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Authoritarian Africa

Repression, Resistance, and the Power of Ideas

Nic Cheeseman and Jonathan Fisher

Publication Date - 23 October 2019

ISBN: 9780190279653

176 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

In Stock

The African World Histories series enriches the study of African history by providing an indigenous, problems-based perspective on the past


For more than seventy years, authoritarian rule was the dominant form of government in sub-Saharan Africa. Three-quarters of African states have experienced some form of one-party or military rule since 1945. Accessible and engaging, Authoritarian Africa: Repression, Resistance, and the Power of Ideas is the first book to examine this subject from a historical perspective. Exploring the history and legacy of authoritarianism in Africa--from the colonial era until the onset of democracy in the early 1990s--it introduces students to the variety of authoritarian regimes that have existed on the continent, including one-party states, military rule, and personal dictatorships.

This unique text also provides essential new insights, revising the traditional "story" of African authoritarianism by drawing on primary source materials (from songs to statistics) to provide a fresh, original perspective. Looking at what sustained authoritarian rule in Africa over more than a century, the authors consider the phenomenon on its own terms--not simply as a way station on the road to democracy--and in the context of the continent's social, political, intellectual, and economic history.


  • The first accessible, comprehensive, and engaging introduction to the varieties and evolution of authoritarian rule across the African continent, from the colonial era to the present day
  • Lucidly written, without jargon, and following a chronological structure, this volume makes an ideal textbook or supplement
  • Its concise and inexpensive format makes Authoritarian Africa suitable for a variety of classroom settings

About the Author(s)

Nic Cheeseman is Professor of Democracy and International Development. Jonathan Fisher is Reader in African Politics. Both are based in the International Development Department at the University of Birmingham.


"This is an accessible, engaging take on the history of authoritarianism in Africa that features very unique source material and useful explanations of key political concepts." --Corrie Decker, University of California, Davis

"Authoritarian Africa packs a strong punch in its coverage of modern African states. The primary sources are well-chosen and thought-provoking. It will make a good starting point for instructors to build lectures, discussions, and assignments."--Amanda Lewis-Nang'ea, SUNY-Geneseo

"Authoritarian Africa avoids easy answers to complex problems, and leaves readers with a useful conceptual framework to pursue a further understanding of Africa's history and politics. It is an immediately useful and timely resource for a variety of history and political science courses, and will offer an ideal starting point for student discussions and original research papers."--Jesse Bucher, Roanoke College

Table of Contents

    List of maps, tables, and figures
    About the Authors
    Series Introduction

    Introduction: Authoritarian Africa

    1. The defeat of democracy: Big man rule, the colonial legacy, and fragile authoritarianism

    2. Between tradition and modernity: Identity, ideas, and the building of the authoritarian African state, 1965-1975

    3 . It's the economy, stupid! The economic foundations of authoritarian rule, 1975-1985

    4. The tail wagging the dog? The international community and African authoritarianism, 1975-2000

    5. Authoritarian rule 2.0: Multi-party Africa and the struggle for democracy, 1995-2010

    Conclusion. Everyday life, resistance, and the future of African authoritarianism

    Key terms and concepts