Dan Sandman

12: The Making of Contemporary Africa by Bill Freund

In Books, History, Non-Fiction on 22/03/2013 at 12:00 pm

I’d be the first to admit that history is not my strong point. In the past, much to my discredit, I’ve always explored the version of history portrayed by literature and music. Usually, if I want a perspective on African history, then read I’ll read Heart of Darkness or listen to Lady Smith Black Mambazo. And in all fairness, this somewhat lackadaisical approach to historical reading has served me reasonably well in informal discussions. However, it is only recently that I have begun to discover the delight of reading proper – fully annotated, extensively researched, highly informed – history books.

The Making of Contemporary Africa by Bill Freund (front)

“I was moved by seeing pictures of Nelson Mandela waving to gathered crowds.”

The genesis of my interest in South African history goes back to 1994 when, even as a child, I was moved by seeing pictures of Nelson Mandela waving to gathered crowds. Later, I would go on to travel to South Africa, be creatively inspired by the wonderful people who I would meet along the way, and experience the most awe inspiring beautiful landscapes and vistas. I would learn that not only is it an awesome place, in the true sense of the word, but also a place with a troubled and fascinating history. During my time there, I would hear many viewpoints and learn from exploring a fantastic selection of museums. Following my experience, I came home hungry for more knowledge that could help me to come to terms with the complex and globally sprawling ideas that have forged contemporary Africa.

This week’s book, The Making of Contemporary Africa, is another step towards my attempt to grasp a small piece of Africa’s history. It’s a story that spans the entire globe, encompasses the greater part of contemporary history, and attempts to shed light on some of the continent’s most important events, developments and personalities. From a predominantly economic perspective, Bill Freund presents a convincing argument that is both enlightening and entertaining. I enjoyed, in particular, Freund’s succinct ability to present historical evidence in a way that does not hold back the articulate prose. The expressive language is well crafted, relevant and does not take away from the writer’s essential points.

The Making of Contemporary Africa by Bill Freund (side)

“History books aren’t usually my thing, but I’m glad I took a trip to my local library’s history section.”

Recently, I have discovered that history books are serious books; but, this doesn’t mean that they can’t be enjoyed. To draw an analogy, serious books are like serious music: the deeper you read / listen to the words / sounds; the deeper your understanding and the deeper your reading / listening pleasure. History books aren’t usually my thing, but I’m glad I took a trip to my local library’s history section. The Making of Contemporary Africa was a good read which presented a thorough overview of the development of African society since 1800.

Highly recommended.

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