This is a genuinely comparative study of the different trajectories and experiences of independent African states. It addresses the differential legacies of British, French, Portuguese, Belgian and Spanish colonialism as well as the unique qualities of imperial Ethiopia and Liberia. Paul Nugent analyses boundary problems, the reshaping of territorial structures and the contrasting ideological paths followed by civilian and military regimes. The book ends with a look at the interplay between structural adjustment, ethnicity, democratization and the impact of NGOs. A state-level perspective is balanced by a sensitivity to popular culture.