The Guardian compiles a list of the top African history books

10 January 2019 - 15:00 By Sophy Kohler
The Penguin Atlas of African History
The Penguin Atlas of African History
Image: Supplied

The Guardian has supplemented their interactive timeline of Africa’s modern political history with a list of books that they think best tell the Africa’s stories.

The list, compiled by the Guardian’s Global Development team consists of classics like Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost and Colin McEvedy’s The Penguin Atlas of African History, alongside more modern reads like Michela Wrong’s In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz and Jason Stearns’ Dancing in the Glory of Monsters.

However, the Guardian does not by any means suggest that their list is the final word and they have invited readers to provide their own recommendations. Books already suggested include Frontiers by Noel Mostert, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I will Write About This PlaceClass Struggle in Africa by Kwame Nkrumah and Citizen and Subject by Mahmood Mamdani. One commentator even argues that the best books on Africa have yet to be written, saying that the books mentioned above all hail from the “catalogue of doom and gloom”. Yet, speaking of “doom and gloom”, Zimbabwe seems poorly represented.

What books do you think best explain the history of the continent? To add your suggestions to the Guardian debate, email, or why not start a Book Chat thread below?

"Earlier this week, we published an introductory timeline of Africa from 1900 to 2011 mapping when various nation states became independent. After much agonising about what just had to be included, we’d be interested to hear which histories of Africa you’ve read and especially which you would recommend. The Global development team has come up with some of their most interesting recent reads.

"One online resource we’ve found useful is the BBC World Service’s Story of Africa, which is at pains to redress the balance over who is telling the history – or histories – of the continent. Professor Ali Mazrui was one of several interesting advisers on this project."

Book details

  • The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja EAN: 9781842770528 Find this book with Loot!
  • King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild EAN: 9780618001903 Find this book with Loot!
  • In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in the Congo by Michela Wrong EAN: 9781841154220 Find this book with Loot!
  • Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa by Jason Stearns EAN: 9781586489298 Find this book with Loot!
  • It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower by Michela Wrong EAN: 9780007241972 Find this book with Loot!
  • I Didn’t Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation by Michela Wrong EAN: 9780060780937 Find this book with Loot!