The Great Lakes of Africa

The Great Lakes of Africa

Two Thousand Years of History

By Jean-Pierre Chrétien

Translated by Scott Straus

The first English-language publication of a major history of the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Distributed for Zone Books

Hardcover $42.95 S £35.00
Paperback $26.95 T £22.00





The first English-language publication of a major history of the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Though the genocide of 1994 catapulted Rwanda onto the international stage, English-language historical accounts of the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa—which encompasses Burundi, eastern Congo, Rwanda, western Tanzania, and Uganda—are scarce. Drawing on colonial archives, oral tradition, archeological discoveries, anthropologic and linguistic studies, and his thirty years of scholarship, Jean-Pierre Chrétien offers a major synthesis of the history of the region, one still plagued by extremely violent wars. This translation brings the work of a leading French historian to an English-speaking audience for the first time. Chrétien retraces the human settlement and the formation of kingdoms around the sources of the Nile, which were "discovered" by European explorers around 1860. He describes these kingdoms' complex social and political organization and analyzes how German, British, and Belgian colonizers not only transformed and exploited the existing power structures, but also projected their own racial categories onto them. Finally, he shows how the independent states of the postcolonial era, in particular Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda, have been trapped by their colonial and precolonial legacies, especially by the racial rewriting of the latter by the former. Today, argues Chrétien, the Great Lakes of Africa is a crucial region for historical research—not only because its history is fascinating but also because the tragedies of its present are very much a function of the political manipulations of its past.


Out of Print ISBN: 9781890951344 504 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 7 maps


$26.95 T | £22.00 ISBN: 9781890951351 504 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 7 maps


Scott Straus.


  • Chretien brings three decades of scholarship and corresponding expertise to this comprehensive history...

    Publishers Weekly

    starred review

  • Chrétien's extraordinary book undertakes the formidable task of tracing the roots of the region's violence and exposing the ideological myths on which the ancient-hatreds theory rests. A monumental study that marches through two millenniums before approaching central Africa's contemporary agony.

    The New York Times

  • ...anyone with an ancient interest in African affairs will benefit from this analysis.

    Kirkus Reviews

  • A feast of information and analysis.

    Gail M. Gerhart

    Foreign Affairs

  • Africa enthusiasts will appreciate the maps of the Great Lakes...

    Mary H. Meier

    Boston Globe