African Urban Spaces in Historical Perspective. Edited by STEVEN J. SALM and TOYIN FALOLA. Rochester NY: University of Rochester Press, 2005. Pp. xl+395. £50/$75 (ISBN 1-58046-163-8).
Urbanization and African Cultures. Edited by TOYIN FALOLA and STEVEN J. SALM. Durham NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2005. Pp. xv+464. $45, paperback (ISBN 0-89089-558-9).
The profile of African urban history has risen considerably of late, with the appearance of a number of important monographs and edited collections. What is more, with the plethora of younger scholars as well as more established historians now exploring Africa's urban pasts, its profile is set to rise further. African Urban Spaces in Historical Perspective represents the latest contribution to this emerging sub-field. A companion volume, Urbanization and African Cultures, is of a more interdisciplinary character. Both are drawn from contributions to a 2003 University of Texas conference.
African Urban Spaces will be of more interest to readers of this journal, not only because of its historical focus but also its higher quality and greater cohesion. It covers an impressive geographical and temporal range, with chapters on primary and secondary cities throughout Africa, spanning the precolonial past to the present. It is introduced by one of the pioneers of Africa's urban history, Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, who teases themes from the collection and signals promising avenues for future research. However, poor referencing mars the introduction, a symptom of the apparently loose editorial role exercised over the book as a whole. Greater intervention could have strengthened the collection considerably: not only to ensure consistent referencing (authors variously adopt endnotes and social science/intratext systems) and to minimize typographical errors, but more seriously to tighten the sloppier passages and chapters. The quality of the chapters varies considerably, some representing useful scholarly contributions, others being pedestrian accounts offering little or nothing new.
Key Words: Urban; spatial patterns; precolonial; colonial; postcolonial.