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Blood of the Prophets
The Man Who Made Wall Street
War, States, and Contention
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Dangerous Minds
For Fear of an Elective King
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Atheism Explained
Wagons to the Willamette

Stones of ContentionStones of Contention

A History of Africa's Diamonds

Todd Cleveland

Narrated by Caleb Rector

Available from Audible

Book published by Ohio University Press

Africa supplies the majority of the world’s diamonds, yet consumers generally know little about the origins and history of these precious stones beyond sensationalized media accounts of so-called blood diamonds.

Stones of Contention explores the major developments in the remarkable history of Africa’s diamonds, from the earliest stirrings of international interest in the continent’s mineral wealth in the first millennium A.D. to the present day. In the European colonial period, the discovery of diamonds in South Africa ushered in an era of unprecedented greed during which monopolistic enterprises exploited both the mineral resources and the indigenous workforce. In the aftermath of World War II, the governments of newly independent African states, both democratic and despotic, joined industry giant De Beers and other corporations to oversee and profit from mining activity on the continent.

The book also considers the experiences of a wide array of Africans — from informal artisanal miners, company mineworkers, and indigenous authorities to armed rebels, mining executives, and premiers of mineral-rich states — and their relationships to the stones that have the power to bring both wealth and misery. With photos and maps, Stones of Contention illustrates the scope and complexity of the African diamond trade as well as its impact on individuals and societies.

Todd Cleveland is an assistant professor of history at the University of Arkansas. He has been a Fulbright scholar in both Angola and Ghana. He is the author of numerous book chapters and articles on the history of diamond mining and on soccer within the former Portuguese empire in Africa.


“In Stones of Contention, Cleveland skillfully mines previous scholarship to provide readers with a short synthesis of the political, economic, and social history of Africa’s important diamond industry…. Summing up: recommended.”


“Cleveland begins by asking a question that was posed to him: ‘Would you ever purchase an African diamond knowing what you know now?’ In this introduction to the industry, he strives to give readers sufficient facts to answer that question themselves by making sense of a global commodity shrouded in secrecy and the illusions of marketing…. Cleveland’s work is necessarily accessible and important, as diamonds will continue to play a prominent role in world events.”

Publishers Weekly

“As Cleveland’s book makes clear, a combination of high value and low volume makes the stones a destabilizing resource, and the concept of ‘blood diamonds’ has become a familiar trope in African affairs. But this concise history of the African diamond trade, which began with the discovery of a diamond in South Africa in 1867, evinces a more nuanced understanding of its impact on the continent.”

Foreign Affairs

“Teachers of African and world history will welcome the lucid style and topical introduction to historical issues. …Unlike the now dime-a-dozen summaries of African history, this book marshals a great deal of evidence, contains much substance, and provides some interesting perspectives. The temptation might be to consume the book at a single sitting. This would be a pity, for the tastiest morsels, in particular primary sources that relate labor experiences on colonial mines, should be savored.”

American Historical Review

“Cleveland's vivid and concise prose brings to life the tragedies suffered by miners and how despots accrued their bloody wealth.”

Foreword Reviews

“Todd Cleveland has written a novel approach to African history. Rather than present yet another account whose organizing focus is by country, region, or colonizer(s), he has presented an interesting, thoughtful, and well-written undergraduate textbook whose integrating theme is a key resource—diamonds…. Resource exploitation is a vital aspect of Africa’s past and present, and Cleveland’s study of the history of diamonds provides a neat introduction to the continent’s narrative.”

—i>Canadian Journal of Africa Studies

Stones of Contention is the best introduction to the history of diamond-mining in Africa — short and easy-to-read.”

—Stephen Ellis, Professor of Youth, Sport, and Reconciliation, Faculty of Social Sciences, Vrije University

“Cleveland renders a sweeping look at colonists, industry titans, despots, and everyday mires in this look at the local and global context of what have come to be known as blood diamonds.”


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University Press Audiobooks