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The Rise and Fall of Swahili States

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Chapurukha M. Kusimba. 1999. The Rise and Fall of Swahili States. Altamira Press, Walnut Creek, California. 197 pp; a bibliography and an index.
Between the 11th and 16th centuries AD, a truly cosmopolitan civilization rose and fell on the eastern coast of Africa. From Mogadishu in Somalia south 3000 kilometers to Cape Delgado in Mozambique, the city states called Swahili established regional trade centers, where copper, gold, silver, lead, gum copal pottery, beads, and bronze came from Cambodia, China, Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Indian subcontinent.

Chapurukha Kusimba begins his 1999 book, The Rise and Fall of Swahili States, with an exotic gift, a live giraffe sent to the Emperor of China in 1414 AD by the Bengal state from the city of Malindi on the Swahili Coast. As the emperor was soon to discover, the giraffe was one of many luxury items controlled by the merchants and leaders of the Swahili states.
Kusimba's book is broken into three parts. The first, consisting of three chapters, provides a background to the study, including the place of the civilization in the world at large, the history of archaeology in the region, and a survey of the geography. The second part traces the rise and fall of civilization, from its earliest manifestations until well into the colonial period that spelled its demise. Finally, Kusimba discusses the civilization in terms of what it can teach us about state development as a whole.

A handful of black and white photographs, maps, graphs, and drawings are used to illustrate this book, which is addressed primarily, I believe, to the college student, but which is certainly of use to any interested party.

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