The University of Wisconsin Press

The Postcolonial State in Africa
Fifty Years of Independence, 1960–2010
Crawford Young

Africa and the Diaspora: History, Politics, Culture
Thomas Spear, David Henige, and Michael Schatzberg, Series Editors

“A highly readable, sweeping, and yet detailed analysis of the African state in all its failures and moments of hope. Crawford Young manages to touch upon all the important issues in the discipline and crucial developments in the recent history of the African continent. This book will be a classic.”
—Pierre Englebert, author of Africa: Unity, Sovereignty and Sorrow

In The Post-colonial State in Africa, Crawford Young offers an informed and authoritative comparative overview of fifty years of African independence, drawing on his decades of research and first-hand experience on the African continent.
Young identifies three cycles of hope and disappointment common to many of the African states (including those in North Africa) over the last half-century: initial euphoria at independence in the 1960s followed by disillusionment with a lapse into single-party autocracies and military rule; a period of renewed confidence, radicalization, and ambitious state expansion in the 1970s preceding state crisis and even failure in the disastrous 1980s; and a phase of reborn optimism during the continental wave of democratization beginning around 1990. He explores in depth the many African civil wars—especially those since 1990— and three key tracks of identity, Africanism, territorial nationalism, and ethnicity.
Only more recently, Young argues, have the paths of the fifty-three African states begun to diverge more dramatically, with some leading to liberalization and others to political, social, and economic collapse—outcomes impossible to predict at the outset of independence.

“The book’s strongest attribute is the careful way that comparative political theory is woven into historical storytelling throughout the text. . . . Written with great clarity even for all its detail, and its interwoven use of theory makes it a great choice for new students of African studies.”
Australasian Review of African Studies

“An extraordinary tour de force that cogently captures the dynamic political trajectory of the African state during the continent’s first half century of independence.”
—Michael Schatzberg, Series Editor

Crawford Young is the Rupert Emerson Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His many books include The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State, Ideology and Development in Africa, The Politics of Cultural Pluralism, and The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective.


“Well written, analytically coherent, and thoughtfully presented, Young's volume relies on extensive academic literature but also provides original analyses and insights. It will serve the needs of students, professional Africanists, and the much larger reading public who want a one-stop authoritative account of Africa's changing political landscape. Highly recommended.”

“The study of African politics will continue to be enriched if practitioners pay homage to the erudition and the nobility of spirit that has anchored the engagement of this most esteemed doyen of Africanists with the continent.”
African History Review

“With [Young's] characteristic theoretical eclecticism and narrative flair, he has marshaled his encyclopedic knowledge of modern African history to gift us with a thought-provoking tour de force that is destined to become a classics.”
Journal of African History

“The book shares Young's encyclopedic knowledge of African politics, providing in a single volume a comprehensive rendering of the first 50 years of independence. The book is sprinkled with anecdotes from his vast experience in Africa and that of his many students, and quotations from all of the relevant literature published over the past five decades. Students and scholars of African politics alike will benefit immensely from and enjoy reading The Postcolonial State in Africa.”
Political Science Quarterly

“The uniqueness of the book is that it does not place blame on any side for the demise of Africa‚Äôs political economy . . . I highly recommend that researchers, students, teachers of African studies, and general readers obtain copies of the book, as they will regret not doing so.”
Africa Today

“With remarkable command of the evidence and a keen grasp of theoretical nuance, Young shows how colonialism and the patterns of modernization it wrought dramatically altered cultural identities and created cleavages between groups, which still shape domestic conflict throughout the region, sometimes with devastating consequences.”
Foreign Affairs

“The new book is a masterful synthesis of the tumultuous trajectories of Africa's independent states in the five decades following decolonization.”
Journal of Modern African Studies

There is a press kit for this title. Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

November 2012
LC: 2012015295 DT
488 pp.   6 x 9   1 map, 12 tables

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“An interesting, thoughtful, and comprehensive work rich in case material and analysis; the incorporation of the analysis of the North African states is particularly noteworthy. The scope of Young’s knowledge and mastery of the scholarly literature is truly impressive.”
—Catherine Boone, author of Political Topographies of the African State: Territorial Authority and Institutional Choice

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