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New Left Review I/17, Winter 1962

Roger Murray

Colonial Congo

Le Congo, de la Colonisation Beige À l’Indépendence: Michel Merlier. Francois Maspero, 18.30 NF. 352 pp.

There are two reasons for introducing Merlier’s book to English readers. It is perhaps the finest product of Francois Maspero’s admirable series of Cahiers Libres, which for three years has emulated, and in many ways surpassed in quality, our own Left Book Club of the ’Thirties, publishing attractive editions of Jaures, Nenni, Nizan, Frantz Fanon and others under constant threat of seizure and confiscation. At the same time, Merlier’s book is a model study of the evolution of a colonial system, of a kind that still remains unknown in this country. Our own literature of colonialism has almost never attempted asynthetic account of colonialism as a system. It has fragmented its subject matter into the familiar, evasive categories of “colonial history”, “administration”, “anthropology”, and so on. More recently, there has been a decline to a still lower intellectual level, with the publication of numerous abjectly alphabetical compendia to the continent. Against this background, Merlier’s book has an exemplary value, both as a study of one of the most critical and explosive areas in the Third World today, and as a model of historical sociology.

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