Books: African Genesis

THE STRONG BROWN GOO: THE STORY OF THE NIGER RIVER

by SANCHE DE GRAMONT 350 pages. Houghton Mifflin. $12.50.

This is history to make the gods weep, perhaps with laughter. Three incompatible cultures met late in the 18th century, when English explorers began to poke into the great fever swamp of western Africa that is now Nigeria. Arab traders had arrived 300 years earlier, recommending their religion and bringing news that a minor local industry, slave raiding, could be the basis of a thriving export trade. The Britons advocated their own faith. They also urged...

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