ivory-coverEvery so often, a report is made through one of the better international news agencies of a large, very public destruction of a cache of elephant ivory. These spectacles are generally intended to draw attention to the illegal trade in the substance, as well as to draw attention to the dwindling number of elephants in the world and occasionally to make the case for linking the ivory trade to one or another violent – sometimes ideological – criminal groups.

Yet for all the effort that goes into publicizing these events, little understanding is imparted to the wider public about the actual dynamics that drive the international ivory trade. Like many subjects, the truth is far too complex for a 20 second sound bite or 140 character “tweet.”

Which is why the publication by Oxford University Press and Hurst Publishers of Keith Somerville‘s Ivory; Power and Poaching in Africa this coming January will be such a welcome event. Somerville, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and Honorary Professor of Journalism at the Centre for Journalism, University of Kent is also the author of Africa’s Long Road Since Independence: the Many Histories of a Continent, a world renowned journalist, and an Africa specialist – essentially making him quite possibly the best person imaginable to explain the history and present dynamics of this multi-layered and often misunderstood subject.