SUDAN: Darfur's Sorrow: A History of Destruction and Genocide

By Collins, Robert O. | The Middle East Journal, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

SUDAN: Darfur's Sorrow: A History of Destruction and Genocide


Collins, Robert O., The Middle East Journal


SUDAN: Darfur's Sorrow: A History of Destruction and Genocide, by Martin Daly. Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. xix + 316 pages. Maps. Gloss. to p. 320. Notes to p. 348. Bibl. to p. 355. Index to p. 368. $22.95.

Reviewed by Robert O. Collins

Darfur's Sorrow is quintessential Martin Daly - meticulously researched, impeccably organized, and exquisitely written. Perhaps to attract a larger audience, the elegant academic prose of his previous scholarly books has been enlivened by a more relaxed sprinkling of anecdotes and colloquialisms. The reader, however, must understand what this book is about and what it is not. Like the more fashionable books on Darfur, which have popped up like mushrooms, the author has intentionally refrained from an extensive discussion of the current crisis in Darfur that erupted in 2003, which constitutes only a succinct final chapter, "The Destruction of Darfur." He rightly sticks to that which he does best, history, for the four-year disaster in Darfur, in which over 200,000 have perished and another two and a half million have become internally displaced persons (IDPs), is hopelessly unintelligible without an understanding of the past that has resulted in "Too Many People Killed For No Reason." It would have been very useful if he had clearly stated in a Preface his intentions so that the eager but ignorant reader knew what to expect for $22.95.

The opening chapters sweep the reader along the bilad al-sudan to the rise of the Fur Sultanate in the 17th century to its momentary demise in 1874 by the Turco-Egyptian rulers of the Egyptian Sudan. They were unable to consolidate their administration in Darfur, however, before being overwhelmed by the revolutionary forces of the Mahdiya. Like the Turks, the Mahdist state also proved to be a brief interlude, 1985 1898, but one that established the great social divide between the people of the river (awlad al-bahr) in their urban settlements along the Nile and the people from the West (awlad al-gharib), illiterate rustic farmers and nomads. …

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