In this comprehensive and original study, a distinguished scholar of African affairs argues that the crisis in African development can be traced directly to European colonial rule, which left the continent with a "singularly difficult legacy." Crawford Young proposes a new conception of the state, weighing the characteristics of European empires of the past (including those of Holland, Portugal, England, and Venice) and distilling their common qualities. He then presents a concise and wide-ranging history of colonization in Africa, from construction through consolidation and decolonization. Young argues that several qualities combined to make the European colonial experience in Africa distinctive. The high number of nations competing for power on the continent and the necessity to achieve effective occupation swiftly yet make the colonies self-financing drove colonial powers toward policies of "ruthless extractive action." The persistent, virulent racism that distanced rulers from subjects was especially central to African colonial history. Young concludes by comparing the fates of former African colonies with those of their once-colonized counterparts elsewhere. In tracing both the overarching similarities and variations in African colonial states, he makes a strong case that colonialism has played a critical role in shaping the fate of a troubled continent.