4th Edition

The World and a Very Small Place in Africa
A History of Globalization in Niumi, the Gambia

ISBN 9781138649439
Published July 5, 2018 by Routledge
326 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations

USD $44.95

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Book Description

The World and a Very Small Place in Africa is a fascinating look at how contacts with the wider world have affected how people have lived in Niumi, a small and little-known region at the mouth of West Africa’s Gambia River, for over a thousand years.

Drawing on archives, oral traditions and published works, Donald R. Wright connects world history with real people on a local level through an exploration of how global events have affected life in Niumi. Thoroughly revised and updated throughout, this new edition rests on recent thinking in globalization theory, reflects the latest historiography and has been extended to the present day through discussion of the final years of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s regime, the role of global forces in the events of the 2016 presidential elections and the changes that resulted from these elections. The book is supported throughout by photographs, maps and Perspectives boxes that present detailed information on such topics as Alex Haley’s Roots (part set in Niumi), why Gambians take the risky "back way" to reach Europe, or "Wiri-Wiri," the Senegalese soap that has Gambians’ attention.

Written in a clear and personal style and taking a critical yet sensitive approach, it remains an essential resource for students and scholars of African history, particularly those interested in the impact of globalization on the lives of real people.

Table of Contents

List of illustrations

List of maps

List of perspectives

Preface to the fourth edition


A very small place in Africa



Archaic globalization: before 1600 CE

1 The global setting for Niumi’s history: early archaic globalization

Western Europe’s strengthening connections

Fourteenth-century setback

The lure to expand

Portuguese expansion into the Atlantic

West Africa’s strengthening connections

Islam’s movement into West Africa

State-building in West Africa

The Mali Empire

Mali’s decline

2 Niumi during early archaic globalization: before 1450 CE

The physical setting

The cultural setting

Niumi’s early residents, their commercial milieu, and the Niumi state

3 Niumi during late-archaic globalization, 1450–1600: waxing Atlantic trade, enduring Sudanic trade

Western Europe and the rise of the Atlantic plantation complex

Early Atlantic trade and political change in Niumi

Trade diasporas and new identities

Muslim traders

Christian (and "New Christian") Portuguese and Luso-Africans

New ways of life


Proto-globalization: 1600–1800

4 Niumi during proto-globalization: the height of the Atlantic complex

Niumi’s expanding world

The ecological base

The growth of mercantile capitalism and expanding Atlantic complex

The long march of Islam

The Niumi polity

State structures

Court officials

State administration

Dependent territories

State revenues

A wider world at home

Niumi’s changing material world

Niumi’s changing social and intellectual world




The changing nature of dependence


Modern globalization: 1800–1950s

5 Niumi in a time of transition: 1816–1897

Revolutionary change in the West

Islam’s militant strain

Weakening of the Niumi state

New systems of production and exchange: the peanut revolution

The Soninke-Marabout Wars

Formal British takeover

A deepening dependence

6 Niumi as part of the Gambia Colony and Protectorate: 1897–1965

The unsettled twentieth-century world

Establishment of colonial rule

The world of peanuts


A quiet broadening and deepening of Islam

Niumi in a world at war

World War I

World War II

Postwar malaise

Toward independence


Post-colonial globalization, 1950s

7 Independent Niumi in the First Republic of The Gambia: 1965–1994

Mid-twentieth century global realities

New rulers, old rules

A chance encounter with world history and a boost for tourism: Roots


8 Niumi in the recent wave of globalization: the Second Republic, 1994–2017

Globalization’s newest wave

Soldier to statesman to tyrant

Is globalization good for the world’s poor? Niumi as case study

The economy

Non-sustainable development

Culture and society

Women’s roles

Freedom, dignity, and human rights

Niumi in diaspora

The presidential election of 2016

Epilogue, 2017: #Gambia HAS Decided



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Donald R. Wright is Distinguished Teaching Professor of History, Emeritus, at the State University of New York—Cortland. His other books include two on early African American history, and a two-volume collection of oral traditions from The Gambia, and (as co-author) The Atlantic World: A History (2007).

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Author - Donald Richard Wright

Donald Richard Wright

Distinguished Teaching Professor of History, Emeritus, State University of New York, College at Cortland
Beaufort, SC, United States

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