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Empires in the Sun

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Review of Empires in the Sun: The struggle for the mastery of Africa by Laurence James

 

This is a book I had bought on impulse because of my interest in moving borders and former countries. It is split into four parts, 1830 - 1880, 1881 - 1918, 1918 - 1945 and 1945 - 1990. It does focus on some countries more than others. Some parts are more interesting than others as with most books of this type like how USA and USSR tried to gain spheres of influence in Africa through gifts and loans to the new states.

 

Overall, it is a nice read but it does have its flaws. One error being in a footnote on Page 139, he writes that Captain Frank Crozier "took brief charge of the infamous Auxiliary Police during the 1919-22 Irish Civil War [1919-21 Irish War of Independence?]." I'm not quite if that bit in the box is an editors note that should have been amended or what. I know this is a small error and I know it is do with  a brief sentence about Ireland but it does makes me wonder about other fact checking in it that he got both the war and dates wrong (the [ ]  bracket was right which suggests to me that this is an editor note) and this leads me to wonder what other things might be wrong in it.

 

Another error was in the maps at the front of my edition, the map marked c1850 should be 1914 and the map marked c1850 should be marked 1914. Any reader should realise the mistake (and probably a lot quicker than me who was perplexed and looked at it for several minutes) and this is a small error but disappointing.

 

Another remark in chapter 5 was about how soldiering was for "petty criminals, casual and unemployed workers and the destitute. Ireland was full of such creatures, which was why Irishmen made up over a third of the British army in 1841" I don't know if the remark was in jest or serious but while such a figure of a third being Irish be surprising given today's population difference, when you consider Ireland had over 8 million, England & 15.5 million and Scotland 2.5 million in 1841's census, the disparity between various group is not that great with Ireland making up 31% of the population of the united kingdom in 1840 compared to a third of the army. In the context of 1840, there isn't a great disparency. Greater socioeconomic research would be needed in this or referred to rather than a throwaway remark. I know 2 of the flaws I post about are very irishcentric on a book about Africa but that is a subject I know a wee bit about. (Wee being a word used in Ireland for small)

 

It does help however in an area I am interested in and a good guide nonetheless.

 

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Edited by iff

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