Segal, Ronald (Michael) 1932–

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SEGAL, Ronald (Michael) 1932–

PERSONAL: Born July 14, 1932, in Cape Town, South Africa; immigrated to England, 1959; son of Leon (a managing director) and Mary (Charney) Segal; married Susan Wolff, July 17, 1962; children: Oliver, Miriam, Emily. Education: University of Cape Town, B.A., 1951; Trinity College, Cambridge, B.A. (with honors), 1954; University of Virginia, graduate study, 1955–56.

ADDRESSES: Home—The Old Manor House, Manor Rd., Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 19 Union Square W., New York, NY 10003.

CAREER: National Union of South African Students, director of faculty and cultural studies, 1951–52; Africa South: An International Journal (quarterly), Cape Town, South Africa, founder, 1956, publisher and editor, 1956–60; Penguin Books Ltd., London, England, founding editor of "Penguin African Library," 1961–84; Pluto Crime Fiction, editor, 1983–86. Convenor at International Conference on Economic Sanctions against South Africa, London, 1964, and International Conference on South West Africa, Oxford, England, 1966.

AWARDS, HONORS: Philip Francis du Pont fellowship, University of Virginia, 1955.


The Tokolosh (novel), Sheed and Ward (New York, NY), 1960.

Political Africa: A Who's Who of Personalities and Parties, George Stevens (London, England), 1961.

African Profiles, Penguin (Baltimore, MD), 1962.

Into Exile, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1963.

(Editor) International Conference on Economic Sanctions against South Africa, Penguin (Baltimore, MD), 1964.

The Anguish of India, Stein and Day (New York, NY), 1965, published in England as The Crisis of India, J. Cape (London, England), 1965.

The Race War: The World-Wide Clash of White and Non-White, J. Cape (London, England), 1966, Viking (New York, NY), 1967.

(Editor, with Ruth First) South-West Africa: Travesty of Trust, Deutsch (New York, NY), 1967.

America's Receding Future, Weidenfeld and Nicolson (London, England), 1968, published as Americans: A Conflict of Creed and Reality, Viking (New York, NY), 1969.

The Struggle against History, Weidenfeld and Nicolson (London, England), 1971, Bantam (New York, NY), 1973.

Whose Jerusalem?: The Conflicts of Israel, J. Cape (London, England), 1973, Penguin (Baltimore, MD), 1975.

The Decline and Fall of the American Dollar, Bantam (New York, NY), 1974.

Leon Trotsky: A Biography, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1979, published in England as The Tragedy of Leon Trotsky, Hutchinson (London, England), 1979.

(With Michael Kidron) The State of the World Atlas, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1981, 5th revised edition, Penguin Reference (New York, NY), 2000.

(With Michael Kidron) What You Need to Know about Business, Money, and Power, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1987.

The Black Diaspora, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 1995.

Islam's Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS: In 1959, because of anti-government politics, and particularly for his promotion of economic sanctions, Ronald Segal was banned from all gatherings in South Africa, and he became an expatriate in England, where he has since remained. He did return to South Africa briefly in 1992 and 1994 to help the African National Congress (ANC) run a campaign in the Western Cape for South Africa's first democratic election. Segal has written many books on a variety of subjects that cross borders—on race relations, economics, and the power and control influenced by those who have it, as well as about his own life and politics.

Segal's "The State of the World Atlas is … an occasion of wit and an act of subversion," wrote John Leonard in the New York Times. Using charts and maps, this book illustrates "the bad dreams of the modern world, [which are] given color and shape and submitted to a grid that can be grasped instantaneously." The volume was revised and reprinted five times in the twenty years following its original publication. "This ingenious atlas belongs, if not in every home, then certainly in every school and oval office," concluded Leonard.

Among Segal's later books is The Black Diaspora, a survey of scholarship on the history of black Africans in the Americas. Segal draws on poetry, song, and literature, particularly with regard to Caribbean blacks. The slaves from Western Africa who survived the voyage across the Atlantic from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century numbered approximately ten million, and their one hundred million descendants are now concentrated in North America, the West Indies, and Brazil. New Republic contributor George M. Frederickson wrote that The Black Diaspora "is the first effort I know of to deal comprehensively with the African experience outside Africa and the Middle East. The subject is vast and requires a breadth of knowledge that professional historians, who normally study the colonies or former colonies of only one of the European nations involved in the enslavement of Africans, are unlikely to possess." Frederickson noted that Segal's credentials "as a white supporter of black liberation with a deep knowledge of the African base make him a sympathetic observer of the diaspora who also has some of the detached perspective of an outsider."

Segal studies the history of the slave trade in the Muslim world in Islam's Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora. Booklist's Hazel Rochman wrote that "the strength of this account is the meticulous documentation of what is fact and what is surmise." Scholars have estimated that these slaves numbered, over more than twelve centuries, between eleven and fourteen million, and Segal notes that Koransanctioned slavery in this region never became the issue that it did in the United States and Europe. Muslims who accumulated slaves, beginning centuries before the start of the Atlantic slave trade, did so to demonstrate their wealth and position. Although some slaves worked in the fields, they were more likely used as guards, cooks, musicians, and concubines, and the majority were women. Slaves were often chosen for high positions because of their loyalty, and many rose to power, were married to the children of sultans, and led armies. An Ethiopian slave became an advisor to the sultan of Delhi and later became a governor of a province. Many male slaves who survived the castrating knife became eunuchs. They guarded harems and were themselves used for sex, but some also rose to high rank.

The book's last chapters note that slavery has continued in some Islamic countries until present time, particularly in the Sudan and Mauritania. Adam Hochschild noted in the New York Times Book Review that in the final chapter, Segal "looks at the rise of the Nation of Islam in the United States, some of whose members might be disillusioned if they read this book. Their attraction to Islam is easy enough to understand: it seemed an alternative to Christianity, under whose auspices Atlantic slavery and then segregation flourished. But the enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend is no better a principle in religion than in politics."

Segal writes of Libyan al-Sanusi, who preached "universal brotherhood … modeled on the Prophet's ideal community," who purchased slaves he then freed, converted, and educated, but who, along with sons who succeeded him, oversaw a trans-Saharan route that became extremely profitable. Segal estimates that one in ten slaves who began the trek across the Sahara died. Times Literary Supplement reviewer Gervase Clarence-Smith noted that "this evokes the vast and underexplored topic of the ambiguous relationship between Sufism and slavery…. Another interesting minor theme in Segal's work concerns Oriental Jewish involvement in slavery and the slave trade, a topic which might well merit a book in its own right."

New Statesman contributor Stephen Howe wrote that Segal "offers an effective, accessible synthesis of existing writing about the slavery of the Islamic world—which, compared to American slavery, has been much neglected…. It is the latest, and one of the best, of the many broad-sweep overviews of big subjects that Segal has been producing for forty years."



Booklist, February 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Islam's Black Slaves: The History of Africa's Other Black Diaspora, p. 1100.

Contemporary Review, June, 2002, review of Islam's Black Slaves, p. 380.

Economist, March 30, 2002, review of Islam's Black Slaves.

Journal of American Ethnic History, fall, 1997, Donald R. Wright, review of The Black Diaspora, p. 71.

Library Journal, January 1, 2001, A. O. Edmonds, review of Islam's Black Slaves, p. 132.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 6, 1980, Robert Kirsch, review of Leon Trotsky: A Biography.

New Republic, March 11, 1996, George M. Frederickson, review of The Black Diaspora, p. 47.

New Statesman, March 18, 2002, Stephen Howe, review of Islam's Black Slaves, p. 53.

New York Times, February 24, 1981, John Leonard, review of The State of the World Atlas.

New York Times Book Review, December 29, 1979, Richard Pipes, review of Leon Trotsky; March 4, 2001, Adam Hochschild, "Human Cargo," review of Islam's Black Slaves, p. 21.

Publishers Weekly, January 22, 2001, review of Islam's Black Slaves, p. 312.

Spectator, February 23, 2002, Justin Marozzi, review of Islam's Black Slaves, p. 35.

Times Literary Supplement, September 24, 1971; December 7, 1979, Alec Nove, review of Leon Trotsky; June 28, 2002, Gervase Clarence-Smith, review of Islam's Black Slaves, pp. 7-8.


Guardian Unlimited, (April 6, 2002), Fiachra Gibbons, review of Islam's Black Slaves., (April 5, 2001), Suzy Hansen, interview with Segal.