New Books Network

Orla Ryan, “Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa” (Zed Books, 2011)
When was the last time you ate some chocolate? If you live in the developed world there’s a strong chance that you’ve been munching on some fairly recently. At the basic level chocolate is an everyday treat and at the top end it is a seriously indulgent luxury product. But... Read More
Richard Bourne, “Catastrophe: What Went Wrong in Zimbabwe?” (Zed Books, 2011)
Much of the literature on modern Africa makes the unhappy comparison between hopes, especially upon independence, and reality. In Zimbabwe that link resonates even more than is normal. Zimbabwe only achieved full independence in 1980 after a brutal war involving several guerilla groups and the country’s white minority, which had... Read More
Stacy Schiff, “Cleopatra: A Life” (Back Bay Books, 2011)
Aside from being aesthetically equated to Elizabeth Taylor, Cleopatra has not fared well in history. In her riveting biography Cleopatra: A Life (Back Bay Books, 2011), which is now out in paperback, Stacy Schiff establishes that this was primarily because Cleopatra’s story was penned by a crowd of Roman historians... Read More
Andrew Curran, “The Anatomy of Blackness: Science and Slavery in an Age of Enlightenment” (Johns Hopkins UP, 2011)
We’ve dealt with the question of how racial categories and conceptions evolve on New Books in History before, most notably in our interview with Nell Irving Painter. She told us about the history of “Whiteness.” Today we’ll return to the history of racial ideas and listen to Andrew Curranexplain the... Read More
Richard Hamilton, “The Last Storytellers: Tales from the Heart of Morocco” (I. B. Taurus, 2011)
Few places can match the Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech for spectacle. As the shadows lengthen and dusk approaches, the square seethes with snake charmers, charlatans, showmen and chancers, all shrouded in charcoal smoke from dozens of makeshift food stalls. It feels like a glimpse into a different world in... Read More
Steve Bloomfield, “Africa United: How Football Explains Africa” (Canongate Books, 2010)
A couple of days ago I had an unusual experience. I was staying in a hotel in Kampala, with a stunning view of the southern reaches of the Ugandan capital and the northern edge of Lake Victoria. It was the weekend, and in Africa that usually means football (soccer, to... Read More
Stephen Ellis, “Season of Rains: Africa in the world” (Hurst, 2011 )
Globalisation has not passed Africa by. The recent boom in commodity prices has had a direct impact on African markets, as has the inescapable presence of new global powers like China on the continent. The massive amount of under-utilised agricultural land in Africa has also drawn buyers from the United... Read More