The dark years of European fascism left their indelible mark on Africa. As late as the 1970s, Angola was still ruled by white autocrats, whose dictatorship was eventually overthrown by black nationalists who had never experienced either the rule of law or participatory democracy. Empire in Africa takes the long view of history and asks whether the colonizing ventures of the Portuguese can bear comparison with those of the Mediterranean Ottomans or those experienced by Angola’s neighbors in the Belgian Congo, French Equatorial Africa, or the Dutch colonies at the Cape of Good Hope and in the Transvaal. David Birmingham takes the reader through Angola’s troubled past, which included endemic warfare for the first twenty-five years of independence, and examines the fact that in the absence of a viable neocolonial referee such as Britain or France, the warring parties turned to Cold War superpowers for a supply of guns. For a decade Angola replaced Vietnam as a field in which an international war by proxy was conducted. Empire in Africa explains how this African nation went from colony to independence, how in the 1990s the Cold War legacy turned to civil war, and how peace finally dawned in 2002.
David Birmingham has taught history in both West Africa and East Africa as well as in the London School of Oriental and African Studies and the University of Kent. He is the author of numerous books, including Portugal and Africa, A Concise History of Portugal, and The Decolonization of Africa.