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The African Wars: Warriors and Soldiers of the Colonial Campaigns, by Chris Peers

Barnesley, So. Yorks: Pen & Sword/ Philadelphia: Casemate Publishers, 2010. Pp. iv, 236. Illus., maps, gloss., biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 1848841213.

While there have been many books about warfare in colonial Africa, in The African Wars Peers, who has written extensively in non-Western military history, gives us something different. 

Most works on colonial wars in Africa focus on the European troops and view the campaigns from their perspective.  In addition, most works tend to deal with a handful of wars, in English primarily those with the Zulu, the Sudanese, and occasionally the Asante, while works in other languages display similar limitations.  In contrast, Peers looks at numerous campaigns in sub-Saharan Africa from the late 1700s to the early 1900s, with much more serious attention to the African perspective than is customary.  He fills in the African side of the historical background, cultural and political organization, military institutions, and traditional concepts of tactics and strategy.  In addition, Peers tries to cover far more peoples than is common, so, in addition to Zulu and Ashante, we get a look at the Hehe, Azande, Congo Arabs, Masai, Nandi, Mandinka, and more, and also at some of the Portuguese, Italian, Belgian, Egyptian, and German campaigns.  Peers is good at discussing questions such as why some peoples were better shots than others, why spear-armed troops could at times overcome musketeers and even riflemen, and so forth.  As a result, the version of these campaigns that emerges can be quite revealing, since Peers is looking at “the other side of the hill”. 

The African Wars an important read for anyone interested in colonial warfare.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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