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In this magnificent work of narrative history Lawrence James investigates how, within the space of a hundred years, Europe coerced Africa into becoming subordinate to an emerging modern world. Laced with the experiences of participants and onlookers, Empires in the Sun introduces the men and women - the high-minded, philanthropic, unscrupulous and insane - who stamped their wills indelibly upon the continent.
Between 1830 and 1945, Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Italy and the United States exported their languages, laws, cultures, religions, scientific knowledge and economic systems to Africa. Justifying occupation as emancipation from slavery and savagery, they imposed administrations they argued would bring stability and peace to a continent they regarded as a lacuna of civilisation.
But by 1945 a transformed Africa was preparing to take charge of its own affairs, beginning a process of decolonisation that would take mere twenty or so years. In the wake of the damage wrought by its colonial powers, Africa's new masters were left to choose a path of peace and order, or to answer force with force.
Empires in the Sun is a compelling account of a vast system of exploitation that radically changed the course of world history. Within this story of the capture and recapture of Africa, James also pauses to ask: what did not happen and why?
Publication date: 2017-10-10