The Civilizations of Africa: A History to 1800

Overview

With his focus on precolonial Africa, Christopher Ehret provides in The Civilizations of Africa: A History to 1800 a remarkably complete and original overview of African history during the long periods sparsely covered in most other general histories of the continent. He examines African inventions and civilizations from 16,000 BCE to 1800 CE from the northern tip of Tunisia to the Cape of Good Hope in the south.

Logically organized by topic and era, Ehret’s heavily illustrated ...

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Overview

With his focus on precolonial Africa, Christopher Ehret provides in The Civilizations of Africa: A History to 1800 a remarkably complete and original overview of African history during the long periods sparsely covered in most other general histories of the continent. He examines African inventions and civilizations from 16,000 BCE to 1800 CE from the northern tip of Tunisia to the Cape of Good Hope in the south.

Logically organized by topic and era, Ehret’s heavily illustrated and easily accessible text reveals the diversity of African history. It explores the wide range of social and cultural as well as technological and economic change in Africa, and it depicts African agricultural, social, political, cultural, technological, and economic history in relation to developments in the rest of the world. Designed to address the glaring lack of texts concentrating on Africa before 1800, this book can be fruitfully combined with histories of Africa since 1800 to build a full and well-rounded understanding of the roles of Africa’s peoples in human history.

University of Virginia Press

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The text would certainly be the anchor text for an introductory class in African history, or for the segment on Africa in a world history class. ... The introduction to the text is exciting, progressive and engaging. ... The whole narrative is presented in an exceedingly readable way. - Adria La Violette, University of Virginia This clear and comprehensive interpretation of Africa will be the volume from which the early history of Africa will be re-written in all college and high school texts on world history. - Patrick Manning, Northeastern University The Civilizations of Africa/ stands as a fascinating witness to the role that historical linguistics can play in integrated reconstructions of the African past. ...The book's discussions of social and culture processes during that era are sophisticated and thought-provoking. Ehret explicitly addresses a set of assumptions widely held among (at least North American) undergraduates: that African societies were culturally underdeveloped before European contact, that Africans have historically been the recipients of innovations originating outside the continent and that Europeans dominated interactions with Africans from the time of first contact onward. The dynamism of African societies both before and after that contact is well represented. The extensive use of linguistic evidence also allows unusually thorough coverage of some regions where historical and archaeological data are more rare, including parts of the Congo Basin and south-western Africa. ...The book is well written and comprehensive, and abundantly illustrates the richness and complexity of African societies over many thousands of years. It will make a fine introductory text for courses in African history... - Scott Maceachern in JOURNAL OF AFRICAN HISTORY ...anyone wanting a chronological overview and synopsis of the historical development of subsistence practices, technologies, and sociopolitical formations could do much worse than start here. Ehret's attempts to integrate different kinds of data drawn as often from linguistics and archaeology as from history, is also to be applauded. ...The text is readable, informative and the layout is attractive. ...On all these terms, then this book is a welcome addition to the field...a worthy and welcome effort... - Paul Lane in ANTHROPOS The Civilizations of Africa is a substantial, comprehensive and accessibly written introductory textbook. ANTIQUITY
Booknews
Ehret (history, U. of California) concentrates on the oft-neglected pre-colonial history of the African continent, surveying the rise and fall of civilizations and discussing the cultural artifacts and structures that characterized those civilizations. Chapters are arranged chronologically, with discussions of particular regions grouped together under time periods. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Patrick ManningNortheastern University
An authoritative and strikingly original overview of African history up to 1800, written at a level that will be accessible to entering college students.
African Studies Review

[C]hallenging and innovative..thorough and masterful... One hopes that Christopher Ehret has initiated a new trend in the writing of African history textbooks,one that challenges previously accepted chronologies and ideas and presents us with an interpretation that connects social, economic, political, and cultural history.

International Journal of African Historical Studies

C]hallenges historians to rethink how they teach the African past.... Ehret goes boldly where no writer of an African history textbook has ever gone before.... [The book] has convinced me teachers should stress the deep past, the past that produced the intellectual, cultural, and—yes—spiritual resources that are the bedrock hope of an Africa battered by the past few centuries.

Patrick Manning

An authoritative and strikingly original overview of African history up to 1800, written at a level that will be accessible to entering college students.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780852554753
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer, Limited
  • Publication date: 7/1/2002
  • Pages: 496

Meet the Author

Christopher Ehret is Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of An African Classical Age: Eastern and Southern Africa in World History, 1000 B.C. to A.D. 400 (Virginia).

University of Virginia Press

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Read an Excerpt

Africa lies at the heart of human history. It is the continent from which the distant ancestors of every one of us, no matter who we are today, originally came. Its peoples participated integrally in the great transformations of world history... Bigger than the United States, China, India, Australia, and Europe combined, the African continent presents us with a historical panorama of surpassing richness and diversity.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
1 Introducing Africa and Its History 3
Africa in a Global Frame 3
Getting the Terms of Our Discourse Straight 4
Themes in History: What to Look For in Our Reading 10
Africa and Human Origins 17
2 Africa before the Agricultural Age, 16,000-9000 B.C.E. 26
Africa and the World: From Gathering to Farming 26
Geography and Climate in African History 29
Afrasan Civilization 35
Nilo-Saharan Peoples and the Middle Nile Archeological Tradition 42
Niger-Congo Civilization 44
Khoisan Civilization 51
Summing Up the Period 16,000-9000 B.C.E. in Africa 55
3 Culture and Technology in Africa, 9000-3500 B.C.E. 59
The Environments of Agricultural Invention 59
Inventing Agriculture: The Eastern Sahara, 9000-5500 B.C.E. 61
The Aquatic Tradition of the Sudan, 9000-5500 B.C.E. 68
Sudanic Civilization: The Intertwining of the Sudanic Agripastoral and the Aquatic Traditions 72
Inventing Agriculture: The Horn of Africa and the Northern Sahara, 9000-5500 B.C.E. 75
Agricultural Invention: West African Planting Agriculture, 9000-5500 B.C.E. 82
Livelihood and Culture History in Africa, 5500-3500 B.C.E. 84
Themes in the History of Culture, 9000-3500 B.C.E. 91
Persistent Gatherer-Hunters: The Southern Third of Africa 94
Africa 9000-3500 B.C.E. in the Context of World History 96
4 Diverging Paths of History: Africa, 3500-1000 B.C.E. 107
Africa in Comparative Historical Perspective 107
The Spread of Agriculture into Central Africa 110
Cultivation and Herding Come to Eastern Africa 119
The Middle Frontier: Early Agriculture in the Upper Nile Region 123
Sahara, Sudan, and the Horn of Africa, 3500-1000 B.C.E. 127
New Ways of Life in Northeastern Africa 128
Crops and Metals in West Africa 136
Lands of States and Towns: Nubia and Egypt 143
Africa, 3500-1000 B.C.E.: What Have We Learned? 156
5 An Age of Commerce, an Age of Iron: Africa, 1000 B.C.E. to 300 C.E. 159
Africa in World History, 1000 B.C.E. to 300 C.E. 159
Eastern Africa in Its Classical Age 169
Western Equatorial Africa: Social and Economic Repercussions of Agricultural Expansion 192
Commerce, Merchants, and States: Northeastern Africa 200
North Africa in the Carthaginian and Roman Eras 221
An African Development of Commerce: West Africa, 1000 B.C.E. to 300 C.E. 227
6 Southern, Central, and Eastern Africa: The Middle Centuries, 300-1450 238
Africa and the World: Issues and Themes of the Age 238
Subsistence and Society in Southern Africa, 300-1450 241
Growth of Political Scale: The Southern Woodland Savannas and Equatorial Rainforest, 600-1450 262
Eastern Africa, 300-1450 275
Southern, Central, and Eastern Africa: Taking the Long View 285
7 Northeastern, West, and North Africa: The Middle Centuries, 300-1450 290
Themes of Change 290
Northeastern Africa, 300-1450 291
West Africa, 300-1450 309
North Africa and the Sahara, 300-1450: Competing Legitimacies, Competing Hegemonies 329
Agriculture, Technology, and Culture: A Continental Overview, 300-1450 337
8 The Early Atlantic Age, 1450-1640 349
Africa and the World Enter a New Historical Era 349
Western Africa, 1450-1640 355
Atlantic Commerce and the Coastal Hinterlands of Africa 361
Commerce, Religion, and Political Struggle in Northeastern Africa 379
Northern Africa and the Sahara 385
History in the Eastern and Central Sudan, 1450-1640 386
History in the African Interior, 1450-1640 391
9 Africa in the Era of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1640-1800 407
The Middle Era of the Atlantic Age: Themes and Issues 407
West Africa in the Era of the Slave Trade 408
Central Africa: The Expanding Impact of Atlantic Commerce 423
Southern Africa: New Pastoral and Trading Frontiers 438
Eastern Africa: States and Stateless Societies 445
Northeastern Africa: An Age of Political and Cultural Realignment 452
North Africa: The Decline of Ottoman Over-rule 458
The Close of the Eighteenth Century: A New Era Begins 459
Index 463
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