History of Africa: Wikis


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Obelisk at temple of Luxor, Egypt. c. 1200 BC

The History of Africa commences with the first emergence of Homo sapiens in East Africa, continuing into its modern present as a patchwork of diverse and politically developing nation states.

The History of Africa has been a challenge for researchers in the field of African studies due to the scarcity of written sources in large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. Scholarly techniques such as the recording of oral history, historical linguistics, archeology and genetics have been crucial.




According to paleontology, early hominid skull anatomy was similar to their close cousins, the great African forest apes, gorilla and chimpanzee but they had adopted a bipedal locomotion and freed hands, giving them a crucial advantage, as this enabled them to live in both forested areas and on the open savanna at a time when Africa was drying up, with savanna encroaching on forested areas. This occurred 10 million to 5 million years ago.[1]

By 3 million years ago several australopithecine (southern ape) hominid species had developed throughout Southern, Eastern and Central Africa. They were tool users not makers of tools. They scavenged for meat and were omnivores.[1]

By approximately 2.3 million BC primitive stone tools were first used to scavenge kills made by other predators, and harvest carrion for their bones and marrow. In hunting, Homo habilis was probably not capable of competing with large predators, and was still more prey than hunter, although Homo habilis probably did steal eggs from nests, and may have been able to catch small game, and weakened larger prey (cubs and older animals). The tools were classed as Oldowan.[2]

Around 1.8 million years ago Homo ergaster first appeared in the fossil record in Africa. From Homo ergaster, [Homo erectus] (upright man) evolved 1.5 million years. Some of the earlier representatives of this species were still fairly small brained and used primitive stone tools, much like H. habilis. The brain later grew in size and H. erectus eventually developed a more complex stone tool technology called the Acheulean. Possibly the first hunters, H. erectus mastered the art of making fire, and were the first hominids to leave Africa, colonizing the entire Old World, and perhaps later giving rise to Homo floresiensis. Although some recent writers suggest that H. georgicus, a H. habilis descendant, was the first and most primitive hominid to ever live outside Africa, many scientists consider H. georgicus to be an early and primitive member of the H. erectus species.[3][4]

The fossil record shows Homo sapiens living in southern and eastern Africa at least 100,000 and possibly 150,000 years ago. Around 40,000 years ago, their expansion out of Africa launched the colonization of our planet by modern human-beings. By 10,000 BC, Homo erectus has spread to all corners of the world Their migration is indicated by linguistic, cultural and (increasingly) computer-analyzed genetic evidence.[2][5][6]

Emergence of agriculture

Around 16,000 BCE, among the Afro-Asiatic Red Sea Hills to Northern Ethiopian Highlands, nuts, grasses and tubers were being collected for food. By 13,000-11,000 BCE, they began collecting wild grains. This spread to Southwest Asia, which domesticated its wild grains, wheat and barley. Between 10,000 and 8,000 BCE, Northeast Africa was cultivating wheat and barley and raising sheep and cattle from Southwest Asia. The wet phase of Africa turned the Ethiopian Highland into a mountain forest.Omotic speakers domesticated enset around 6500-5500 BCE. Around 7000 BCE, the settlers of the Ethiopian highlands domesticated donkeys. By 4000 BC, the domestication of donkeys spread to Southwest Asia. Cushitic speakers turning a little away from cattle herding domesticated teff and finger millet between 5500 and 3500 BCE.[7][8][9][10]

Among the steppes and savannahs of the Sahara and Sahel, the Nilo-Saharans started to collect and domesticate wild millet and sorghum, between 8,000-6,000 BCE. Later gourds, watermelons, castor beans, and cotton were also collected and domesticated. They started collecting wild cattle, holding them in circular thorn hedges, resulting in domestication.[9] They also started making pottery. Fishing became a major activity, using bone tipped harpoons, from the numerous streams and lakes formed from the increased rains.

Empires & states of Africa

In West Africa, the wet phase of Africa ushered in expanding rainforest and wooded savannah from Senegal to Cameroon. Between 9000 and 5000 BCE, the Niger-Congo culture domesticated the oil palm and raffia palm. Two seed plants, black-eyed peas and voandzeia(African Groundnuts) were domesticated, followed by okra and kola nuts. Since most of the plants grew in the forest, the Niger-Congo culture invented polish stone axes for clearing forest.[11]

Most of Southern Africa was occupied by pygmies and khoisan who engaged in hunting and gathering. Some of the oldest rock art were left by them.[12]

Just prior to Saharan desertification, the communities that developed south of Egypt, in what is now modern day Sudan, were full participants in the Neolithic revolution and lived a settled to semi-nomadic lifestyle with domesticated plants and animals.[13] Megaliths found at Nabta Playa are examples of probably the world's first known archaeoastronomy devices, out dating Stonehenge by some 1000 years.[2] This complexity, as observed at Nabta Playa, and expressed by different levels of authority within the society there, likely formed the basis for the structure of both the Neolithic society at Nabta and the Old Kingdom of Egypt.[14]

By 5000 BCE, Africa entered a dry phase and the climate of the Sahara region gradually became drier. The population trekked out of the Sahara region in all directions, including towards the Nile Valley below the Second Cataract where they made permanent or semi-permanent settlements. A major climatic recession occurred, lessening the heavy and persistent rains in Central and Eastern Africa. Since then, dry conditions have prevailed in Eastern Africa.


The first metal to be smelted in Africa was lead, copper, and copper alloys in the fourth millennium BCE.[15] Copper smelting and its alloy arose in two regions of Africa, North and Northeastern Africa from Southwest Asia and the Aïr Mountains north of Nigeria. Copper was already being smelted in Egypt during the predynastic period, and bronze came into use not long after 3000 BCE, at the latest[16] and in Nubia. Nubia was a major source of copper, as well as gold.[17] The use of gold and silver in Egypt also dates back to the predynastic period[18][19]

In the region of the Aïr Mountains in Niger, copper was being smelted indepently between 3000-2500 BCE. The process was not in a developed state, indicating that their smelting was not foreign. It became mature about the 1500 BCE.[20]

By the 1st millennium BCE, iron-working had been introduced in Northwestern Africa, Egypt, and Nubia.[21] In 670 BCE, Nubians were pushed out of Egypt by Assyrians using iron weapons, after which we find widespread use of iron in the Nile Valley.

The notion of iron spreading to Sub-Saharan Africa via Nubian Meroe is no longer readily accepted. After 670 BCE is when iron was introduce on a major scale in Ancient Egypt and Nubia from Southwest Asia. Metalworking in West Africa has been dated as early as 2500 BCE at Egaro west of Termit and iron working by the 1500 BCE at Termit in Niger.[22]

In addition, between 1000-600 BCE in the area between Lake Chad and the Great Lakes, iron smelting was developed long before it reached Egypt. Before 500 BCE, Nok culture in the Jos Plateau was already smelting iron.[23][24]



The pyramids of Giza, symbols of the civilization of ancient Egypt.

After the desertification of the Sahara, settlement became concentrated in the valley of the Nile, where numerous sacral chiefdom appeared. The region with the largest population pressure were in the delta region of lower Egypt and upper Egypt, also along the second and third cataract of the Dongola reach of the Nile in Nubia. This population pressure and growth was brought about by the cultivation of Southwest Asian crops, wheat and barley and the raising of sheep, goat, and cattle. Population growth lead to competition for farm land, thereby the need to regulate farming. Regulation was established by the formation of bureaucracies among sacral chiefdoms. The first and most powerful of the chiefdom was Ta-Seti , founded around 3500 BCE. This idea of sacral chiefdom, spread to upper and lower Egypt.[25]

Later consolidation of chiefdom into broader political entities began to occur in upper and lower Egypt, culminating into the unification of Egypt into one political entity by Narmer (Menes) in 3100 BCE. Instead being viewed as a sacral chief he became a divine King. He was of divinity. The henotheism of sacral chiefdoms along upper and lower Egypt, with its different gods became the polytheistic religion of ancient Egypt. Bureaucracies became more centralized under the pharaohs, ran by viziers, governors, tax collectors, generals, artists, and technicians. They engaged in tax collecting, organizing of labor for major public works, building irrigation systems, pyramids, temples, and canals. During the Fourth Dynasty (2620-2480), the development of long distance trade; trade with the Levant for its timber, Nubia for gold, skins, Punt for frankincense, and the western Libyan territories. For most of the Old Kingdom Egypt developed her fundamental systems, institutions, culture. All around a central bureaucracy and the divinity of the Pharaoh.[26]

After the third millennium BCE Egypt started to extend direct military and political control over her southern neighbors and to her western neighbors. By 2200 BC the Old Kingdom stability would be followed by rivalry from governors of the nomes challenging the power of pharaohs and invasions from Asiatics to the delta. The First Intermediate Period had began, a time of political division and uncertainty.[26]

By 2130 the stagnant period was put to an end by Mentuhotep, the first Pharaoh of the 11th dynasty and the emergence of the Middle Kingdom. Pyramid building resumed, long distance trade re-emerged, the center of power moved from Memphis to Thebes. Stronger connections in the southern regions of Kush, Wawat, Irthet at the second cataract, was increased. Then came the Second Intermediate Period with the invasion of the Hyksos on horse drawn chariots and utilizing bronze weapons, technology not seen in Egypt. Horse drawn chariots soon spread to the west in the inhabitable Sahara and North Africa. Hyksos failed to hold on to their Egyptian territories and was absorbed by Egyptian society. This eventually lead to one of Egypt's powerful phases the New Kingdom (1580-1080) with the Eighteenth Dynasty. Egypt became a super power controlling Nubia, Palestine, and exerting political influence on Libyans to the West and the Mediterranean.[26]

As before, the New Kingdom ended with invasion from the west by Libyan princes, the Third Intermediate Period. Beginning with Shoshenq I, the Twenty Second Dynasty was established. They ruled for two centuries.[26]

The New Kingdom would come to an end with the invasion and conquest by Libyan princes. To the south, Nubian independence and strength was being reasserted. This reassertion lead to the conquest of Egypt by Nubia, beginning with Kashta and completed by Piye (Pianhky, 751-730) and Shabaka (716-695), the birth of the Twenty Fifth Dynasty of Egypt. Nubians tried to re-establish Egyptian traditions and customs. They ruled Egypt for a hundred years. This came to an end with Assyrian invasion, with Taharqa experiencing the full might of Assyrian iron weapons. Nubian pharaoh Tantamani was the last of the Twenty Fifth Dynasty.[26]

When the Assyrians and Nubians left, a new Twenty Sixth Dynasty emerged from Saite. They lasted until 525 BC, when again Egypt was invaded by Persians. Unlike the Assyrians, the Persians stayed. In 332 Egypt was conquered by Alexander of Macedon. This was the beginning of the Ptolemaic dynasty, which ended with Roman conquest in 30 BC. Pharaonic Egypt came to an end.[26]


Nubian Empire at its greatest extent

Around 3500 BC, one of the first sacral kingdoms to arise in the Nile was Ta-Seti, located in northern Nubia. Ta-Seti was a powerful sacral kingdom in the Nile Valley at the 1st and 2nd cataract. It commanded influence from other chiefdoms. Based on her pictorial representation, she claimed to have ruled over Upper Egypt. Ta-Seti traded as far as Syro-Palestine and with Egypt. Ta-Seti exported gold, copper, ostrich feathers, ebony, ivory with the Old Kingdom. By the thirty second century Ta-Seti was in decline. With the unification of Egypt by Narmer in 3100 BC, the process was accelerated and the kingdom was given the final blow with the invasion of Pharaoh Hor-Aha of the First Dynasty, destroying the final remnants of the kingdom. Ta-Seti is affiliated with A-Group culture in archaeology.[27]

Small sacral kingdoms continued to dot the Nubian side of the Nile for centuries after the close of 3000 BCE. Around the latter part of the third Millenium, we see further consolidation of sacral kingdoms in Nubia. Two kingdoms emerged, the Sai kingdom, south of Egypt, and Kingdom of Kerma at the third cataract. Sometime around the eighteenth century BCE, the Kingdom of Kerma conquered the Kingdom of Sai, becoming a serious rival to Egypt. The Kingdom of Kerma occupied a territory from the 1st cataract to the confluences of the Blue Nile, White Nile, and River Atbara. About 1575-1550 BCE, the latter part of the 17th Dynasty, the Kingdom of Kerma invaded Egypt and came close to destroying her.[28] The Kingdom of Kerma also allied itself with the Hyksos invasion of Egypt.[29]

Egypt eventually re-energized under the Eigthteenth Dynasty and conquered the Kingdom of Kerma or Kush, ruling for almost 500 years. The Kushites became Egyptianize during this period. By 1100 BCE Egyptians withdrew from Kush. The region regain independence and reasserted its culture. Kush built a new religion around Amun and made Napata her spiritual center. By 730 BCE the Kingdom of Kush invaded Egypt by taking over Thebes, the beginning of the Nubian Empire. The empire extended from Palestine to the confluences of the Blue Nile, White Nile, and River Atbara.[30]

In 760 BCE, the Kushite were thrown out of Egypt by iron wielding Assyrians. Later the administrative capital was moved from Napata to Meröe, developing into a new Nubian culture. Initially Meroites were highly Egyptianized, but began to take on distinct features. Nubia then became a center of iron making and cotton cloth manufacturing. Egyptian writing was replaced by an alphabetic based Meroitic alphabet. Lion god Apedemak was added to the Egyptian pantheon of gods. Trade links to the Red Sea increased.linking it with the Mediterranean Greece and Rome. Its architecture and art became more unique with pictures of lions, ostrich, giraffe, and elephants. Eventually with the rise of Aksum its trade links were broken and environmental degradation from cutting trees to manufacture iron cause it to be weakened. In 350 CE, Aksumite king Ezana brought Meröe to an end.[31]


Carthaginian Empire

The Egyptians referred to the people west of the Nile as Libyans. who were ancestral to the Berbers. Berbers were agriculturalists like the Mauri of Morocco and the Numidians of central and eastern Algeria and Tunis. They were also nomadic and occupied the arid pastures and dessert, like the Gaetuli. They also adopted the horse. Berber desert nomads were typically in conflict with berber coastal agriculturalist.[32] Phoenicians were the seamen of the Mediterranean. They were in constant search for valuable metals like copper, gold, tin, and lead. Soon they began to populate the North African coast with settlements, trading and mixing with the native Berber population. By 814 BCE, Phoenicians from Tyre established the city of Carthage. By 600 BC, Carthage became a major trading entity and power in the Mediterranean, largely due to items from trade with tropical Africa. Carthage's prosperity fostered the growth of Berber kingdoms, Numidia and Mauretania. Around 500 BC, she provided a strong impetus for trade with sub-Saharan Africa. Berber middlemen, who maintained contacts with sub-Saharan Africa since the dessert dessicated, utilized pack animals, transferred products from oasis to oasis. Danger lurked from Garamantes from Fez, who raided caravans. Salt and metal goods were traded for gold, slaves, beads, and ivory.[33]

Carthaginians were rivals to the Greeks and Romans. Carthage fought three wars with Rome: the First Punic War (264 to 241 BC) was over Sicily; in the Second Punic War (218 BC to 201 BC) Hannibal invaded Europe; and the Third Punic War (149 B.C to 146 B.C). In the first two wars, Carthage lost, and in the Third Punic War, she was destroyed and became the Roman province of Africa with the Berber Kingdom of Numidia assisting Rome. The Roman province of Africa became a major agricultural supplier of wheat, olives, and olive oil to imperial Rome, via exhorbitant taxation. Two centuries later, Rome brought Berber kingdoms Numidia and Mauretania under its authority. In the 420s CE, Vandals invaded North Africa and Rome lost her territories. Berber kingdoms regain their independence.[34]

Christianity gain foot in Africa via Alexandria, Egypt, in the first century CE and spread to northwest Africa. By 313 CE, with the Edict of Milan, all of Roman North Africa was Christian. Egyptians adopted monophysite Christianity and formed the independent Coptic Church. Berbers adopted Donatist Christianity, and both refused to accept the authority of the Roman Church. By 642 CE, Arab muslims conquered Byzantium Egypt and by 711 CE conquered all of North Africa. By the tenth century, a majority population of North Africa had become muslims.[35]


Ruins of Qa’ableh, an early center of Somali civilization.

In antiquity, the ancestors of the Somali people were an important link in the Horn of Africa connecting the region's commerce with the rest of the ancient world. Somali sailors and merchants were the main suppliers of frankincense, myrrh and spices, items which were considered valuable luxuries by the Ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians, Mycenaeans and Babylonians.[36][37]

In the classical era, several ancient city-states such as Opone, Mosyllon and Malao that competed with the Sabaeans, Parthians and Axumites for the wealthy Indo-Greco-Roman trade also flourished in Somalia.[38]

The birth of Islam on the opposite side of Somalia's Red Sea coast meant that Somali merchants and sailors living in the Arabian Peninsula gradually came under the influence of the new religion through their converted Arab Muslim trading partners. With the migration of fleeing Muslim families from the Islamic world to Somalia in the early centuries of Islam and the peaceful conversion of the Somali population by Somali Muslim scholars in the following centuries, the ancient city-states eventually transformed into Islamic Mogadishu, Berbera, Zeila, Barawa and Merka, which were part of the Berberi civilization. The city of Mogadishu came to be known as the City of Islam,[39] and controlled the East African gold trade for several centuries.[40]


Aksum obelisk, symbol of the Aksumite civilization
Aksumite Empire

The earliest state of northern Ethiopia and Eritrea was D'mt, dated around the 8th and 7th century BCE. D'mt traded on the Red Sea with Egypt and the Mediterranean, providing frankincense. By the fifth and third century D'mt declined and several successor states took its place. Later we see greater trade with southern Arabia, mainly with the port of Saba. Adulis became an important port in the Ethiopian highland. The interaction of both region, southern Arabia Sabaeans and northern Ethiopians, resulted in the Ge'ez culture and language and eventual development of the Ge'ez script. Trade links iincreased and expanded from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean with Egypt, Greece, Rome, Black Sea to Persia, India, and China. She was known throughout those lands. By the 5th century BCE the region was very prosperous exporting ivory, hippo hide, gold dust, spices, and live elephants. They imported silver, gold, olive oil, and wine. Aksum manufactured glass crystal, brass, and copper for export. A powerful Aksum emerges unifying parts of eastern Sudan, northern Ethiopia(Tigre), and Eritrea. Her kings built stone palatial buildings and buried kings under megalithic monuments. By 300 CE Aksum was minting her own coins in silver, gold.[41]

In 331 AD, King Ezana(320-350 AD) converted to monophysite Christianity supposedly by Frumentius and Aedesius, who were stranded on the Red Sea coast, some scholars believed the process was more complex and gradual than a simple conversion. Around 350, the time Ezana sacked Meroe, the Syrian monastic tradition took root in the Ethiopian church.[42]

In the 6th century, Aksum was powerful enough to add Saba on the Arabian peninsula to her empire. Her Persian rival, at the end of the 6th century pushed Aksum out of peninsula. With the spread of Islam into northern Afica and western Asia, her trading networks in the Mediterranean closed. The Red Sea trade diminished due to trade being diverted to the Persian Gulf and dominated by Arabs. All lessened trade caused Aksum to decline. By 800 CE, the capital was moved south, more into the interior highlands and a much diminished Aksum.[43]

West Africa and Bantu Expansion

Nok sculpture, terracotta, Louvre
1 = 3000 - 1500 BC origin
2 = ca.1500 BC first migrations
     2.a = Eastern Bantu,  2.b = Western Bantu
3 = 1000 - 500 BC Urewe nucleus of Eastern Bantu
4 - 7 = southward advance
9 = 500 BC - 0 Congo nucleus
10 = 0 - 1000 AD last phase[44]

In the western Sahel (shore) we see the rise of settled communities largely due to the domestication of millet and sorghum. Archaeology points to sizable urban population in West Africa beginning in the 2nd millenium BCE. Symbiotic trade relations developed before the trans-saharan trade, due to the north-south eco-system of desert, grassland, and forest. The salt starved agriculturist received salt from the desert nomads. The protein starved desert nomads acquired meat and food-stuff from pastoralist and farmers of the grassland and fishermen from the Niger river. The forest dwellers provided furs and meat. [45]

Tichitt(Dhar Tichitt) was prominent among the early urban dwellers, dated 2000 BCE, in present day Mauritania and more southern Walata(.Oualata). About 500 hundred stone settlements litter the region in what was once a rainier Sahara. Its inhabitants fished and grew millet. Around 300 BCE the region became more dessicated and the settlements began to decline, most likely relocating to Koumbi Saleh. From the type of architecture and pottery it is believed that Tichitt was the earliest manifestation of the Ghana Empire. Old Jenne(Djenne) began to be settled around 300 BCE, producing iron and with sizable population based on crowded cemeteries. Living structures were made of sun dried mud. By 250 BCE, Jenne was a large thriving market town.[46][47]

Farther south in central Nigeria, around 1000 BCE, Nok culture developed in Jos Plateau, Nigeria. It was a highly centralized community. The culture produced miniature life-like structures of terracota, human heads, elephants, and other animals. By 500 BCE they were smelting iron. By 200 CE, the culture vanished. Based on similar stylistic representation of Nok terracota, Ife and Benin bronze figurines are believed to be continuation of the tradition.[48]

The Bantu expansion was a critical movement of people in African history and the populating of the continent. Bantu is a member of the Niger-Congo family. Bantu comes from the root word ntu, which means people. The expansion began in the 2nd millennium BCE, from Cameroon. Its first thrust was westward to the Great Lakes region in the 2nd millennium BCE. In the 1st millennium BCE, from the Great Lakes to Southern and East Africa. The earliest expansion was southern to the Upper Zambezi Valley in the 2nd century BCE. Then, the culture pushed westward to the savannahs of present day Angola and eastward into Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe in the first century of the Christian Era. The second thrust from the Great Lakes was eastward, 2,000 years ago, expanding to the Indian Ocean coast and Tanzania. The eastern group eventually bumped into the southern migrants from the Great Lakes in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Both group continued southward with eastern group continuing to Mozambique and reaching Maputo in the 2nd century CE and reaching as far as Durban. By the latter 1st millennium CE, the expansion reached the Great Kei River of South Africa. Sorghum, a major Bantu crop could not thrive in the winter rainfalls of Namibia and western Cape. Khoekhoe inhabited the rest of the continent. The Bantu expansion may appear simple but it was complex, gradual, and not simply linear in detail.[49]


North Africa

Maghreb (the West)

Almohad Empire, c. 1200.

By the ninth century CE, the unity that brought about the expansion of islamic culture and conquest of North Africa, soon came to an end. Conflict arose as to who should be the succesor of the prophet. The Ummayad initially took control of the Caliphate, with its capital at Damascus. Later, the Abbasid took control, moving the capital to Baghdad.Being true to their independent spirit and hostile to outside interference in Berber affairs, Arab exclusivity in orthodox Islam, Berbers adopted Shi'ite and Kharijite Islam, both considered unorthodox and hostile to the authority of the Baghdad Caliphate. Numerous Kharijite kingdoms came and fell during the 8th and 9th century, asserting independence from Baghdad. In the Early 10th century, Shi'ite groups from Syria, claiming descent from Muhammad's daughter Fatima, founded the Fatimid Dynasty in the Maghreb. By 950 CE, they had conquered all of the Maghreb, and by 969 all of Egypt. They immediately broke away from Baghdad.[50]

In an attempt to bring about a purer form of Islam among the Sanhaja Berbers, Abdallah ibn Yassin founded the Almoravid movement in present day Mauritania and Western Sahara. The Sanhaja Berbers like the Soninke practiced indigenous religion along-side Islam. Abdallah ibn Yassin found ready converts in the Lamtuna Sanhaja, who were dominated by the Soninke in the south and the Zenata Berbers in the north. By the 1040s, all of the Lamtuna was converted to the Almoravid movement. With the help of Yahya ibn Umar and brother Abu-Bakr, the sons of Lamtuna chief, the Almoravids created an empire extending from the Sahel to the Mediterranean. After the death of Abdallah ibn Yassin and Yahya ibn Umar, Abu-Bakr split the empire in half, between him and Yusuf ibn Tashfin, because it was too big to be ruled by one individual. Abu-Bakr took the south to continue fighting the Soninke, and Yusuf ibn Tashfin took the north, expanding it to southern Spain. The death of Abu-Bakr in 1087 saw a breakdown of unity and increase military disertion in the south. This caused a re-expansion of the Soninke. The Almoravids were once credited for bringing down the Ghana Empire in 1076. This is no longer viewed as fact.[51]

During the 10th and 13th century, we have the movement of bedouins out of the Arabian Peninsula. About 1050, a quarter of a million Arab Nomads from Egypt moved into the Maghreb. Those taking the northern coast were referred to as Banu Hilal. Those going south of the Atlas Mountains, Banu Sulaym. This movement spread the use of the Arabic language and hasten the decline of the Berber language and arabisation process of North Africa. Later an Arabise Berber group, the Hawwara via Egypt went south to Nubia.[52]

In the 1140s, Abd al-Mu'min declared Jihad on the Almoravids for decadence and corruption. He united the northern Berbers against the Almoravids, overthrowing them and forming the Almohad empire. During this period the Maghreb became thoroughly islamised, and we see the spread of literacy, also the development of algebra, the use of the number 0, and decimals. By the 13th century, the Almohad state split into three rival states. Muslim were thrown out from Spain by the Christian Kingdom of Castile, Aragon, and Portugal. Around 1415, Portugal engaged in a Reconquista of North Africa by capturing Ceuta, and in later centuries Spain and Portugal acquired other ports on the North African coast. In 1492, Spain defeated Muslims in Granada, effectively ending 8 centuries of muslim domination in southern Iberia.[53]

Portugal and Spain, then took the ports of Tangiers, Algiers, Tripoli, and Tunis. This action put them in direct competition with the Ottoman Empire, which re-took the ports using Turkish corsairs(pirates and privateers). The Turkish corsairs would use the ports for raiding Christian ships, a major source of booty for the towns. Technically, North Africa was under the control of the Ottoman Empire, but only the coastal towns were fully under Istanbul's control. Tripoli benefited from trade with Borno. The pashas of Tripoli traded horses, firearms, and armor via Fez with the sultans of Borno for slaves.[54]

In the sixteenth century, an Arab nomad tribe, claiming descent from Muhammad's daughter, the Saadis conquered and united Morocco. They prevented the Ottoman Empire from extending to the western Mediterranean and expelled Portugal from its atlantic coast. Ahmad al-Mansur brought the state to the height of its power. He invaded Songhay in 1591, to control the gold trade, which was diverted to the western coast of Africa for European ships and to the east, Tunis. Its hold on Songhay diminished in the seventeenth century. In 1603, after Ahmad's death, the kingdom split into two sultanates of Fes and Marrakesh. Later it was re-united by Moulay al-Rashid, founder of the Alaouite Dynasty(1672-1727). His brother and successor, Ismail Ibn Sharif(1672-1727) strengthen the unity of the country by importing slaves from the Sudan to build up the military. [55]


Fatimid Caliphate

Fatimid Egypt was a prosperous time. Dams and canals were repaired. Wheat, barley, flax, and cotton production increased. Egypt became a major producer of linen and cotton cloth. Its mediterranean and Red Sea trade increased. She also printed a gold currency called the Fatimid Dinar, which was used for international trade. The bulk of revenues came from taxing the fellahin(peasant) farmers. Taxes were high and exorbitant. Tax collecting was leased to Berber overlords, who were soldiers involve in the Fatimid take over in 969 CE. They paid a share to the caliphs and retain what was left. Eventually they became landlords, a settled land aristorcracy.[56]

To keep military ranks, Mamluk turkish slave cavalry and Sudanese slave infantry were used for the military. Berber freemen were recruited. In 1150s, tax revenues from farms diminished. Solders revolted and wrecked havoc in the countryside, slowed trade, and diminished the Fatimid caliphs.[57]

During the 1160s, Fatimid Egypt came under threat from European crusaders. Out of this threat, a General named Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb(Saladin), from Kurdistan, and a small band of professional soldiers emerged as distinguish defender. Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb defeated the Christian crusaders at Egypt's borders and took Jerusalem in 1187. On the death of the Fatimid caliph, in 1171, Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb was made ruler of Egypt, ushering in the Ayyubid Dynasty. Under Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb , Egypt went back to Sunni Islam, Cairo became an important center of Arab islamic learning, and recruiting Mamluk slaves for military service was increase from Turkey and southern Russia . Service was tied to the iqta, a form of land taxation in which soldiers were given ownership for military service. [58]

Over time, Mamluk slave soldiers became a very powerful land aristocracy, to the point of getting rid of the Ayyubid caliph in 1250, and establishing a Mamluk dynasty. The more powerful Mamluks were referred to as amirs. For 250 years, Mamluks controlled all of Egypt under a military dictatorship. Egypt extended her territories to Syria and Palestine, thwarted the Fourth Crusaders, and halted Mongol invasion in 1260, at the Battle of Ain Jalut. She came to be viewed as a protector of Islam, Medina, and Mecca. Eventually the iqta system declined and proved unreliable for military service. Mamluks started viewing their iqta as hereditary and became attuned to urban living. Farm production came to a halt. Dams and canal lapse into disrepair. Mamluk military skill and technology did not keep pace with new technology of hand-guns and cannons. The military was outdated.[59]

With the rise of the Ottoman Empire, Egypt was easily defeated. In 1517, Egypt became part of the Ottoman empire. Istanbul revived the iqta system. Trade was re-established with the Red Sea, but could completely connect with Indian Ocean trade due to growing Portuguese prescence. During the 1600s and 1700s, hereditary Mamluks eventually regain power. The powerful ones were referred to as beys. Viceroys, called pashas, represented the Istanbul government in name only, and operated independently. During the 1700s, they established pasha dynasties. The government proved to be weak and open to corruption.[60]

In 1798, Napoleon invaded Egypt. The region was powerless to do anything. With the help of Britain, the Ottoman Empire was able remove French occupation in 1801. French occupation marked the beginning of Anglo-Franco rivalry over Egypt, extending into the 19th century.[61]

Horn of Africa


The Citadel of Gondershe, Somalia was an important city in the medieval Somali Ajuuraan Empire.

During this period, the sultanates and republics of Merca, Mogadishu, Barawa, Hobyo and their respective ports flourished and had a lucrative foreign commerce with ships sailing to and coming from Arabia, India, Venetia,[62] Persia, Egypt, Portugal and as far away as China. Vasco da Gama, who passed by Mogadishu in the 15th century, noted that it was a large city with houses of four or five storeys high and big palaces in its centre in addition to many mosques with cylindrical minarets.[63]

In the 1500s, Duarte Barbosa noted that many ships from the Kingdom of Cambaya in modern-day India sailed to Mogadishu with cloth and spices, for which they in return received gold, wax and ivory. Barbosa also highlighted the abundance of meat, wheat, barley, horses, and fruit on the coastal markets, which generated enormous wealth for the merchants.[64] Mogadishu, the center of a thriving weaving industry known as toob benadir (specialized for the markets in Egypt and Syria[65]), together with Merca and Barawa, also served as a transit stop for Swahili merchants from Mombasa and Malindi and for the gold trade from Kilwa.[66] Jewish merchants from the Hormuz brought their Indian textile and fruit to the Somali coast in exchange for grain and wood.[67]

Trading relations were established with Malacca in the 15th century[68] with cloth, ambergris and porcelain being the main commodities of the trade.[69] Giraffes, zebras and incense were exported to the Ming Empire of China, which established Somali merchants as leaders in the commerce between the Asia and Africa[70] and influenced the Chinese language with the Somali language in the process. Hindu merchants from Surat and Southeast African merchants from Pate, seeking to bypass both the Portuguese blockade and Omani meddling, used the Somali ports of Merca and Barawa (which were out of the two powers' jurisdiction) to conduct their trade in safety and without interference.[71]

East Africa

Christian and Islamic Nubia

After Ezana sacked Meroe, the Ballana people moved into the Nubia from the southwest and founded three kingdoms Makuria, Nobadia, and Alodia. They would rule for 200 years. Makuria was along the third cataract, along the Dongola Reach with its capital Dongola,Nobadia was to the north with its capital at Faras, and Alodia to the south with its capital Soba. Makuria would eventually absorb Nobadia. The region converted to monophysite Christianity around 500 to 600 CE. The church initially started writing in Coptic, then Greek, and then Old Nubian, a Nilo-Saharan language. The church was aligned with the Egyptian Coptic Church.[72][73]

By 641, Egypt was conquered by muslim Arabs. This effectively blocked Christian Nubia and Aksum from Mediterranean Christendom. In 651-652, Arabs from Egypt invaded Christian Nubia. Nubian archers soundly defeated the invaders. The Baqt Treaty(bakt) was drawn, recognizing Christian Nubia and regulating trade. The Baqt Treaty controlled relations for almost six centuries between Christian Nubia and Islamic Egypt.[74]

By the 1200s, Christian Nubia began her decline. The authority of the monarchy was diminished by the church and nobility. Arab Bedouin tribes began to infiltrate Nubia, causing further havoc. Fuquras(holy men) practicing sufism introduced Islam into Nubia. By 1366, Nubia had digress into petty fiefdoms when she was invaded by Mamelukes. During the 1400s, Arab immigration was openned in Nubia. (Juhayna Arab nomads) intermingled with the population and introduced the Arabic culture and language in Nubia. By the 1500s, Makuria, and Nobadia had been islamized. During the 1500s, Adallah Jamma headed an Arab confederation that destroyed Soba, capital of Alodia, the last Christian Nubian hold out. Later Alodia would fall under the Funj Sultanate.[75]

During the 1400s, Funj herders migrated up north to Alodia and occupied her. Between 1504-1505, the kingdom expanded reaching its peak, establishing its capital at Sennar, under Badi II Abu Daqn(c. 1644-1680). By end of the 16th century, they converted to Islam. They pushed their empire westward to Kordofan. They expanded eastward but was halted by Ethiopia.They controlled Nubia up the 3rd Cataract. The economy depended on captured enemies for the army and merchants going through Sennar. Under Badu IV(1724-1762), the army turned on the king, making him nothing but a figurehead. In 1821, the Funj were conquered by Muhammad Ali(1805-1849), pasha of Egypt.[76][77]


Historically, the Swahili could be found as far north as northern Kenya, and as far south as Rovuma River in Mozambique. Although once believed to be the descendants of Persian colonists or migrants, the ancient Swahili are now recognized by most historians, historical linguists, and archaeologists as a Bantu people who had sustained and important interactions with Muslim merchants beginning in the late 7th and early 8th century AD. Middle Age Swahili Kingdoms are known to have had trade port islands and trade routes[78] with the Islamic world and Asia and were described by Greek historians as "metropolises".[79] Famous African trade ports such as Mombasa, Zanzibar, and Kilwa[80] were known to Chinese sailors such as Zheng He and medieval Islamic historians such as the Berber Islamic voyager Abu Abdullah ibn Battua.[81]

West Africa

Sahelian empires & states

Ghana at its greatest extent

By the 4th century, the Ghana Empire was an established Kingdom, founded among the soninke by Dinge Cisse. Ghana is first mentioned by Arab geographer Al-Farazi in the 8th century CE. Ghana was comprise of urban dwellers and rural farmers. Urban dwellers were the administrators of the empire, who were muslims and the ghana(king), who practiced traditional religion. Two towns existed, one where the muslim administrators and Berber-Arabs lived and connected to a stoned laid road where the king lived. The rural dwellers lived in villages, comprising of other villages into broader polities, who pledged loyalty to the ghana. The ghana was viewed as divine, his physical well-being reflected on the whole society. Ghana converted to islam around 1050, after conquering Awdaghust.[82].

The Ghana Empire grew wealthy by taxing the trans-saharan trade, originating from Tahert to Sijilmasa and southward to Awdaghust. She controlled access to the goldfields of Bambuk, southeast of Kumbi Saleh. A percentage of salt and gold going through her territory was taken. The empire was not involved in production. [83]

By the 11th century, Ghana was on the decline. It was once thought that the sacking of Koumbi Saleh by Almoravid Berbers in 1076, was the cause. This is no longer accepted. Numerous other reasons are cited. One important reason is the transfer of the gold trade east to the Niger River along the Taghaza Trail, economic deteriation. Another reason cited, political instability through rivalry among the different hereditary polities.[84]

The empire came to an end in 1230, when the Takrur from northern Senegal took over the capital.[85][86]

Mali Empire at its greatest extent

The Mali Empire began in the 1200s, when a Mande(Mandingo), Sundiata(Lord Lion) of the Keita Clan defeated Soumaoro Kanté, a Sosso or southern Soninke at the Battle of Kirina. Sundiata continued his conquest from the fertile forest and fertile Niger Valley, east to the Niger Bend, north to the Sahara, and west to the Atlantic Ocean, absorbing the remains of the Ghana Empire. Sundiata took on the title of mansa. He establish the capital of his empire at Niani.[87]

Although, the salt and gold trade continued to be important to the Mali Empire, agriculture and pastoralism was also critical. The growing of sorghum, millet, and rice was vital function. On the northern borders of the Sahel grazing cattle, sheep, goats, and camels were major activities. Mande society was organize around the village and land. A cluster of villages was called a kafu, ruled by a farma. The farma paid tribute to the mansa. A dedicated army of elite cavalry and infantry maintained order, commanded by the royal court. A formidable force could be raised from tributary regions, if necessary.[88]

Conversion to Islam was a gradual process. The power of the mansa depended on upholding traditional beliefs and a spiritual foundation of power. Sundiata initially kept Islam at bay. Future mansas would be devout muslims but still took part and acknowledged traditional deities, rituals, and festivals, important to the Mande. Islam became a court religion under his son Mansa Uli(1225-1270). Mansa Uli took a pilgrimage to Mecca, establishing recognition from the Muslim world. The court was staffed with literate Muslims as secretaries and accountants. Muslim writer, Ibn Battuta left vivid descriptions of the empire.[89]

Mali reached the peak of her power and expansion in the 1300s, when Mansa Musa(1312-1337) took his famous hajj to Mecca, with 500 slaves each holding a bar of gold, worth 500 mitqals.[90]. Mansa Musa's hajj devalued gold in Mameluke Egypt for a decade. He made an impression on the minds of the Muslim and European world, that was mythical in proportion. He invited scholars and architects like Ishal al-Tuedjin(al-Sahili), to further integrate Mali into the Islamic world.[91]

During the Mali Empire, we see the expansion of learning and literacy. In 1285, a mansa named Sundiata and freed slave Sakura usurped the throne. This mansa drove the Tuaregs out of Timbuktu, and established it as a center of learning and commerce. The book trade increased and book copying became a very respectable and profitable profession. Timbuktu and Djenne became respectable centers of learning throughout the Muslim world.[92].

After the reign of Mansa Sulayman(1341-1360), Mali began her spiral downward. Mossi cavalry raided the southern exposed border. Tuaregs harassed the northern border, in order to retake Timbuktu. Fulani(Fulbe) eroded Mali's authority in the west by establing the independent kingdom of Futa Toro, a succesor to the kingdom of Takrur. Serer and Wolof alliances were broken. In 1545-1546, Songhai took Niani. After 1599, the empire lost the Bambuk goldfields and disintegrated into petty polities.[93]

The Songhai Empire, c. 1500

The Songhai were descended, from Sorko fishermen in the Middle Niger. They established their capital at Kukiya in the 9th century and Gao in 12th century.The Songhai spoke a Nilo-Saharan language.[94]

Sonni Ali, a Songhai, began his conquest by capturing Timbuktu in 1468 from the Tuaregs. He pushed the empire north, deep into the desert, push the Mossi further south of the Niger, and went southwest into Djenne. Sonni Ali's army was comprised of cavalry and a fleet of canoes. Sonni Ali was not a muslim. He was portrayed negatively by Berber-Arab scholars, especiall for attacking muslim Timbucktu. At his death in 1492, his heirs were disposed by Muhammad Ture, a muslim of Soninke origins.[95]

Muhammad Ture(1493-1528) founded the Askiya Dynasty, askiya being the title of the king. He consolidated the conquest of Sonni Ali. Islam was used to extend his authority by declaring Jihad on the Mossi, reviving the trans-saharan trade, and having the caliph of Cairo declare him as caliph of Sudan. He establish Timbuktu as a great center of islamic learning. Askiya expanded the empire by pushing the Tuareg north, capturing Air.in the east, and capturing salt producing Taghaza. He brought the Hausa States into the Songhay trading network. He further centralized the administration of the empire by selecting administrator from loyal servants and families, assigning them to conquered territories. They were responsible for raising local militia. Centralization made Songhay very stable even during dynastic disputes. Leo Africanus left vivid descriptions of the empire under Askiya Muhammad. Askiya Muhammad was deposed by his son in 1528. After much rivalry, Muhammad Ture's last son Askiya Dawud(1529-1582) assumed the throne.[96]

In 1591, Morocco invaded the empire, under the Saadi Dynasty of Ahmad al-Mansur, to secure the goldfields of the Sahel. At the Battle of Tondibi. the Songhay army fell. The Moroccan secured Djenne, Gao, and Timbuktu, where they fell back. They were unable to secure the whole region. Askiya Nuhu and the Songhay army regrouped at Dendi, the heart of Songhay, where a spirited guerrilla resistance sapped the resources of the Morrocans, who were reliant on constant supply from the Moroccan kingdom. Songhay split into several states during the 1600s. Morocco found their venture not profitable. The gold trade had been diverted to the coast with Europeans. Most of the trans-saharan trade was now diverted east to Kanem-Bornu Expensive equipments purchased with gold had to be sent across the Sahara, an unsustenable scenario. The Moroccans who remained married into the population and were referred to as [[Arma]] /[[Ruma]]. They would established themselves at Timbuktu, as a military caste over various fiefs, independent from Morocco. Amid the chaos other groups began to assert themselves, Fulanis of Futa Toro, encroached west. The Bambara, one of the states that broke from Songhay, sacked Gao. The Tuaregs in 1737, massacred the [[Arma]] /[[Ruma]]..[97].[98]

Kanem-Bornu (Kanembu)
The farthest extent of the medieval Kanem-Bornu state.

Around the 800s, we see the rise the of the cenral Sudanic Empire of Kanem, with its capital at Njimi, founded by the Kanuri speaking nomads. Kanem arose by engaging in the trans-saharan trade. Kanem provided slaves for the horses of North Africa. Slaves were captured by raiding the south. Horses made the enterprise more effective. By the latter part of the 1000s, the islamic Sayfawa Dynasty(Saifawa Dynasty) was founded by Humai ibn Salamna(Hummay). The Sayfawa Dynasty ruled for 771 years, the longest reign in human history.[99]Taxation of local farms around Kanem became another source of state income. Kanem reached its peak under Mai(king) Dunama Dibalemi ibn Salma(1210-1248). The empire had a cavalry of 40,000. The empire extended from Fezzan north to the So state. Islam became firmly entrenched in the empire. Pilgrimmage to Mecca was a common occurences. Cairo had hostels set aside for pilgrims from Kanem.[100][101]

In about 1400s, the Sayfawa Dynasty moved the capital to Borno(BOO), a tributary state southwest of Lake Chad with a new capital Birni Garzagamu. Overgrazing caused the pastures of Kanem to become too dry. In addition, political rivalry from the Bulala clan was becoming intense. Moving to Bornu would better situate the empire to exploit the trans-saharan trade, widen its network in the trade. Links to Hausa states would be establish, providing horses and salt from Bilma for Akan gold.[102] Mai Ali Gaji ibn Dunama(c. 1475-1503) defeated the Bulala establishing complete control of Kanem.[103]

During the early 1500s, the Sayfawa Dynasty solidify its hold on the Borno population after much rebellion. In the latter half of the 1500s, Mai Idris Aloma modernized its military, unlike the Songhay Empire. Turkish mercenaries were used to train the military. The Sayfawa Dynasty were the first monarchs south of the Sahara to import firearms.[104] The empire controll all of the Sahel from the borders of Darfur in the east to Hausaland to the west. Friendly relationship was establish with the Ottoman Empire via Tripoli. The Mai exchanged gifts with the sultan of the Ottoman Empire.[105]

During the 1600s and 1700s, not much is known about Borno. During the 1700s, she became a center of islamic learning.Her army became outdated, by not importing new arms.[106]. We also see the beginning decline of Kanembu. Droughts and famine became more intense, internal rebellion from the pastoralist north, growing Hausa power, and the importation of firearms which made warfare bloody all undermined the power of the mai. By 1841, the last mai was deposed, bringing to an end of almost a thousand years of the Sayfawa Dynasty.[107]

Sokoto Caliphate

The Fulanis were migratory people. They moved from Mauritania and settled in Futa Toro, Futa Djallon , later to the rest of West Africa. During the 1500s, they had established themselves in Macina, southern Mali. By the 1300s, they had converted to Islam. During the 1670s, they declared jihads on non-muslims. Several states were formed from these jihadist war: Futa Toro, Futa Djallon, Macina, Wali, and Bundu. The most important of these empires was the Sokoto Caliphate or Fulani Empire. In the city of Gobir, Usman dan Fodio(1754-1817) accused the Hausa leadership of practicing impure Islam and of being morally corrupt. In 1804, he declared jihad with a population restless against high taxes and with leadership. Jihad fever swept northern Nigeria, with a strong Fulani and Hausa following. Usman created an empire that included northern Nigeria, Benin, and Cameroon, with Sokoto as its capital. He retired to teach and write and handed the empire to his son Muhammad Bello. The Sokoto Caliphate lasted until 1903 when the British conquered northern Nigeria.[108]

Forest empires & states

Oyo Empire and surrounding states, c. 1625.

The Yoruba of old viewed themselves as people of a united empire, unlike today to refer to a cultural linguistic designation of the Kwa, Niger-Congo sub-family. The name comes from a Hausa word to refer to the Oyo Empire. The first Yoruba state was Il-Ife, founded around 1000 CE, founded by the first Oni Oduduwa. Oduduwa's sons would be the founders of the different city states of the Yorubas and his daughters the mothers of the various Yoruba obas. Yoruba city states usually consisted of an oba and a iwarefa, a council of chief who advised the oba. By the 1700s, the Yoruba city states formed a loose confederation, with the Oni of Ife as the head Yoruba and Ife as the capital. As time went on the individual city states became more powerful with its oba, assuming more powerful spiritual position, diluting the authority of the Oni of Ife. Rivalry became intense among the city states.[109]

In the 16th century, we see the rise of the Oyo Empire. The Oyo State, in 1550, were conquered by the kingdom of Nupe, who were in possession of cavalry, a tactical advantage. The alafin(king) of Oyo was sent into exile. In returning, Alafin Orompoto(c. 1560-1580) built up an army based on heavily armed cavalry and long service troops. This made them invincible in combat at the northern grassland and the thinly wooded forest. By the end of the 16th century, they added the western region of the Niger to the hills of Togo, the Yoruba of Ketu, Dahomey, and the Fon nation. A governing council served the empire, with clear executive divisions. Each acquired region, was assigned a local administrator. Families served in king making capacities. Oyo, as a northern Yoruba kingdom served as middle men between north south trade, connecting eastern forest of Guinea with the western and central Sudan, the Sahara and North Africa.They manufactured cloth, ironware, and pottery for salt, leather, and most important horses from the Sudan to maintain her cavalry. She remained strong for two hundred years. [110][111] It became a protectorate of Great Britain in 1888 before further fragmenting into warring factions. The Oyo state ceased to exist as any sort of power 1896.[112]

"Benin Bronze"(brass)

Southwest of the Yoruba and on the western fringe of the Niger delta are the Kwa Niger-Congo speaking Edo people. Legend has it, that political development of the Edo people began, when the population got tired of their king and requested from the Ife Oni Oduduwa, one of his son as ruler. Prince Oranmiyan was selected. By the mid 1400s, Benin was engage in political expansion and consolidation. Under Oba(king) Ewuare(c. 1450-1480), the state was organize for conquest. He solidified central authority and initiated 30 years of war with his neighbors. At his death, the Benin Empire, extended to Dahomey in the west to the Niger Delta in the east, along the west African coast, and Yoruba towns in the north. His grandson, Oba Esigie(1504-1550), eroded the power of the uzama(state council) and increase contact and trade with Europeans, especially with the Portuguese, who provided a new source of copper for court art.

The oba ruled with the advice from the uzama, council consisting of chiefs of powerful families and town chiefs of different guilds. Later its authority would be diminished by the establishment of administrative dignitaries. Women wielded power. The Queen Mother who produce the future oba yielded immense influence. [113]

Benin's expansion ended around the 1500's and cease being a major exporter of slaves, until the 1700s, when it was wracked with dynastic disputes and civil wars. After the 1500s, Benin mainly exported pepper, ivory,gum, and cotton cloth to the Portuguese, who resold it to other Africans societies on the coast. In 1897, the British sacked the city.[114]

Ashanti Kente cloth patterns

The origins of the Ashante remains unclear. They spoke a Twi language part of the Akan group of the Kwa sub-family of the Niger-Congo. When and how they got to their present location is debatable. What is known, by the 17th century Akan people were established north of Lake Bosomtwi, trading in gold and kola nuts, clearing forest for planting yams. They built towns between the Pra and Ofin River. They formed alliances for defense and paid tribute to Denkyira. During the 16th century, Ashante society experience sudden change, increase population growth due to the cultivation of new world plants such as cassava and maize, and increase trade in gold from the coast, in addition to the north. [115]

By the 17th century, Osei Tutu (c. 1695-1717) with help of Okomfo(priest) Anokye, unified the Ashante under a confederation, with the golden stool as symbol of their oneness and spirit. Osei Tutu engaged in a massive territorial expansion. He built up the Ashante army based on the Akan state of Akwamu, introducing new organization, turning a discipline militia into and effective fighting machine. In 1701, they conquered Denkyira, giving them acces to the coastal trade with Europeans, especially the Dutch. In 1717, the year Osei died, the Akan state of Akim fell, ally of Denkyira, The Ashante Empire would encompass present Ghana and most of Ivory Coast.[116]

Opoku Ware(1720-1745) would egage in further expansion adding southern Akan states of Sefwi, Akwapim, allied with a revived Denkyira and Akim. He turned north adding Tekyimman, Banda, Gyaaman, and Gonja, states of the Black Volta. Between1744-1745, Asantehene Opoku attacked the powerful northern state of Dogoma, gaining control of the important middle Niger trade routes. Kusi Obodom(1750-1764) succeeded Opoku. He solidified all won territories. Osei Kwadwo(1777-1803) impose administrative reforms that allowed the empire to be governed effectively and continued military expansion. Osei Kwame(1777-1803) and Osei Bonsu or Tutu Kwame(1777-1803) continued territorial solidification and expansion. The Ashante Empire included all of present day Ghana and large parts of Ivory Coast.[117]

The ashantehene inherited his position from his mother. He was assisted at the capital, Kumasi, by a civil service of talented men in trade, diplomacy, and military, with a head called the Gyaasehene." Men Arabia, Sudan, and Europeans were utilize in the civil service. All appointed by Asantehene. At the capital and other towns, the ankobia or special police were used as bodyguards to the asantehene, sources of intelligence, and to crush rebellion. Communication throughout the empire was maintained via a network of well kept roads from the shore to the middle Niger and other trade cities.[118][119]

For most of the 19th century, Ashante remained strong and powerful. She was later destroyed in 1900, by British superior weaponry and organization, having fought three other wars with the British, in the Anglo-Ashanti wars.[120]


The Dahomey Kingdom was founded in the early 1600s, when the Aja people of the Allada Kingdom, moved northward and settled among the Fon. They began to assert their authority a few years later. In so doing they established the Kingdom of Dahomey, with the capital at Agbome. King Wegbaja(c. 1650) organized Dahomey into a powerful centralized state. He declared all lands ownership of the king, which would be taxed. Primogeniture was establish, the oldest son would be king.This neutralize all input by village chiefs. A 'cult of kingship' was established. A captive slave would be sacrifice, annually to honor the royal ancestors. During the 1720, slave states of Whydah and Allada were taken, giving Dahomey direct access to the slave coast and trade with Europeans. King Agaja(1716-1740) attempted to end the slave trade by keeping slaves on plantation proding palm oil , but European profit on slaves and Dahomey's dependency on firearms were too great. In 1730, under king Agaja Dahomey was conquered by the Oyo Empire. Dahomey had to pay Oyo tribute. The kingdom continued to expand and thrive, a big dealer in slaves.Slaves were taxed, most of which was paid in cowrie shells. During the 1800s, palm oil was the main trading items.[121]France conquered Dahomey during the Second Franco-Dahomean War (1892-1894) and established colonial government there. Most of the troops who fought against Dahomey were native African.

Niger Delta and Igbo

The Niger Delta comprised of numerous city states with numerous forms of government. These city-states were protected by the waterways and thick vegation of the delt. The region was transformed by trade in 1600s. They were comparable to the various city states of the Swahili in East Africa. Some had kings like Bony, New Calabar, and Warri. Other were republic with small senates, like Brass and those at Cross River in Old Calabar and Old Calabar were ruled by merchants of the ekpe society. Ekpe society regulated trade and made rules for members known as house systems. Some of these houses were well known in the America's and Europe like the Pepples of Bonny.[122]

The Igbo lived east of the Delta (with the Anioma on the west of the Niger River). The Kingdom of Nri rose in the 9th century, with the Eze-Nri being the leader, the kingdom had expanded towards the Kingdom of Benin and to the Igala Kingdom between 1100 and 1400. They were a political entity comprised of villages. Though each village was autonomous and independent, with its territory and name. All recognized by its neighbors. Villages were democratic with all males a part of the decision making process and sometimes females. Graves at Igbo-Ukwu about 800 CE, shows brass artifacts of local manufacture and glass beads from Egypt or India, indicative of trans-regional trade.[123] [124]

Central Africa

Around 1000 BC, Bantu migrants had reached the Great Lakes of East Africa. Halfway through that millennium, the Bantu had also settled as far south as the countries of what are now Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One of the major events that occurred in Central Africa during this period was the establishment of the Kanem Empire in what is now Chad. The Kanem Empire would flourish in the coming centuries setting the stage for future great states in the Sahel region of Africa.

Southern Africa

Settlements of Bantu-speaking peoples, who were iron-using agriculturists and herdsmen, were already present south of the Limpopo River by the 4th or 5th century (see Bantu expansion) displacing and absorbing the original Khoi-San speakers. They slowly moved south and the earliest ironworks in modern-day KwaZulu-Natal Province are believed to date from around 1050. The southernmost group was the Xhosa people, whose language incorporates certain linguistic traits from the earlier Khoi-San people, reaching the Fish River, in today's Eastern Cape Province.


European Exploration

During the fifteenth century Prince Henry "the Navigator," son of King João I, planned to acquire African territory for Portugal. Under his inspiration and direction Portuguese navigators began a series of voyages of exploration which resulted in the circumnavigation of Africa and the establishment of Portuguese sovereignty over large areas of the coastlands.

Portuguese ships rounded Cape Bojador in 1434, Cape Verde in 1445, and by 1480 the whole Guinea coast was known to the Portuguese. In 1482 Diogo Cão reached the mouth of the Congo, the Cape of Good Hope was rounded by Bartolomeu Dias in 1488, and in 1498 Vasco da Gama, after having rounded the Cape, sailed up the east coast, touched at Sofala and Malindi, and went from there to India. Portugal claimed sovereign rights wherever its navigators landed, but these were not exercised in the extreme south of the continent.

The Guinea coast, as the nearest to Europe, was first exploited. Numerous European forts and trading stations were established, the earliest being São Jorge da Mina (Elmina), begun in 1482. The chief commodities dealt in were slaves, gold, ivory and spices. The European discovery of America (1492) was followed by a great development of the slave trade, which, before the Portuguese era, had been an overland trade almost exclusively confined to Muslim Africa. The lucrative nature of this trade and the large quantities of alluvial gold obtained by the Portuguese drew other nations to the Guinea coast. English mariners went there as early as 1553, and they were followed by Spaniards, Dutch, French, Danish and other adventurers. Colonial supremacy along the coast passed in the 17th century from Portugal to the Netherlands and from the Dutch in the 18th and 19th centuries to France and Britain. The whole coast from Senegal to Lagos was dotted with forts and "factories" of rival European powers, and this international patchwork persisted into the 20th century although all the West African hinterland had become either French or British territory.

Southward from the mouth of the Congo to the region of Damaraland (in what is present-day Namibia), the Portuguese, from 1491 onward, acquired influence over the inhabitants, and in the early part of the 16th century through their efforts Christianity was largely adopted in the Kongo Empire. An incursion of tribes from the interior later in the same century broke the power of this semi-Christian state, and Portuguese activity was transferred to a great extent farther south, São Paulo de Loanda (present-day Luanda) being founded in 1576. Before Angolan independence in 1975, the sovereignty of Portugal over this coastal region, except for the mouth of the Congo, had been only once challenged by a European power, the Dutch, from 1640 to 1648 in which Portugal lost control of the seaports.

The slave trade

The earliest external African slave trade was trans-Saharan. Although there had long been some trading along the Nile River and very limited trading across the western desert, the transportation of large numbers of slaves did not become viable until camels were introduced from Arabia in the 10th century. At this point, a trans-Saharan trading network came into being to transport slaves north. Unlike the Americas, slaves in North Africa were mainly servants rather than labourers, and an equal or greater number of females than males were taken, who were often employed as chambermaids to the women of northern harems. It was also not uncommon to turn male slaves into eunuchs.

The Atlantic slave trade was a later development, but would eventually become far greater and have a much bigger impact. Increasing penetration of the Americas by the Portuguese, Spaniards, English, French, Dutch (among others) created a huge demand for labor in Brazil, Guianas, Caribbean and North America. Workers were needed for agriculture, mining and other tasks. To meet this new demand, a trans-Atlantic slave trade developed. Slaves purchased in those West African regions known to Europeans as the Slave Coast, Gold Coast, and Côte d'Ivoire were often the unfortunate by-product of fighting between rival African states. Powerful African kings on the Bight of Biafra might sell their captives internally or exchange them with European slave traders for trade goods such as firearms, rum, fabrics and seed grain. It should be noted that European traders also conducted their own, quite independent, slave raids.

European conquest

An 1812 map of Africa by Arrowsmith and Lewis

In 1652, a victualling station was established at the Cape of Good Hope by Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. For most of the 17th and 18th centuries, the slowly-expanding settlement was a Dutch possession. Great Britain seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1795 ostensibly to stop it falling into the hands of the French, but also seeking to use Cape Town in particular as a stop on the route to Australia and India. It was later returned to the Dutch in 1803, but soon afterwards the Dutch East India Company declared bankruptcy, and the British annexed the Cape Colony in 1806.

Although the Napoleonic Wars distracted the attention of Europe from the exploration of Africa, there were nevertheless significant developments. The invasion of Egypt (1798–1801) first by France and then by Great Britain resulted in an effort by Turkey to regain direct control over that country, followed in 1811 by the establishment under Mehemet Ali of an almost independent state, and the extension of Egyptian rule over the eastern Sudan (from 1820 onward). In South Africa the struggle with Napoleon led the United Kingdom to seize Dutch settlements at the Cape, and in 1814 Cape Colony, which had been continuously occupied by British troops since 1806, was formally ceded to the British crown. It has been documented that leader of a small African tribe, first heard of in 1821 and called the Snivs, Richard Bilcliffe (of Ugandan/South African descent) was key in the sparking of revolutionary behavior in order to free the suppressed African slaves.

The Zulu Kingdom (1817–1879) was a southern African state in what is now South Africa. The small kingdom gained world fame during and after the Anglo-Zulu War, part of the South African Wars (1879-1915).

Considerable changes had meanwhile been made in other parts of the continent, the most notable being the invasion of Algiers by France in 1830. This action put an end to the independent Barbary states, a major obstacle to France's Mediterranean strategy. Egyptian authority continued its southward expansion with consequent additions to European knowledge of the Nile. The city of Zanzibar, on the island of that name rapidly attained importance. Accounts of a vast inland sea, and the "discovery" in 1840–1848, by the missionaries Johann Ludwig Krapf and Johann Rebmann, of the snow-clad mountains of Kilimanjaro and Kenya, stimulated in Europe the desire for further knowledge.

19th-century European explorers

By the middle of the 19th century, Protestant missions were carrying on active missionary work on the Guinea coast, in South Africa and in the Zanzibar dominions. It was being conducted among people of whom Europeans knew little. In many instances missionaries turned explorer or became agents of trade and colonialism. One of the first to attempt to fill up the remaining blank spaces in the European map was David Livingstone, who had been engaged since 1840 in missionary work north of the Orange. In 1849 Livingstone crossed the Kalahari Desert from south to north and reached Lake Ngami, and between 1851 and 1856 he traversed the continent from west to east, making known the great waterways of the upper Zambezi. During these journeyings Livingstone "discovered", November 1855, the famous Victoria Falls, so named after the Queen of the United Kingdom. These falls are called Mosi-oa-Tunya by Africans. In 1858–1864 the lower Zambezi, the Shire and Lake Nyasa were explored by Livingstone, Nyasa having been first reached by the confidential slave of Antonio da Silva Porto, a Portuguese trader established at Bihe in Angola, who crossed Africa during 1853–1856 from Benguella to the mouth of the Rovuma. A prime goal for explorers was to locate the source of the River Nile. Expeditions by Burton and Speke (1857–1858) and Speke and Grant (1863) located Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria. It was eventually proved to be the latter from which the Nile flowed.

Henry Morton Stanley, who had in 1871 succeeded in finding and succoring Livingstone, started again for Zanzibar in 1874, and in one of the most memorable of all exploring expeditions in Africa circumnavigated Victoria Nyanza and Tanganyika, and, striking farther inland to the Lualaba, followed that river down to the Atlantic Ocean—reached in August 1877—and proved it to be the Congo.

Explorers were also active in other parts of the continent. Southern Morocco, the Sahara and the Sudan were traversed in many directions between 1860 and 1875 by Gerhard Rohlfs, Georg Schweinfurth and Gustav Nachtigal. These travellers not only added considerably to geographical knowledge, but obtained invaluable information concerning the people, languages and natural history of the countries in which they sojourned. Among the discoveries of Schweinfurth was one that confirmed the Greek legends of the existence beyond Egypt of a "pygmy race". But the first western discoverer of the pygmies of Central Africa was Paul du Chaillu, who found them in the Ogowe district of the west coast in 1865, five years before Schweinfurth's first meeting with them; du Chaillu having previously, as the result of journeys in the Gabon region between 1855 and 1859, made popular in Europe the knowledge of the existence of the gorilla, perhaps the gigantic ape seen by Hanno the Carthaginian, and whose existence, up to the middle of the 19th century, was thought to be as legendary as that of the Pygmies of Aristotle.

Partition among European powers

In the last quarter of the 19th century the map of Africa was transformed. Lines of partition, drawn often through trackless African countryside, marked out the "possessions" of Germany, France, Britain and the other Great Powers. Railways penetrated the interior, vast areas were "opened up" to European conquest.

The causes which led to the partition of Africa can be found in the economic and political state of western Europe at the time. Germany, recently united under Prussian rule as the result of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, was seeking new outlets for her energies, new markets for her growing industries, and with the markets, colonies.

Germany was the last country to enter into the race to acquire colonies, and when Bismarck—the German Chancellor —acted, Africa was the only field left to exploit. South America was widely considered the fiefdom of the United States based on the Monroe Doctrine, while Britain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain had already divided much of Asia and the rest of the world between themselves.

Part of the reason Germany began to expand into the colonial sphere at this time, despite Bismarck's lack of enthusiasm for the idea, was a shift in the world view of the Prussian governing elite. Indeed, European elites as a whole began to view the world as a finite place, one in which only the strong would predominate. The influence of social Darwinism was deep, encouraging a view of the world as essentially characterized by zero-sum relationships.

For different reasons the war of 1870 was also the starting-point for France in the building up of a new colonial empire. In her endeavour to regain the position lost in that war France had to look beyond Europe. To the two causes mentioned must be added others. Britain and Portugal, when they found their interests threatened, bestirred themselves, while Italy also conceived it necessary to become an African power.

It was not, however, the action of any of the great powers of Europe which precipitated the struggle. This was brought about by the projects of Léopold II, king of the Belgians. Discoveries of Livingstone, Stanley and others had aroused especial interest among two classes of men in western Europe, one the manufacturing and trading class, which saw in Central Africa possibilities of commercial exploitation, the other the philanthropic and missionary class, which beheld in the newly discovered lands millions of "savages" to Christianize and "civilize". The possibility of utilizing both these classes in the creation of a vast private estate, of which he should be the head, formed itself in the mind of Léopold II even before Stanley had navigated the Congo. The king's action proved successful; but no sooner was the nature of his project understood in Europe than it provoked the rivalry of France and Germany[citation needed], and thus the international struggle was begun.

Berlin Conference

From 1885 the scramble among the powers went on with renewed vigour, and in the fifteen years that remained of the century the work of partition, so far as international agreements were concerned, was practically completed.

Soldiers of King Menelik II fended off the Italians, keeping Ethiopia independent from European colonization.

No African countries were consulted during the partitioning of Africa. An "International treaty" was signed that disregarded the ethnic, social and economic composition of the people that lived in that area. This was to resurface years later, as ethnic or "tribal" conflict after the African countries gained their independence.

20th century: 1900-1945

The early 20th century

Map of Africa just before World War I (larger image (456 kB))

All of the continent was claimed by European powers, except for Ethiopia ("Abyssinia") and Liberia.

The European powers set up a variety of different administrations in Africa at this time, with different ambitions and degrees of power. In some areas, parts of British West Africa for example, colonial control was tenuous and intended for simple economic extraction, strategic power, or as part of a long term development plan.

In other areas Europeans were encouraged to settle, creating settler states in which a European minority came to dominate society. Settlers only came to a few colonies in sufficient numbers to have a strong impact. British settler colonies included British East Africa, now Kenya, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, later Zambia and Zimbabwe, and South Africa, which already had a significant population of European settlers, the Boers.

In the Second Boer War, between the British Empire and the two Boer republics of the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (Transvaal Republic), the Boers unsuccessfully resisted absorption in to the British Empire.

France planned to settle Algeria and eventually incorporate it into the French state as an equal to the European provinces. Its proximity across the Mediterranean allowed plans of this scale.

In most areas colonial administrations did not have the manpower or resources to fully administer the territory and had to rely on local power structures to help them. Various factions and groups within the societies exploited this European requirement for their own purposes, attempting to gain a position of power within their own communities by cooperating with Europeans. One aspect of this struggle included what Terence Ranger has termed the "invention of tradition." In order to legitimize their own claims to power in the eyes of both the colonial administrators, and their own people, people would essentially manufacture "traditional" claims to power, or ceremonies. As a result many societies were thrown into disarray by the new order.

During World War I the British and German Empires battled on several occasions, the most notable being the Battle of Tanga, and a sustained guerrilla campaign by the German General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck.


After World War I the formerly German colonies in Africa were taken over by France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.

During this era a sense of local patriotism or nationalism took deeper root among African intellectuals and politicians. Some of the inspiration for this movement came from the First World War in which European countries had relied on colonial troops for their own defense. Many in Africa realized their own strength with regard to the colonizer for the first time. At the same time, some of the mystique of the "invincible" European was shattered by the barbarities of the war. However, in most areas European control remained relatively strong during this period.

Italy, under the government of Benito Mussolini, invaded Ethiopia, the last independent African nation, in 1935 and occupied the country until 1941.

The postcolonial era: 1945 to 1993


Dates of independence of African countries

The decolonization of Africa started with Libya in 1951. (Although Liberia, South Africa, Egypt and Ethiopia were already independent.) Many countries followed in the 50s and 60s, with a peak in 1960 with independence of a large part of French West Africa. Most of the remaining countries gained independence throughout the 1960s, although some colonizers (Portugal in particular) were reluctant to relinquish sovereignty, resulting in bitter wars of independence which lasted for a decade or more. The last African countries to gain formal independence were Guinea-Bissau (1974), Mozambique (1975) and Angola (1975) from Portugal, Djibouti from France in 1977, Zimbabwe from United Kingdom in 1980, and Namibia from South Africa in 1990. Eritrea later split off from Ethiopia in 1993.

Because many cities were founded, enlarged and renamed by the Europeans, after independence many place names (for example Stanleyville, Léopoldville, Rhodesia) were renamed: see historical African place names for these.

East Africa

The Mau Mau Rebellion took place in Kenya from 1952 until 1956, but was put down by British and local forces. A State of Emergency remained in place until 1960. Kenya became independent in 1963, and Jomo Kenyatta served as its first president.

The early 1990s also signaled the start of major clashes between the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi. In 1994 this culminated in the Rwandan Genocide, a conflict in which over 800 000 people were murdered.

North Africa

In 1954 Gamal Abdel Nasser deposed the monarchy on Egypt and came to power. Muammar al-Gaddafi led a coup in Libya in 1969 and has remained in power.

Egypt was involved in several wars against Israel, and was allied with other Arab countries. The first was right after the State of Israel was founded, in 1947. Egypt went to war again in 1967 and lost the Sinai Peninsula to Israel. They went to war yet again in 1973. In 1979 Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords, which gave back the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for the recognition of Israel. The accords are still in effect today. In 1981 Sadat was assassinated by an Islamist for signing the accords.

Southern Africa

In 1948 the apartheid laws were started in South Africa by the dominant party, the National Party. These were largely a continuation of existing policies, e.g. the Land Act of 1913. The difference was the policy of "separate development;" Where previous policies had only been disparate efforts to economically exploit the African Majority, Apartheid represented an entire philosophy of separate racial goals, leading to both the divisive laws of 'petty apartheid,' and the grander scheme of African Homelands.

In 1994 the South African government abolished Apartheid. South Africans elected Nelson Mandela of the African National Congress in the country's first multiracial presidential election.

West Africa

Following World War II, nationalist movements arose across West Africa, most notably in Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah. In 1957, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan colony to achieve its independence, followed the next year by France's colonies; by 1974, West Africa's nations were entirely autonomous. Since independence, many West African nations have been plagued by corruption and instability, with notable civil wars in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d'Ivoire, and a succession of military coups in Ghana and Burkina Faso. Many states have failed to develop their economies despite enviable natural resources, and political instability is often accompanied by undemocratic government.

In Nigeria today, the richest fifth of the population earns 55.7 percent of income while the poorest fifth earns just 4.4 percent and 70 percent of Nigerians live on less than US$1 a day.


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  • Collins, Robert O. and Burns, James M.(2007). A History of Sub-Saharan Africa. New York:Cambridge University Press, ISBN-13 978-0-521-68708-9.
  • Davidson, Basil(1991). Africa In History, Themes and Outlines, revised and expanded edition. New York: Simon & Schuster,ISBN 0-684-82667-4
  • Ehret, Christopher (2002). The Civilizations of Africa. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, ISBN 0-8139-2085-x.
  • Iliffe, John(2007). Africans, The History of a Continent, 2nd ed. New York:Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-68297-8.
  • Lye, Keith(2002). Encyclopedia of African Nations and Civilization. New York: The Diagram Group, ISBN 0-8160-4568-2.
  • Martin, Phyllis M. and O'Meara, Patrick(1995). Africa, 3rd Ed. Indiana: Indiana University Press, ISBN 0-253-20984-6.
  • Page, Willie F.(2001). Encyclopedia of African History and Culture:From Conquest to Colonization(1500-1850).New York:Learning Source Books, ISBN 0-8160-4472-4
  • Shillington, Kevin(2005). History of Africa, Rev. 2nd Ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 0-333-59957-8.
  • Diamond, Jared M. (1999). Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W.Norton. ISBN 0-393-31755-2. 
  • Stearns, Peter, ed (2001). The encyclopedia of world history: Ancient, medieval, and modern, chronologically arranged. 
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Further reading

  • Cheikh Anta Diop (1987) Precolonial Black Africa Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Clark, J. Desmond (1970) The Prehistory of Africa Thames and Hudson
  • Davidson, Basil (1964) The African Past, Penguin, Harmondsworth
  • Freund, Bill (1998) The Making of Contemporary Africa, Lynne Rienner, Boulder, 1998 (including a substantial "Annotated Bibliography" pp. 269–316)
  • Reader, John 1997 Africa: A Biography of the Continent, Hamish Hamilton ISBN 0241130476
  • Shillington, Kevin (1989) History of Africa, St. Martin's, New York
  • UNESCO (1980–1994) General History of Africa 8 volumes
  • Théophile Obenga (1980) Pour une Nouvelle Histoire Présence Africaine, Paris

Simple English

[[File:|right|thumb|300px|Civilizations before European colonization.]] The History of Africa begins from the first modern human beings and leads to its present difficult state as a politically developing continent.

Africa's ancient historic period includes the rise of Egyptian civilization, the further development of societies outside the Nile River Valley and the interaction between them and civilizations outside of Africa. In the late 7th century North and East Africa were heavily influenced by the spread of Islam. That lead to the appearance of new cultures such as those of the Swahili people. This also lead to an increase in the Slave trade that had a very bad influence for the development of the whole continent till the 19th century. African independence movements had their fist success in 1951 when Libya became the first former colony to become independent. Modern African history has been full of revolutions and wars as well as the growth of modern African economies and democratization across the continent.

Further reading

  • Cheikh Anta Diop (1987) Precolonial Black Africa Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Clark, J. Desmond (1970) The Prehistory of Africa Thames and Hudson
  • Davidson, Basil (1964) The African Past, Penguin, Harmondsworth
  • Freund, Bill (1998) The Making of Contemporary Africa, Lynne Rienner, Boulder, 1998 (including a substantial "Annotated Bibliography" pp. 269-316)
  • Shillington, Kevin (1989) History of Africa, St. Martin's, New York
  • UNESCO (1980-1994) General History of Africa 8 volumes
  • Théophile Obenga (1980) Pour une Nouvelle Histoire Présence Africaine, Paris

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