The African Revolution: A History of the Long Nineteenth Century

A panoramic global history of Africa in the age of imperialism


Jan 28, 2025
6.13 x 9.25 in.
3 maps.
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Africa’s long nineteenth century was a time of revolutionary ferment and cultural innovation for the continent’s states, societies, and economies. Yet the period preceding what became known as “the Scramble for Africa” by European powers in the decades leading up to World War I has long been neglected in favor of a Western narrative of colonial rule. The African Revolution demonstrates that the “Scramble” and the resulting imperial order were as much the culmination of African revolutionary dynamics as they were of European expansionism.

In this monumental work of history, Richard Reid paints a multifaceted portrait of a continent on the global stage. He describes how Africa witnessed the emergence of new economic and political dynamics that were underpinned by forms of violence and volatility not unlike those emanating from Europe. Reid uses a stretch of road in what is now Tanzania—one of the nineteenth century’s most vibrant commercial highways—as an entry point into this revolutionary epoch, weaving a broader story around characters and events on the road. He integrates the African experience with new insights into the deeper currents in European societies before and after conquest, and he shows how the Africans themselves created opportunities for European expansion.

Challenging the portrayal of Africa’s transformative nineteenth century as a mere prelude to European colonialism, The African Revolution reveals how this turbulent yet hugely creative era for Africans intersected with global intrusions to shape the modern age.