explosive that its author was imprisoned without charge by the Kenyan government. His incarceration shocked the world and led to protests by human-rights groups, scholars, and writers. “The definitive African book of the twentieth century” according to Ugandan author Moses Isegawa.

Interests: Kenya, African literature, postcolonial studies

Isak Dineson, Out of Africa

From 1914 to 1931, Danish aristocrat Baroness Karen Blixen owned and operated a coffee plantation in in the Central Highlands of Kenya. After the plantation failed, she returned to Europe and began to write under the pen name Isak Dinesen. Out of Africa reads like a collection of stories in which she adheres to no strict chronology, gives no explanation of the facts of her life, and apologizes for nothing. First published in 1937, Out of Africa has become a literary classic, but it is not free of the colonial or racist attitudes of its time. Yet, within that context, Blixen is an enlightened observer and participant as she describes the experience of colonial East Africa before World War II. She portrays in rich detail the vast land around her, alive with strange and wonderful human populations, and getting to know the Africans and the colonial adventurers who found their way into her life.

Interests: Kenya, colonial literature, memory

Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam (eds.), Africa's Liberation: The Legacy of Nyerere

Julius Kambarage Nyerere (1922-1999) was the first president of independent Tanzania. Trained as an economist, Mwalimu ("teacher") Nyerere was a Pan-Africanist, socialist and internationalist. This collection of essays includes contributions from leading commentators: those who worked and fought against colonialism alongside Nyerere, members of a younger generation, and Nyerere in his own words. The writings reflect on Nyerere and liberation, the Commonwealth, leadership, economic development, land, human rights, and education. Above all, they are a testament to the growing recognition of the need to rekindle the fires of African socialism to which Nyerere was deeply committed.

Interests: African politics, leadership, decolonization, Tanzania

Giles Foden, Mimi and Toutou's Big Adventure

At the height of World War I, as armies of thousands fought with each other on European soil, a much more unusual battle was waged in East Africa, where Belgian and German colonial territories were separated by the second largest body of water on the continent, Lake Tanganyika. An English big-game hunter living in the region came up with a plan to take out the German gunboats that patrolled the lake. Command of the mission was given to Geoffrey Spicer-Samson, a career naval officer whose boorish incompetence had earned him the dubious distinction of being the oldest lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy. An gripping tale of eccentric personalities and imperial hubris.

Interests: World War I, imperialism, military history, Tanzania

Don Petterson, Revolution in Zanzibar: An American's Cold War Tale

The Cold War exploded in Zanzibar in 1964 when African rebels slaughtered one of every ten Arabs. Led by a strange, messianic Ugandan and Cuban-trained advisors, the rebellion made Zanzibar (in the eyes of the US government) a potentially dangerous base for the communist subversion of Africa. Zanzibar—fabled island of spices, former slave-trading entrepôt, and stepping-off point for 19th-century expeditions into the vast interior of the African continent—had succumbed to the violence of 20th-century politics and Cold War intrigue. Don Petterson, a US diplomat stationed in Zanzibar at the time, offers an engrossing eyewitness account of human drama played out against a background of violence and revolution. As the only American in Zanzibar throughout the revolution, Petterson illuminates how the current tension in Zanzibar is rooted in the Cold War and the Revolution of 1964.

Interests: Zanzibar, political history, revolution, the Cold War

Created by campion@lclark.edu | Updated August 2017