Armies of the 19th Century: Africa, Vol. 2 Central Africa – a Review

We certainly live in strange times. When Armies of the 19th Century: Africa, Vol. 2 Central Africa by Chris (C.J.) Peers was first released in 2011, you could purchase the hardback for around $25. I was late to the party and when I purchased my copy in 2013, it cost $40. Just 7 short years after its publication, the hardback is $125 and the Kindle version sells for $30. What gives?

Books on RPGs, wargaming and military history are niche markets. They often have short print runs. After a few years, many of them become almost impossible to find. However, if you are a successful author, some of your books sell for hundreds of dollars. I’ve seen books by Christopher Duffy selling on-line for $300 and find the same book in a used book store for $12 (of course I snapped it up!). Anyway, Chris (C.J.) Peers is one of those authors. He’s written several books and rule sets, many for Osprey and Foundry. Most of them are excellent, but as with all authors, he’s written a few stinkers as well (Too Few to Fight Too Many to Die is simply horrid).

Chris Peers is at his best when he is writing about Colonial Africa or early Chinese history. Central Africa is a 147 page book packed full of information on the history and people of 19th century Africa. There are descriptions and line drawings of the dress of each of the major tribes and Europeans. There are no color drawings or photos in the book. The line drawings were done by Ian Heath, the illustrations are from old publications and there are a few black and white photos. The book has three maps of the area.

Drawings of Azande tribesmen

Details as to colors, fabrics, weapons and hairstyles are in the text along with a brief history and customs of the tribes. There’s information on what their villages looked like, the food grown or gathered, local geography and relations with other peoples.

The book is divided into the following sections:

  1. Northern and Eastern Congo
  2. The Congo Basin
  3. The Kingdoms of the Southern Savannah
  4. Gabon and French Congo
  5. British Central Africa
  6. The Explorers
  7. The Congo Free State
An illustration attributed to Through the Dark Continent by Stanley

So who were the foreigners seeking a foothold in Central Africa? Well, there’s the British, the French, the Belgians, the Spanish and the Arabs subject to the Sultan of Zanzibar.

In addition, the foreign powers also used troops from other colonies in the area such as French Senegalese and British Sikhs.

Each section also contains description of conflicts and battles which occurred in the 19th century.

As an writer and amateur historian, one of the most important things to me in a book is its Bibliography where the author lists his primary and secondary sources for further reading and research. This book has a good one.

It is a well written and useful book, but is it worth $125 in hardback or $30 as an e-book? It may be well worth checking out the Ospreys on Colonial Africa – Peers wrote many of them and may have much of the same information at a much lower cost.

As always, your comments, opinions, anecdotes and unopened bottles of booze are always welcome.

2 comments

  1. That’s a pricy book nowadays but if you got it when it was cheaper then that was good. It does look a good book, but one does wonder how the heck someone used those weapons, if you wave those about then someone in your side is going to lose an eye

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