Drawing on many years of African experience, John Reader has written a book of startling grandeur and scope that recreates the great panorama of African history, from the primeval cataclysms that formed the continent to the political upheavals facing much of the continent today. Reader tells the extraordinary story of humankind's adaptation to the ferocious obstacles of forest, river and desert, and to the threat of debilitating parasites, bacteria and viruses unmatched elsewhere in the world. He also shows how the world's richest assortment of animals and plants has helped - or hindered - human progress in Africa.
Africa's collision with the Eurasian landmass 30 million years ago; the emergence of upright, bipedal human ancestors four million years ago; the migration of anatomically modern nomads out of Africa a mere 100,000 years ago; the rise of Africa's first literate indigenous civilization, Aksum (ancient Ethiopia) in the first century A.D.--these are signposts in a continent's evolution in Reader's unusual, enthralling survey. A British photojournalist who has spent most of his adult life in Africa, he writes with sweeping historical perspective and an engaging familiarity with the continent and its people. Ranging from the earliest known evidence of life on earth--6.6-billion-year-old fossilized bacteria--to recent upheavals in Rwanda and South Africa, this immensely rewarding synthesis is amplified by the author's deeply lyrical, quietly stunning photographs that evoke Africa's beauty and ancient roots. Reader refutes the notion of the Egyptian Nile region as a fulcrum that conveyed civilization to sub-Saharan Africa; instead, he argues, the relationship was one of pillager and pillaged. Blaming European colonizers' near-genocidal slaughter, exploitation and imposition of artificial nation-states for much of contemporary Africa's malaise, he maintains that the "dark continent" has been woefully misunderstood and misused throughout history. His eye-opening chronicle will change the way many think about Africa. Photos.