Book Review: Njinga of Angola: Africa’s Warrior Queen


by Linda M. Heywood

Cambride, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 2017. Pp. viii, 310. Illus., maps, personae, chron., notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 0674971825

Njinga of Angola: Africa’s Warrior Queen, by Linda M. Heywood. Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 2017. Pp. viii, 310. Illus., maps, personae, chron., notes, biblio., index. $29.95, ISBN 978-0-6749-7182-0; e-editions available.

An Outstanding African Queen

Queen Njinga of Ndongo-Matamba rule her kingdom, a considerable region in what is now northern Angola, for an impressively long period (1624-1663), but is today largely forgotten. In this, the first ever biography of Njinga, Prof. Heywood (Boston University) reveals an able woman, who was as adept a ruler as any in history.

Njinga effectively combined wily diplomacy, commercial dealings (including slave trading), military power, and even religious policy, to cope with ambitions of Portuguese colonialists, rival kingdoms, and even some envious kinfolk, keeping herself on the throne and her realm independent in the face of numerous threats, at her realm, at times even maintaining relations with to the courts of Portugal and Spain, and even the Vatican. To tell this story, Heywood draws upon a large body of documentary evidence, primarily Portuguese, as well as many traditional accounts, some of them recorded long ago. As she tells Njinga’s story, Heywood also offers insights into the origins of the kingdom, its political organization, social structure, culture, dynastic connections, and religion.

Although offering little coverage of the kingdom’s military institutions – a particular flaw given the many wars Njinga found herself engaged in – Njinga of Angola is a valuable work not only for students of African history, but also for those with an interest in resistance to colonialism and the nature of national leadership in crisis.


Note: Njinga of Angola is also available in several e-editions.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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