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African History without Africans

Basil Davidson: Portugal’s Empire, 18 February 1999

The Lusiads 
by Luí Vaz deCamões, translated by Landeg White.
Oxford, 258 pp., £6.99, October 1997, 0 19 283191 7
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Counterinsurgency in Africa: The Portuguese Way of War, 1961-1974 
by John Cann.
Greenwood, 216 pp., $59.95, February 1998, 0 313 30189 1
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The Decolonisation of Portuguese Africa 
by Norrie MacQueen.
Longman, 280 pp., £15.99, February 1998, 0 582 25993 2
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African Guerrillas 
edited by Christopher Clapham.
James Currey, 208 pp., £40, September 1998, 0 85255 815 5
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... In Canto Four of Camões’s 16th-century epic, as Vasco da Gama and the men of his fleet prepare to embark on their conquest of the Golden East, ‘an old man of venerable appearance’ steps down to the quayside of Belem. Solemnly, if fruitlessly, he warns against their enterprise of imperialist piracy: – O pride of power! O futile lust For that vanity known as fame! That hollow conceit which puffs itself up And which popular cant calls honour! What punishment, what poetic justice, You exact on souls that pursue you! To what deaths, what miseries you condemn Your heroes! What pains you inflict on them! ...

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