By 1905 most of Africa had been subjected to European rule; in the 1940s, the colonial regimes faced widespread and mounting opposition. Yet the period surveyed in this volume was no mere interlude of enforced quiescence. The cash nexus expanded hugely, as Africans came to depend for access to household necessities upon the export overseas of primary products. For the first time, tropical Africa began to constitute a significant economic counterweight to North and South Africa. The impact of white rule on African health and welfare was extremely uneven, and African lives were stunted by the labour requirements of capitalist enterprise. Many Africans suffered greatly in the First World War and in the world depression of the 1930s. By then, however, population was generally on the increase, after half a century of widespread decline. Mental horizons were much enlarged especially in the fast-growing towns. By 1940 a majority of Africans were either Muslim or Christian. South of the Sahara, mission education helped Africans to challenge white monopolies of power. Literate Africans developed new solidarities: tribal, territorial, regional and Pan-African. Meanwhile, the colonial powers were themselves improving their understanding of Africa and trying to frame policies accordingly. Co-operation with indigenous rulers often seemed the best way to retain control at minimum cost, but the search for revenue entailed disruptive economic change. By the Second World War, most colonial regimes confronted not only the criticisms of literate Africans but organised protest among wage-earners and farmers, even though anti-colonial nationalism was sitll embryonic.
"Thus C.C. Wrigley provides a thoughtful and challenging analysis of the economic aspects in chapter 2, and the two major religions. Christianity and Islam are similarly presented in chapters 3 and 4 by Richard Gray and C.C. Stewart respectively. Most praise, however, goes to Andrew Roberts, who has not only provided skilful editorship, but two general chapters which cannot have been easy to write, since few historians are given to making worthwhile generalisations ranging over a whole continent. But he has been bold enough to take on the task, and has produced in chapter 1, on the Imperial mind, a caustic but judicious assessment of the impact of imperialism in Africa and in chapter 5, on African cross-currents, a splendid overview of African reactions." Freda Harcourt, HISTORY, June 1989.