Review: “A Political History of The Gambia, 1816-1994” – Arnold Hughes and David Perfect


I expected “A Political History of The Gambia, 1816-1994” by Arnold Hughes and David Perfect to be a monotonous tome (at 549 pages!), but I thought I’d give it a go! And since there are so few books written about The Gambia, mainland Africa’s smallest state, I was determined to finish reading it!

No English language book likely has as much information about The Gambia as this book. That being said, there really isn’t a lot of information in this book. Besides offering slightly more historical context than Wikipedia, the main area of focus in the book is electoral politics in The Gambia: the emergence of political parties and interests in colonial Gambia, the dominance of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), and the various opposition parties that have come and gone during The Gambia’s post-colonial existence. Now, this isn’t a problem in itself, even if mainstream liberalism’s adulation of electoral politics is enough to make any astute political analyst want to find the nearest high-rise building and throw themselves off it. But when you consider that this book is primarily about electoral politics in a country that was a de facto, if not de jure, one-party state for the entirety of The Gambia’s post-colonial history under examination in this book (1965-94), it becomes much easier to imagine how much commitment it took to slog through this book.

Moreover, the political analysis offered by the authors is almost laughable. Indeed, I got a good laugh when the authors on page 210 compared Kukoi Samba Sanyang, a Gambian dissident and leader of the failed 1981 coup d’état, to Joseph Stalin!

Phew…it’s done!! I can now say that I read a book about The Gambia! Time to move on to something else!

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