Review-Dictatorland: An impressive and focused book of some of the darkest periods in African history

Paul Kenyon
Head of Zeus, 2018

Few books have explained the tragic history of post-independence Africa-caught between two competing cold war powers and regularly used as a pawn in there ideological struggles-than Paul Kenyons dictatorland. in 400 pages, broken down by there major exports, he explores the history of several African states before and mainly since independence. Kenyon explores how many African states became victims of brutal dictatorial rule and cold war tensions, whilst still providing nuanced accounts of each case discussed.

It was an extremely engaging read and rarely felt dry and uninteresting and does an admirable job in dispelling a common misconception that African countries are all similar politically and instead shows how fluid and varied politics in Africa truly is as well as how it relates to the rest of the world.

My one major criticism is that the book was lacking any serious analysis of the conditions which lead to the emergence of brutal dictatorships, both in the form of the state system and domestic environment. Individual dictators are often discussed in great depth whereas many of their subordinates and foreign backers receive far less attention (although the Nigerian chapter was excellent in this regard, the rest of the book felt lacking).

overall, a thoroughly interesting, albeit sometimes depressing, history of tragic misrule in parts of the African continent with a nuanced and respectful tone.