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Karen Shook

Over her decades-long reign in the 17th century in central Africa, Queen Njinga was by far the most successful of African rulers in resisting Portuguese colonialism, argues Heywood. What’s more, as this detailed and engaging study with walk-on parts for Vatican plotters, Dutch traders and Brazilian slavers shows, she rivalled Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great for political nous and military prowess. Tactically pious and unhesitatingly murderous; a “subverter of gender norms”, in the inevitable formulation; a national heroine in today’s Angola; a commanding figure in velvet slippers and elephant hair ripe for big-screen treatment; and surely, as our social media age puts it, one badass woman.

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Over her decades-long reign in the 17th century in central Africa, Queen Njinga was by far the most successful of African rulers in resisting Portuguese colonialism, argues Heywood. What’s more, as this detailed and engaging study with walk-on parts for Vatican plotters, Dutch traders and Brazilian slavers shows, she rivalled Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great for political nous and military prowess. Tactically pious and unhesitatingly murderous; a “subverter of gender norms”, in the inevitable formulation; a national heroine in today’s Angola; a commanding figure in velvet slippers and elephant hair ripe for big-screen treatment; and surely, as our social media age puts it, one badass woman.

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