Idi Amin The Story of Africa's Icon of Evil Mark Leopold

Publication date:
10 Nov 2020
Yale University Press
368 pages: 235 x 156mm
1 map + 21 color illus.
Sales territories:

The first serious full-length biography of modern Africa’s most famous dictator

Idi Amin began his career in the British army in colonial Uganda, and worked his way up the ranks before seizing power in a British-backed coup in 1971. He built a violent and unstable dictatorship, ruthlessly eliminating perceived enemies and expelling Uganda’s Asian population as the country plunged into social and economic chaos.

In this powerful and provocative new account, Mark Leopold places Amin’s military background and close relationship with the British state at the heart of the story. He traces the interwoven development of Amin’s career and his popular image as an almost supernaturally evil monster, demonstrating the impossibility of fully distinguishing the truth from the many myths surrounding the dictator. Using an innovative biographical approach, Leopold reveals how Amin was, from birth, deeply rooted in the history of British colonial rule, how his rise was a legacy of imperialism, and how his monstrous image was created.

Mark Leopold is lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Sussex.  His research in Idi Amin’s home area led to the book Inside West Nile, chosen as an "outstanding academic title of 2005" by the American Library Association.

‘At last, we have a nuanced and sophisticated examination of one of the most misunderstood, and caricatured, figures in modern African history. At once gripping, empathic, and deeply researched, this book is a hugely important contribution.’—Richard Reid, Professor of African History, University of Oxford 

‘Instead of the caricature of a merely evil buffoon, the Idi Amin who emerges from this fascinating book is all too chillingly human.’—Andrew Harding, BBC News Africa Correspondent

‘A wonderfully written, original account of the enigmatic Idi Amin.'—Simukai Chigudu, author of The Political Life of an Epidemic

‘Amin was a much more complex person than most think. And his relationships with Britain were also more complex than it is often safe to admit. Leopold's book restores complexity and detail to the man in a way that instructs us never to look superficially at tragedy.’—Stephen Chan, author of Grasping Africa