Monday, January 2, 2023

Nonfiction Monday


The Gifts of Africa: How a Continent and Its People Changed the World by Jeff Pearce is a wonderful look at the history and cultures of Africa.

Pearce takes readers from the ancient nomadic people who eventually populated the Nile valley and gave rise to Egypt—to the feudal kingdoms that rivaled Europe in the Middle Ages—to the modern era of African countries that are an intricate part of the global political and economic community.

Chapter One, Building Blocks, sets the tone by reminding the audience that as early as 8000 BCE, “Africans were already fishing, farming, and making pottery.” A thoughtful discussion shows how nomadic people eventually created a foundation not only for Egypt, but other kingdoms – Nubian, Assyrian, and others as well.

It’s beyond the scope of this review to examine the wealth of material chapter by chapter, but I’ll note a couple that I found personally compelling.

Chapter Five, Church and State…of Mind was a fascinating study of Ethiopia, its history of Christianity, and its interaction with other faiths.

Chapter Seven, Immortal Queens, was a chapter I couldn’t put down. The European slave trade opens the chapter, but the content places the focus on the resistance offered by African rulers—information that is often missing in the “Africans sold themselves” rationale. The portrait of Njinga, warrior queen of Ndongo, is a vivid depiction of her confrontations with Portugal’s Governor, Joāo Correira de Sousa that threatened to bring down Portugal’s entire colonial system.

This 512-page study is divided into 21 chapters prefaced by an introduction you don’t want to skip. A Comparative Chronology highlights events in Africa alongside Europe, Near East, Asia and the U.S. from 4.4 million years ago through 2021.

The book is completed by Acknowledgements, Notes providing numbered sources referenced chapter by chapter, a 22-page Selected Bibliography, and an Index.

Pearce’s enthusiasm for his topic and the thorough scholarship makes for an engrossing page-turning read. My curiosity drove me along, but I discovered that reading in small increments created wonderful opportunities to thoughtfully consider the material and reflect on the information in depth.

Highly recommended!

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