“There is a rich scholarship on male leaders in African history. We know a lot about kings and chiefs who ruled in different parts of the continent. In Njinga of Angola, Linda Heywood reconstructs the biography of a woman who ruled over Ndongo and Matamba during the 17th century. Heywood reconstructs Njinga’s life, from her birth to her death. It’s incredible to imagine that we have rich information about a 17th-century African woman who achieved immense political and economic power. As Heywood shows, there was nothing that prevented women from achieving political leadership. In fact, Njinga was quite skilled in diplomacy and warfare, attracting the attention of foreign merchants and missionaries. Heywood combined colonial records, missionary accounts and even letters signed by Njinga in her study. Njinga is remembered today as an important historical figure both in Angola and in the diaspora. In many ways, Heywood problematizes the romantic memory of Njinga as an early anti-colonial figure, a proto-nationalist heroine. Heywood shows that Nijinga was a ruler of the 17th century, involved in slave raids and enslavement. Njinga’s concerns were related to her political survival, the protection of her relatives, and the economic gain of her elite. It’s a very powerful book, showing how one individual can transform a society. Heywood examines gender identity, woman’s access to political leadership, and commercial skills. It is a very important and accessible book on 17th-century Angola.” Read more...
The best books on The History of Angola (pre-20th century)