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The Cruel Hoax of Development

Basil Davidson, 6 March 1997

Fighting for the Rainforest: War, Youth and Resources in Sierra Leone 
by Paul Richards.
James Currey/Heinemann, 182 pp., £35, November 1996, 0 85255 397 8
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A Claim to Land by the River: A Household in Senegal 1720-1994 
by Adrian Adams and Jaabe So.
Oxford, 300 pp., £50, October 1996, 0 19 820191 5
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... either. ‘All the big schemes for helping Africa’s pastoralist peoples,’ the ecologist P.W.T. Baxter has recently said, ‘have turned into expensive failures.’ But, while Jaabe So and his associates have shown that useful success can be achieved with modest schemes of irrigation, the Senegalese administration, true to form, has wished to think and act ...

Torday’s Scorpion

Basil Davidson, 9 April 1992

The African Experience 
by Roland Oliver.
Weidenfeld, 284 pp., £19.99, August 1991, 0 297 82022 2
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A Thousand Years of East Africa 
by John Sutton.
British Institute in Eastern Africa, 111 pp., £8, November 1990, 1 872566 00 6
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When the grass is gone 
edited by P.W.T. Baxter.
Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, 215 pp., December 1991, 91 7106 318 8
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The Scramble for Africa 
by Thomas Pakenham.
Weidenfeld, 738 pp., £20, October 1991, 0 297 81130 4
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... it may rot as useless lumber or an ashamed reminder that Europe and America still know best. As Dr Baxter has remarked in a recent seminar offering from Uppsala, concerned with the fate of Africa’s arid lands, ‘the intellectual isolation about which African scholars rightly complain is not only a product of currency shortages’ and the like, ‘but also ...

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