Africa in World History : From Prehistory to the Present / Edition 1

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Overview

This groundbreaking text is the first to examine Africa in the wider context of world history. The authors show that Africans not only have shaped their own destiny but also have played a central role in a number of grand narratives of global history. In doing so, the text encourages readers to reconsider many popular or oversimplified myths regarding Africa and Africans and to explore the many issues, controversies, and debate within the field of African study. With numerous maps, full-color photos, primary sources, timelines, and a lively, engaging narrative, Africa in World History is as vibrant and multifaceted as the continent itself.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780130929075
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 11/28/2003
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Erik Gilbert. Born in Fairfax, Virginia, Erik and his family moved to Ghana in 1966, when he was two-years old. Erik subsequently lived in Nigeria, Cameroun, and Tanzania. He did his undergraduate work at the College of William and Mary, where he studied Ancient Greek. After a short stint as an ice cream scooper, bartender, and ski bum, he went to the University of Vermont where he received an MA in History. He then moved to Boston University where he received a Ph.D. in African History in 1997. His research has focused primarily on coastal East Africa and Indian Ocean trade. Indian Ocean research has taken him to Zanzibar on a Fulbright, to Yemen (where in addition to doing research in the ports, he studied Arabic at the Yemen Language Center), and to Kenya. He has taught at Casdeton State College, the University of Vermont, and is currently Associate Professor of History at Arkansas State University.

Jonathan T. Reynolds. A hopeless generalist as an undergraduate, Jonathan graduated from the University of Tennesse in 1988 with majors in Honors History, Anthropology and Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations. He completed his PhD in African History at Boston University in 1995. A specialist in West Africa and Islam, he has traveled extensively in the region since 1990—including an unsuccessful attempt at driving across the Sahara in a British car in 1994. His research has been supported by the Fulbright Foundation and the West Africa Research Association. He has taught at Bayero University, the University of Tennessee, Livingstone College (where he received the Aggrey Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1998), and Northern KentuckyUniversity (where he received the Outstanding Junior Faculty Award in 2001). He served as the coordinator for the Southeastern Regional Seminar on African Studies from 1997 to 2000. Dr. Reynolds currently holds the rank of Associate Professor of History.

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Table of Contents

1. Africa and Human Origins.
2. Physical Context of African History: Geography and Environment.
3. North and Northeast Africa in Early World History.
4. Migrations, Technology and Culture in Ancient Africa.
5. Africa and the Early Christian World.
6. North Africa, the Soudan, and the Spread of Islam.
7. East Africa and the Advent of Islam.
8. Slavery and the Creation of the Atlantic World.
9. West and West-Central Africa: 1500-1880.
10. North Africa and the Soudan: 1500-1880.
11. East Africa and the Indian Ocean World: 1500-1880.
12. Southern Africa, 1500-1870.
13. Colonialism and Africa Resistance.
14. Modern Africa in the Global Industrial Economy.
15. Political Change in the Time of Colonialism.
16. African Culture in the Modern World.
17. Politics in the Era of Decolonization and Independence.
18. Contemporary Africa.
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Preface

Notions of Africa

Always something new out of Africa (Greek Proverb Quoted by Pliny the Elder, first century C.E.)

Africa is no historical part of the world; it has no movement or development to exhibit. (George Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of History, early nineteenth century)

Africa has, for generations now, been viewed through a web of myth . . . only when the myth is stripped away can the reality of Africa emerge. (Paul Bohannan, Africa and Africans, 1964)

Perhaps, in the future, there will be some African history to teach. But at present there is none, or very little: there is only the history of the Europeans in Africa. The rest is largely darkness, like the history of pre European, pre-Colombian America .... (Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Rise of Christian Europe, 1965)

There is a desire—one might say the need—in Western psychology to set Africa up as a foil to Europe, as a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar, in comparison with which Europe's own state of spiritual grace will be manifest. (Chinua Achebe, Hopes and Impediments. Selected Essays 1965-1987, 1988)

Far from being a kind of Museum of Barbarism whose populations had stayed outside the laws of human growth and change through some natural failing or inferiority, Africa is now seen to possess a history which demands as serious an approach as that of any other continent. (Basil Davidson, Africa in History, 1991)

For many students, Africa in World History and the course for which it was purchased will be your very first introduction to the study ofAfrica and Africans. We hope that the material presented in this text will be both surprising and challenging. Why? A simple glance at the preceding quotes should give you some insight into the answer to this question. The meaning of both Africa and African History is deeply contested—even more so than that of most world regions. This is in no small part a result of the historical agendas and biases that have influenced the way Africa has been represented. As typified in the quotes by Hegel and Trevor-Roper, for hundreds of years Western scholars openly discounted the idea that Africa even had a history that could be recorded and studied. Since the 1950s these views have been challenged by Africanists as typified by Bohannan, Achebe, and Davidson. These more modern views of African History have adamantly argued that Africans have a very real and dynamic history.

Perhaps you might not even be familiar with the various academic views listed above. Nonetheless, you have certainly been influenced by the way they have been manifested in more popular media. Most of us grow up unwittingly observing and accepting myriad myths about Africa. Many of the blatantly negative representations of Africa and Africans can be found in popular novels, magazines, films, and even television commercials. On the opposite end of the spectrum can be found notions of Africa that present a much more idealized perspective of the continent and its inhabitants. Indeed, there are many notions of Africa—sometimes mutually reinforcing and sometimes completely contradictory. Here are some that might be familiar.

Primitive Africa—As evidenced by some of the earlier quotes, there is a popular idea that Africa has somehow failed to "develop" along with the rest of the world. This might also be thought of as a "Static Africa," a place without change. In this view, simply by going to Africa one can travel back in time and view how people once lived in the "deep dark past." Have you ever heard of African societies described as "Ancient Tribes?" Ever thought of Africa as "Stone Age?" As a land without writing? All these elements are hallmarks of the "Primitive Africa" perspective.

Wild and Dangerous Africa—These are among the most common images of Africa presented by the media. This Africa seems to be either an impenetrable jungle or a vast and trackless desert. The inhabitants are either wild animals or wild people—both untamed and dangerous. When you think of Africa, do you see images of charging rhinos? Of lions? As a place where at every turn vicious animals or mysterious diseases wait to attack? Do you think of Africa as a land constantly at war and where everyone seems to own an assault rifle or grenade launcher? If so, then you have been influenced by this particular notion of Africa.

Exotic Africa—Another popular favorite. This notion of Africa stresses the differences between Africans and other human societies—especially Western civilization. In this Africa, people are either naked, covered in fanciful designs, or clothed in bizarre and outlandish outfits. Further, in Exotic Africa everyone seems to spend their time in the practice of lavish ceremonies, and people have superstitions instead of religion. For an example of Exotic Africa, just leaf through a few copies of National Geographic. Notably, this version of Africa seems to be dominated by a group known as the Masai. Because the Masai do actually wear some pretty impressive outfits and still occasionally carry spears (something the vast majority of modern Africans would feel very silly doing), they seem to fit the notion of Africans as exotic. As such, they find their way into television commercials, travel pamphlets, and coffee table books of African photography. The 1998 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition even featured the Masai as a backdrop for supermodels in bikinis. You can't get much more exotic than that.

Unspoiled Africa—This perspective represents a very different interpretation of the core aspects of both "Primitive" and "Wild and Dangerous Africa." Here, the idea is that Africa has avoided progress and, as a result, has remained pure and untainted by the evils of the modern world. Here is an Africa that is undamaged by human exploitation of natural resources and where people are free of greed and conflict. Here Africa is still seen as being outside history, but from this perspective that is a good thing. This portrayal of the KhoiSan ("Bushmen") in the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy or any number of nature shows set in Africa are examples of this perspective.

Utopian Africa—This is a notion of Africa that stands somewhat apart, although it shares some elements with Unspoiled Africa. Quite opposed (consciously or unconsciously) to the largely negative images that dominate popular ideas of Africa, this perspective presents an idealized Africa. Here Africa was (if not is) the abode of egalitarian societies living in harmony. This Africa is often defined as a homeland for members of the African diaspora, and as a place in which they can be free of the racism and oppression that all too often defines the world of those whose ancestors were forcibly removed from the continent. In such an Africa, any conflict or suffering is the result of the destruction of African culture and unity—usually by outside forces.

Broken Africa—This is perhaps the most contemporary version of Africa. Here is an Africa in which nothing works. "Broken Africa" is a land of decay, sickness, and starvation. Attempts at economic, social, or political development are doomed to failure. The causes of this decay are legion. They could be attributed to African culture, to the slave trade, to Neo-Colonialism, or to the African environment. This "Broken Africa" can either be presented as a source of amusement, such as in travelogues like the book Malaria Dreams, or as a source of resignation. For example, in September of 1994 the Washington Post ran a special section entitled, "Is Africa Falling Apart?" This story featured a full-page image of buildings being destroyed by encroaching vines, a non-too-subtle representation of civilization defeated by "Wild and Savage Africa." Many Africanists refer to the "Broken Africa" model as "Afro-Pessimism"—the idea that there is no hope for Africa.

Notably, not everything about these various notions of Africa is completely wrong. Indeed, anyone who wanted to find some sort of evidence for each perspective could do so. There are, after all, rhinos and lions in Africa, though most Africans have never seen either. Similarly, there are Masai in Africa (even if they make up far less than 1 percent of the continent's population). Further, contemporary Africa faces very real challenges—there is no denying that poverty and conflict are a reality for all too many modern Africans. Yet, it does a disservice to Africa and Africans to represent the entire continent via any single characteristic. Indeed, these various notions did not simply materialize out of thin air. Most are the products of very real agendas—whether social or political, past or present.

Where then, does Africa in World History fit? We the authors do indeed have agendas of our own (if your instructors haven't already told you, everyone who writes has an agenda). First, as Africanists, we very much believe that there is a very real history to Africa. As historians, we believe that the key to better and more accurately understanding modern Africa is to better understand that history. Sources for the reconstruction and study of a textured and multifaceted African history abound and they reveal a continent that has been and is ever changing and vibrant. In term the tone of this text, we hope to neither unwarrantedly acclaim nor condemn the history of Africa. Like all regions of the world, Africa's past and present are full of goodness and evil, of great achievements and great failures. Our goal is to present the history of Africa in all its diversity and dynamism. Indeed, we hope to present no single image of Africa—the job of the historian is often to show that things are complex, rather than simple. In so doing, we seek to undermine each of the notions of Africa discussed earlier. More so, we will continuously stress the fact that history is about controversy. As such, we will often discuss the opposing viewpoints of different historians of how to interpret historical evidence and how to explain historical events that took place in Africa.

Finally, we hope to show that not only is there a vibrant and fascinating history that is unique to Africa, but also that Africa has played an important role in world history as well. One of the remarkable aspects of the extremes of anti- and pro African scholarship is how they have both stressed the isolation of Africa from the rest of the world. It is our hope to show that Africa and Africans have long played a role in world history, both influencing and being influenced by other regions and peoples of the world. Indeed, it is one of our central goals to show that modern Africa is very much a creation of long-running global forces and themes. We are earnest in our belief that to better understand African history is to better understand world history. Though far from complete in its presentation of African history, we hope this text will provide enough ideas and information to do both.

Erik Gilbert and Jonathan Reynolds

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Notions of Africa

Always something new out of Africa (Greek Proverb Quoted by Pliny the Elder, first century C.E.)

Africa is no historical part of the world; it has no movement or development to exhibit. (George Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of History, early nineteenth century)

Africa has, for generations now, been viewed through a web of myth . . . only when the myth is stripped away can the reality of Africa emerge. (Paul Bohannan, Africa and Africans, 1964)

Perhaps, in the future, there will be some African history to teach. But at present there is none, or very little: there is only the history of the Europeans in Africa. The rest is largely darkness, like the history of pre European, pre-Colombian America .... (Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Rise of Christian Europe, 1965)

There is a desire—one might say the need—in Western psychology to set Africa up as a foil to Europe, as a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar, in comparison with which Europe's own state of spiritual grace will be manifest. (Chinua Achebe, Hopes and Impediments. Selected Essays 1965-1987, 1988)

Far from being a kind of Museum of Barbarism whose populations had stayed outside the laws of human growth and change through some natural failing or inferiority, Africa is now seen to possess a history which demands as serious an approach as that of any other continent. (Basil Davidson, Africa in History, 1991)

For many students, Africa in World History and the course for which it was purchased will be your very first introduction to the study of Africa and Africans. We hope that the materialpresented in this text will be both surprising and challenging. Why? A simple glance at the preceding quotes should give you some insight into the answer to this question. The meaning of both Africa and African History is deeply contested—even more so than that of most world regions. This is in no small part a result of the historical agendas and biases that have influenced the way Africa has been represented. As typified in the quotes by Hegel and Trevor-Roper, for hundreds of years Western scholars openly discounted the idea that Africa even had a history that could be recorded and studied. Since the 1950s these views have been challenged by Africanists as typified by Bohannan, Achebe, and Davidson. These more modern views of African History have adamantly argued that Africans have a very real and dynamic history.

Perhaps you might not even be familiar with the various academic views listed above. Nonetheless, you have certainly been influenced by the way they have been manifested in more popular media. Most of us grow up unwittingly observing and accepting myriad myths about Africa. Many of the blatantly negative representations of Africa and Africans can be found in popular novels, magazines, films, and even television commercials. On the opposite end of the spectrum can be found notions of Africa that present a much more idealized perspective of the continent and its inhabitants. Indeed, there are many notions of Africa—sometimes mutually reinforcing and sometimes completely contradictory. Here are some that might be familiar.

Primitive Africa—As evidenced by some of the earlier quotes, there is a popular idea that Africa has somehow failed to "develop" along with the rest of the world. This might also be thought of as a "Static Africa," a place without change. In this view, simply by going to Africa one can travel back in time and view how people once lived in the "deep dark past." Have you ever heard of African societies described as "Ancient Tribes?" Ever thought of Africa as "Stone Age?" As a land without writing? All these elements are hallmarks of the "Primitive Africa" perspective.

Wild and Dangerous Africa—These are among the most common images of Africa presented by the media. This Africa seems to be either an impenetrable jungle or a vast and trackless desert. The inhabitants are either wild animals or wild people—both untamed and dangerous. When you think of Africa, do you see images of charging rhinos? Of lions? As a place where at every turn vicious animals or mysterious diseases wait to attack? Do you think of Africa as a land constantly at war and where everyone seems to own an assault rifle or grenade launcher? If so, then you have been influenced by this particular notion of Africa.

Exotic Africa—Another popular favorite. This notion of Africa stresses the differences between Africans and other human societies—especially Western civilization. In this Africa, people are either naked, covered in fanciful designs, or clothed in bizarre and outlandish outfits. Further, in Exotic Africa everyone seems to spend their time in the practice of lavish ceremonies, and people have superstitions instead of religion. For an example of Exotic Africa, just leaf through a few copies of National Geographic. Notably, this version of Africa seems to be dominated by a group known as the Masai. Because the Masai do actually wear some pretty impressive outfits and still occasionally carry spears (something the vast majority of modern Africans would feel very silly doing), they seem to fit the notion of Africans as exotic. As such, they find their way into television commercials, travel pamphlets, and coffee table books of African photography. The 1998 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition even featured the Masai as a backdrop for supermodels in bikinis. You can't get much more exotic than that.

Unspoiled Africa—This perspective represents a very different interpretation of the core aspects of both "Primitive" and "Wild and Dangerous Africa." Here, the idea is that Africa has avoided progress and, as a result, has remained pure and untainted by the evils of the modern world. Here is an Africa that is undamaged by human exploitation of natural resources and where people are free of greed and conflict. Here Africa is still seen as being outside history, but from this perspective that is a good thing. This portrayal of the KhoiSan ("Bushmen") in the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy or any number of nature shows set in Africa are examples of this perspective.

Utopian Africa—This is a notion of Africa that stands somewhat apart, although it shares some elements with Unspoiled Africa. Quite opposed (consciously or unconsciously) to the largely negative images that dominate popular ideas of Africa, this perspective presents an idealized Africa. Here Africa was (if not is) the abode of egalitarian societies living in harmony. This Africa is often defined as a homeland for members of the African diaspora, and as a place in which they can be free of the racism and oppression that all too often defines the world of those whose ancestors were forcibly removed from the continent. In such an Africa, any conflict or suffering is the result of the destruction of African culture and unity—usually by outside forces.

Broken Africa—This is perhaps the most contemporary version of Africa. Here is an Africa in which nothing works. "Broken Africa" is a land of decay, sickness, and starvation. Attempts at economic, social, or political development are doomed to failure. The causes of this decay are legion. They could be attributed to African culture, to the slave trade, to Neo-Colonialism, or to the African environment. This "Broken Africa" can either be presented as a source of amusement, such as in travelogues like the book Malaria Dreams, or as a source of resignation. For example, in September of 1994 the Washington Post ran a special section entitled, "Is Africa Falling Apart?" This story featured a full-page image of buildings being destroyed by encroaching vines, a non-too-subtle representation of civilization defeated by "Wild and Savage Africa." Many Africanists refer to the "Broken Africa" model as "Afro-Pessimism"—the idea that there is no hope for Africa.

Notably, not everything about these various notions of Africa is completely wrong. Indeed, anyone who wanted to find some sort of evidence for each perspective could do so. There are, after all, rhinos and lions in Africa, though most Africans have never seen either. Similarly, there are Masai in Africa (even if they make up far less than 1 percent of the continent's population). Further, contemporary Africa faces very real challenges—there is no denying that poverty and conflict are a reality for all too many modern Africans. Yet, it does a disservice to Africa and Africans to represent the entire continent via any single characteristic. Indeed, these various notions did not simply materialize out of thin air. Most are the products of very real agendas—whether social or political, past or present.

Where then, does Africa in World History fit? We the authors do indeed have agendas of our own (if your instructors haven't already told you, everyone who writes has an agenda). First, as Africanists, we very much believe that there is a very real history to Africa. As historians, we believe that the key to better and more accurately understanding modern Africa is to better understand that history. Sources for the reconstruction and study of a textured and multifaceted African history abound and they reveal a continent that has been and is ever changing and vibrant. In term the tone of this text, we hope to neither unwarrantedly acclaim nor condemn the history of Africa. Like all regions of the world, Africa's past and present are full of goodness and evil, of great achievements and great failures. Our goal is to present the history of Africa in all its diversity and dynamism. Indeed, we hope to present no single image of Africa—the job of the historian is often to show that things are complex, rather than simple. In so doing, we seek to undermine each of the notions of Africa discussed earlier. More so, we will continuously stress the fact that history is about controversy. As such, we will often discuss the opposing viewpoints of different historians of how to interpret historical evidence and how to explain historical events that took place in Africa.

Finally, we hope to show that not only is there a vibrant and fascinating history that is unique to Africa, but also that Africa has played an important role in world history as well. One of the remarkable aspects of the extremes of anti- and pro African scholarship is how they have both stressed the isolation of Africa from the rest of the world. It is our hope to show that Africa and Africans have long played a role in world history, both influencing and being influenced by other regions and peoples of the world. Indeed, it is one of our central goals to show that modern Africa is very much a creation of long-running global forces and themes. We are earnest in our belief that to better understand African history is to better understand world history. Though far from complete in its presentation of African history, we hope this text will provide enough ideas and information to do both.

Erik Gilbert and Jonathan Reynolds

Read More Show Less

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2006

    A Fun and Interesting History Book

    I believe this is just about the best darn History book I've ever read. It Had some really great pictures and maps. I like the way the authors made everything so fun. I'm definitely going to recommend to all my friends, even the ones that have to but it for class. It is so worth the money, but try to but it used if you can.

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    Posted January 12, 2009

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