Rethinking African Politics: A History of Opposition in Zambia, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Rethinking African Politics

A History of Opposition in Zambia, 1st Edition

By Miles Larmer


340 pages

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Paperback: 9781138251144
pub: 2016-09-02
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Hardback: 9781409406273
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In 1964 Kenneth Kaunda and his United National Independence Party (UNIP) government established the nation of Zambia in the former British colony of Northern Rhodesia. In parallel with many other newly independent countries in Africa this process of decolonisation created a wave of optimism regarding humanity's capacity to overcome oppression and poverty. Yet, as this study shows, in Zambia as in many other countries, the legacy of colonialism created obstacles that proved difficult to overcome. Within a short space of time democratisation and development was replaced by economic stagnation, political authoritarianism, corruption and ethnic and political conflict. To better understand this process, Dr Larmer explores UNIP's political ideology and the strategies it employed to retain a grip on government. He shows that despite the party's claim that it adhered to an authentically African model of consensual and communitarian decision-making, it was never a truly nationally representative body. Whereas in long-established Western societies unevenness in support was accepted as a legitimate basis for party political difference, in Zambia this was regarded as a threat to the fragile bindings of the young nation state, and as such had to be denied and repressed. This led to the declaration of a one-party state, presented as the logical expression of UNIP supremacy but it was in fact a reflection of its weakening grip on power. Through case studies of opposition political and social movements rooted in these differences, the book demonstrates that UNIP's control of the new nation-state was partial, uneven and consistently prone to challenge. Alongside this, the study also re-examines Zambia's role in the regional liberation struggles, providing valuable new evidence of the country's complex relations with Apartheid-era South Africa and the relationship between internal and external opposition, shaped by the context of regional liberation movements and the Cold War. Drawing on extensive archival research and interviews, Dr Larmer offers a ground-breaking analysis of post-colonial political history which helps explain the challenges facing contemporary African polities.


’During the past few years, Miles Larmer […] has made a noteworthy contribution to the writing of Zambia’s post-colonial history. This important book represents the summation of his efforts so far.’ The Round Table ’… Rethinking African Politics is a welcome, thought-provoking and useful contribution to our knowledge of African opposition movements, and one that has wide-reaching significance for how we think about African history and political change. In short, Larmer's latest monograph deserves to become required reading throughout African studies.’ The Journal of Modern African Studies 'This book is highly recommended to those with political ambitions and interests, to educators, to clergy members, and to all Zambian citizens.' African Studies Quarterly 'With this book, Miles Larmer provides a welcome historical study of postcolonial politics in Zambia.' Journal of African History

About the Author

Dr Miles Larmer is Associate Professor of African History at the University of Oxford. He has written extensively on the history and politics of central and southern Africa, particularly in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. His current research focuses on the Katangese gendarmes and war in central Africa from the 1960s to the present day.

About the Series

Empire and the Making of the Modern World, 1650-2000

This monograph series seeks to explore the complexities of the relationships among empires, modernity and global history. In so doing, it wishes to challenge the orthodoxy that the experience of modernity was located exclusively in the west, and that the non-western world was brought into the modern age through conquest, mimicry and association. To the contrary, modernity had its origins in the interaction between the two worlds.

In this sense the imperial experience was not an adjunct to western modernization, but was constitutive of it. Thus the origins of the defining features of modernity - the bureaucratic state, market economy, governance, and so on - have to be sought in the imperial encounter, as do the categories such as race, sexuality and citizenship which constitute the modern individual. This necessarily complicates perspectives on the nature of the relationships between the western and non-western worlds, nation and empire, and 'centre' and 'periphery'.

To examine these issues the series presents work that is interdisciplinary and comparative in its approach; in this respect disciplines including economics, geography, literature, politics, intellectual history, anthropology, science, legal studies, psychoanalysis and cultural studies have much potential, and will all feature. Equally, we consider race, gender and class vital categories to the study of imperial experiences. We aim, therefore, to provide a forum for dialogues among different modes of writing the histories of empires and the modern. Much valuable work on empires is currently undertaken outside the western academy and has yet to receive due attention. This is an imbalance the series intends to address and so we are particularly interested in contributions from such scholars. Also important to us are transnational and comparative perspectives on the imperial experiences of western and non-western worlds.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Africa / General