Understanding Somalia and Somaliland

Culture, History, Society

August 2008 9781850659044 176pp
Out of print
August 2008 9781850658986 176pp


Ioan Lewis details the history and culture of the Somali people, providing a unique window into this little-known culture and its increasingly public predicaments. He provides insight into the complex social, historical, and cultural hinterland that is the Somali heritage and pays close attention to the pervasive influence of traditional nomadism, especially its extremely decentralised nature. Lewis also addresses developments in the Somali political region since the collapse of the Republic in 1991, including the formation and steady development of the democratic state of Somaliland. Though it has grown into a de facto personality, this self-governing outpost of democracy is still officially unrecognised internationally. Lewis concludes with a discussion of the Islamist movement that brought a brief but astonishing period of stability to much of Southern Somalia in late 2006.


‘A sober guide to all this, and to why Somalia is much more complicated than most foreigners and diplomats pretend, is Professor Ioan Lewis of the LSE – Britain’s, if not the world’s, foremost expert on that country. His recently updated Understanding Somalia and Somaliland is an excellent short introduction to the tribal, geographic and historical complexities of a place he has studied, lived in and visited for several decades’. –– Carne Ross, New Statesman

‘More than fifty years after his initial research, with his newest book, Lewis continues to challenge his academic opponents to come up with an equally readable and sound counter-analysis of the always dynamic and often astonishing Somali society and its affairs.’ — The Journal of Modern African Studies

‘The remarkable depth and breadth of Lewis’s scholarship ensures that this small volume serves its purpose admirably … it offers a concise, authoritative, opinionated and very readable introduction to an enormously complex subject. … This book provides an excellent introduction for anyone wishing to gain an insight into the richness and complexity of Somali society, and Lewis’s recommendations are challenging, insightful and sensible.’ — The Bulletin of the School of Oriental & African Studies


Ioan M. Lewis FBA, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the LSE, is recognised internationally as the leading academic authority on the history and cultures of the Somali people, on which he has written dozens of books and articles over the last fifty years.

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