The Dutch had first settled in South Africa in 1652, and the colony had been taken over by Britain in 1806. During the mid-19th century both the British and the
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A Short History of Africa Chapter 1. The Races of Africa3 Chapter 2. The Kushites : Meroe : Nubia.5 Chapter 3. North Africa until the 7th Century A.D. : Carthage : Rome : The Vandals : Byzantium..6 Chapter 4. North Afri ca : The Arabs..9 Chapter 5. The Early Kingdoms of the Western and Central Sudan.11 Chapter 6. Eastern and Central Africa : The Swahili..13 Chapter 7. The West African Forest Kingdoms.15 Chapter 9. Portuguese Exploration and Colonisation..18 Chapter 10. The Slave Trade..20 Chapter 12. Africa in the Early Years of the 19th Century..22 Chapter 12. European Exploration 1770-187025 Chapter 13. French and British Activities in Africa from the 1820s to 1880s.27 Chapter 14. The “Scramble for Africa”..30 Chapter 15. The Colonial Period.34 Chapter 16. The Africans become Independent.36 Chapter 18. After Independence: North Africa42 Chapter 19.After Independence: The Countries of the Sudan45 Chapter 20. After Independence – West Africa48 Chapter 22. After Independence: Central Africa59 Chapter 23.After Independence: Southern Central Africa..64 Chapter 24. Southern Africa since 1965..67 Map: Ancient Africa..71 Map: 15 th to 19th Centuries.73 Map: The Colonial Period.75 Map: After Independence76
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Foreword. This is a short history of Africa excluding Egypt, Ethiopia and (Dutch and British) South Africa, which are the subjects of separate histories. Some of the history of these countries, however, is naturally mentioned in this history of the rest of Africa – but is kept to the minimum needed to make the rest comprehensible. This short history has been compiled from th e study of a number of works, including the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Encycloped ia Americana, Every-man’s Encyclopedia, W.L.Langer’s “Encyclopedia of World Hi story”, other reference books such as Whitaker’s Almanack and The Statesman’s Year Book, ﬁThe Last Two Million Years” published by the Readers’ Digest, and “Disco vering Africa’s Past” by Basil Davidson.
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Chapter 1. The Races of Africa. The two main races inhabiting Africa in early times were the Berbers of the Mediterranean coastlands and the Negroes of equatorial Africa. The Berbers (and the ancient Egyptians) were of Hamitic stock – ra cially Caucasian, with ﬁEuropean” facial characteristics. The Negroes included the small-statured Pygmies. The pygmies, and a third race – the rather yellow skinned Bushmen – may have been widely spread over central and southern Africa until they were driven from the most fruitful lands by the Negroes. The descendants of the Py gmies now inhabit the forests of central Africa. Only small numbers of Bushmen now survive, mainly in the Kalahari desert in the south. Between the northern coastlands and equatorial Africa is the Sahara desert. Until the end of the last Ice Age (about 8000 B.C.) th e Sahara was a fertile grassland. It then started to dry up, much of it remainin g habitable until about 2000 B.C. The early inhabitants of the Sahara were probably a mixture of Berbers and Negroes. Recently discovered rock paintings show that cattle keeping was a major occupation in what appears to have been a peaceful life. The paintings also show that music and dancing were important to these ancient Africans – as they are to the modern Negroes. Between about 4000 and 2000 B.C, as the dese rt spread, the peoples of the Sahara gradually emigrated to the north, east and south though some remained, learning to live with little water: their descendants ar e the Berber Tuareg of the desert today (whose men wear veils). Those who went South settled in the west ern and central Sudan. (The term Sudan relates to the wide strip of grassland stretching across Africa, south of the Sahara and Egypt. The western Sudan is separated fr om the coast to the south by a belt of dense forest.) In the Sudan the newcomers mixed with other Negro tribes to form the Bantu-speaking peoples, who gradually sp read into central, eastern and southern Africa. In the eastern Sudan, south of Egypt, another civilisation arose, starting about 1000 B.C. – that of the Kushites, probably a mi xture of Hamitic and Negro stock. Further east is Ethiopia. The Ethiopians were probably of Hamitic origin, mixed later with Arabs from Arabia. Historical times, that is when history is known with reasonable accuracy and some detail, started on widely diffe rent dates in the different regions of Africa, very roughly as follows:- Egypt – about 3000 B.C. Nush – about 1000 B.C. Berber North Africa – about 1000 B.C. Ethiopia – about A.D. 0 Western and Central Sudan – about A.D. 300. East Africa – about A.D. 700. The Forest lands south of the We stern Sudan – about A.D. 1000.
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Chapter 2. The Kushites : Meroe : Nubia. During the time of ancient Egypt’s glory – during the third and second millenia B.C. – the influence of Egyptian civilisation was strong in the land to the south, the eastern or Egyptian Sudan, often called Nubia an d known to the Egyptians as Kush. The northern Nubians, darker skinned than the Egyptians, may have originally come from Asia; those further south were Negroes. Egypt traded with , fought with, and to some extent ruled over these peoples. A Kushite civilisation in Nubia, with its capital at Napata, flourished from the 11th century B.C; and at the same time Egypt en tered into a long pe riod of weakness and divided rule. About 750 B.C. the Kushites began the conquest of Egypt, and in 715 established there a Kushite dynasty (misleadingly known as the Ethiopian Dynasty). But about 50 years later the Kushites we re driver out of Egypt, after some tremendous battles, by invading Assyrians. The Kushite kings retired to their old capital at Napata, wh ere they continued to rule until early in the 6th century B.C. They then transferred their capital to Meroe, 300 miles further south, perhaps because Meroe was situated in an area rich in iron ore. The Kushite Kingdom of Meroe lasted for eight centuries, until ab out A.D. 320, when it was destroyed by the King of Axum, th e rising power in Ethiopia. The Kushite civilisation vanished completely. It was not until very recently that knowledge of it has been compiled, from inscriptions in tombs and the ruins of Meroe and Napata. The Meroitic writing has been partly deciphered, though the language is dead. The Kushites were great traders – from Re d Sea ports to the east, and through Egypt where their relations with th e Ptolemies in the last centuries B.C. were generally friendly. The Kushites were skilled iron wo rkers; and their armies gained strength from their horsed cavalry and their taming and use of the elephant. Meroe was a splendid city, with a magnificent palace and a beautifully decorated Temple of the Sun. About 200 years after the destruction of Meroe the Nubian descendants of the Kushites were converted to Christianity by missionary monks from Egypt (where at that time Christianity was widespread). There then existed for many centuries Christian kingdoms in Nubia, where the people appear to have led a comfortable life. Good farmers and craftsmen, they were al so greatly interested in learning. They developed a modified form of Greek writing suitable for their own language, and built schools and libraries. After the Moslem conquest of Egypt in the 7th century (see chapter 4) the Nubian Christians continued on fr iendly terms with Egypt un til about 1250, when their kingdoms were invaded by Moslem Arab s and African neighbours who had been converted to Islam. By the 14th century this Nubian Christian civilisation had faded out.
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Chapter 3. North Africa until the 7th Century A.D. : Carthage : Rome : The Vandals : Byzantium. North Africa in this history refers to what is now Morocco , Algeria, Tuni sia and Libya. In Roman times Mauretania (the land of th e Mauri – or Moors) coincided roughly with modern Morocco. It is not to be confused with present day Mauritania; which is further south. And the Roman name for part of what is now Tunisia and Algeria was Numidia. Western Libya was (and still is) called Tripolitania, and eastern Libya Cyrenaica. The Berbers of North Africa in ancient ti mes were largely nomadic, and never united into a single state. There were also many traders, engagi ng particularly in the trans- Saharan trade with the peoples of the Sudan. The traders settled in towns, which often developed into kingdoms. During the second millenium B.C. Libyan chiefs periodically raided Egypt. Then, during the time of Egypt’s weakness after the power of the Pharaohs collapsed in the 11th century B.C, Libyan mercenaries in th e Egyptian army established the Libyan Dynasty in Egypt, about 950 B.C. The dynast y lasted for two centuries (followed by a further period of confusio n in Egypt and its conquest by the Kushites). In the 7th century, B.C. the Greeks colonised Cyrenaica, building the city of Cyrene, which became famous for its intellectual life, notably its schools of philosophy and medicine. The Greeks continued to rule ther e until the Persians conquered Egypt and Cyrenaica towards the end of the 6th centur y. In the 330s B.C. the Persian Empire was destroyed by Alexander the Great; and on the division of Alexander’s empire after his death Egypt and Cyrenaica passed to the Greek Ptolemies. Meanwhile in Tunisia the sea trading Semitic Phoenicians from Tyre (in Lebanon) had founded the colony of Carthage about 800 B.C. near the present day city of Tunis. By the 5th century Carthage had become the capital of a huge trading empire on the coasts and islands of the western and cent ral Mediterranean, in places, particularly Sicily, rivalled by Greek colonies. In Africa, Carthaginian trad ing ports extended all along the coast from Tunisia to Morocco, and their ships went through the St raits of Gibraltar and down the Atlantic coast in search of trade. (They also went as far as Britain, where they traded for tin from the Cornish mines.) They founded se ttlements on the west African coast in Senegal and Guinea. They also took part ill the trans-Saharan trade. By the 3rd century B.C. Carthage – a repu blic ruled by an aristocracy based on wealth – came into conflict with the rising power of Rome, which had taken over from the Greek colonies as Carthage’s main rival in the central Mediterranean. Two long wars between Rome and Carthage ensued , from 264 to 241 B.C. and 219 to 201 (known as the Punic Wars). The result of the first war was the cession of Sicily to Rome. There was then a period of uneasy peace. Carthage ha d to deal with a revolt of her African mercenaries, who formed the bulk of the rank and file of her armies and had not been paid. Rome took advantage of this to seize Corsica and Sa rdinia. Then the Carthaginian Hamilcar
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North Africa as a whole flou rished during the Roman pe riod. Roads and towns were built, and Tunisia provided a granary for the sustenance of th e Roman armies. The population was a mixture of the indigenous Berbers, the remaining Phoenicians from the Carthaginian era, and Roman colonists – who intermarried with the Africans. Carthage itself was rebuilt, the first colonists being sent there by Julius Caesar a hundred years after its destruction. It beca me the capital of Roman Africa; and in the early centuries A.D. it was a Roman/African centre of learning. Among those who worked there were the writer and philosoph er Apuleius and the Christian theologians Tertullian, Cyprian and Augustine, In the early history of Roman Christianity North Africa was more important than Rome. Another great city was Leptis Magna in Tripolitania. Originally the most important Phoenician settlement in Libya (when its name was Lepcis) it became in Roman times the largest city in Africa after Alexandria and Carthage. Its ruins are now the remains of many imposing Roman buildings. In Cyrenaica, Cyrene continued to be a leading city until it declined after repressive measures taken by the Romans against a Jewi sh revolt, in the course of which some of the city was destroyed, in A.D. 115. The Romans were not great traders, and do not seem to have taken much interest in the Sahara trade routes. However, it was during the Roman period, about A.D. 300, that the Arabian camel was introduced into North Africa. This greatly boosted the Saharan trade, the camel being much more efficient for desert transport than the horse or donkey. In the 3rd and 4th centuries the Roman Empire in Europe was increasingly threatened by the German trib es in the north. At the beginning of the 5th century one of these tribes – the Vandals took ad vantage of a weakening of Roman defences in western Europe, and swept through Gaul into Spain. From Spain a vast horde of Vandals, under their leader Gaiseric, set sa il for North Africa in A.D. 429 – and the “Roman peace” of the previo us centuries was broken. The Vandals by-passed much of Mauretania, which reverted to Berber chieftains, but went on through Numidia, Tunisia, Tripolit ania and Cyrenaica. After five years of warfare Gaiseric made terms with the Western Roman Emperor*, leaving only Carthage in Roman hands. In 439 Gaiseric seized Carthage, which he made the headquarters of a pirate fleet which domi nated the western Mediterranean. In 455 an expedition under Gaiseric looted Rome it self (and 20 years later another German tribe finally extinguished the Western Empire). The Vandal kingdom lasted for a hundred years, until in 533 the Byzantine Emperor Justinian sent an army under his brilliant general Belisarius to re-conquer North Africa. Belisarius did so, and the Vandals th en disappear from history, having left little impression an Africa. Roman North Af rica, except for Maur etania, returned to Roman (Byzantine) rule until the coming of the Moslem Arabs in the 7th century. *The Roman Empire had by now split into two – the declining Western Empire with Rome as capital, and the Eastern, or Byzantine, Empire with its capital at Constantinople.
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Chapter 4. North Africa : The Arabs. After the birth of Islam early in the 7th century the armies of the Semitic Arabs quickly conquered the whole of the Middle East, including Egypt in 642. Later in the century they went on from Egypt to the re st of North Africa, co nverting the Berbers as they went. By the end of the century the Arab empire had reached Morocco. The conversion was generally peaceful, the Ber bers readily accepting Islam. About the only section of the population not conver ted were Jewish communities (which had been in North Africa for several centuries) and which were tolerated and treated well by the Arabs. The Arab invasions, however, were not uno pposed. Byzantine resistance resulted in the complete and final destruction of Cart hage; and further west, in Algeria, there was considerable Berber opposition. Though the Berbers accepted Islam, there was a long period of anarchy and warfare. From Morocco the Arab armies, reinforced with Berbers and led by the Berber Tariq, moved on to Spain and conquered most of the county between 710 and 720. Apart from some areas in the north the Moors, as they were called, remained masters of the Iberian peninsula until late in the 11th century, and were not finally driven out until the 15th century.* As time went on, and more came to Spain from Africa, the Moors in Spain became more Berber than Arab. Meanwhile in Morocco the Berber tribes united in a series of Moorish dynasties, under the first of which Fez was founded as the capital towards the end of the 8th century. Fez became – and still is – the great intellectual and religious centre of Morocco. When the Moors were finally expelled from Spain intellectual re fugees gathered in Fez. In the Arab world divisions soon appeared. Rival families fought for the Caliphate (leadership of Islam), and there was a se rious split between the Shiites and the Sunnites. The Shiites held that the head of Islam must be a descendant of Ali and his wife Fatima (Mohammed’s nephew and daught er)**. There was also a third sect, the Kharijites, who held that the Caliph could be any believer fit for the office. They were at first numerous in North Africa, but few still remain. These family and religious rivalries are exemplified by events in Tunisia. At the end of the 8th century a dynasty was founded by the Aghlabids, who broke away from the ruling Abbasid Caliphate and extended th eir control over some of Algeria and Tripolitania. (The Aghlabids also conquered Sicily, which became another main outlet for Arab learning into Europe.) At the beginning of the 10th century the Aghlabids were overthrown by the Shiite Fatimids, wh o claimed descent from Fatima. (later in the century the Fatimids conquered Egypt and founded Cairo, from which they ruled for the next 200 years.) In the 11th century there was a renewal of Islamic energy in North Africa, accompanied by a further wave of Arab immi gration. And at this time there arose in the Sahara a sect of fanatical Berber Mosl ems, the Almoravids. In about 1060 they
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founded Marrakesh and conquered Morocco, an d then went on to Spain where they temporarily arrested the Christian re-conquest. In the middle of the 12th century some even fiercer and more intolerant Berber Moslems issued from the region of the Atlas mountains in western and central Morocco – the Almohades. Th ey extinguished the power of the Almoravids, and extended their empire in Nort h Africa from Morocco as far as Tripolitania. (Cyrenaica in these times was generally tied to the fortunes of Egypt.) The Almohades also followed in the footsteps of the Almoravids in Spain, from which they were not expelled until the middle of the 13th century (leaving the whole Iberian peninsula in Christian hands except for Granada in the south). The empire of the Almohades in Africa then declined and gradually broke up. Separate dynasties were established in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Tripolitania. *In the middle of the 8th century the state of Cordoba, in Andalusia in southern Spain, was founded by Abd al Rahman, son of an Arabian prince and a Berber princess. In the following centuries Cordob a became the centre of a renaissance in art, science and literature in which, while Europe was in a state of virtual intellectual stagnation the,Arabs led the.western world. Cordoba became the leading intellectual centre of Europe where students came from far and wide to study medicine, mathematics, science, philosophy and musi c under Moslem Christian and Jewish professors. ** The split still exists; but the great majori ty are Sunnites. The Shiites are strong only in Persia and southern Iraq.
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Chapter 5. The Early Kingdoms of the Western and Central Sudan. In early times the peoples of the western and central Sudan were subject to many outside influences – from the Egyptians, the Kushites, the Carthaginians – but mainly from the Berbers of the North African coas tlands. The links were the trade routes across the Sahara. The Berber trade was largely for gold from the district south of the western Sudan, in exchange for salt and manufactured goods. The greatly increased trade after the introduction of the camel about A.D. 700 le d to the formation of Berber states south west of the Sahara. This helped to caus e a greater degree of co-ordination between the Negro tribes and the creation of the fi rst large West African kingdom, probably some time in the 4th century A.D. This was ancient Ghana, formed by the Soninke people who lived in the grasslands of the western Sudan north of the headwaters of the Senegal and Niger rivers. (Ancient Ghan a was – rather confusingly in present-day Mali, and a quite different land from modern Ghana.) The empire of Ghana dominated West Africa for seven centuries, re aching its peak in the 11th century. Based on the gold trade, the Kings of Ghana were immensely rich, and powerful. King Tunka Manin, who ruled in the middle of the 11th century, had a magnificent court in his stone-built capital of Kumbi Saleh, and is said to have been able to field an army of 200,000 men. Ghana, however, was unable to withstand Mo slem invasions in the second half of the 11th century. The Moslem Arabs had been in filtrating the settlements in the Sahara oases since the 7th century. Then, in th e 1070s, Ghana was attacked by the armies of the Almoravids of Morocco. Though the Almoravids retired or were driven out, after destroying Kumbi Saleh, Ghana was permanently weakened. In the course of the next 150 years it was absorbed and it s place as the leading West African power taken by the Kingdom of Mali. Mali, of the Mandinka people, was the great empire in West Africa for about two centuries, from the middle of the 13th to the middle of the 15th. Its territories extended well beyond those of ancient Gh ana. It rose to prominence under Mari- Djata (the Lion Prince) and was at the height of its power under the Emperor Kankan Musa early in the 14th century. On the way to a pilgrimage to Mecca, Kankan Musa exchanged greetings and pres ents on equal terms with the Mameluke Sultan of Egypt. (The kings of Mali had em braced Islam – and so became members of a world civilisation.) Mali was famous for the wealth of its rulers, the peace and order in its territories, and for its learned men – influenced by Islamic studies in law, government and business affairs. These advances made society more complex – and more divided. At the bottom were those who had lost the right to be treated as free men, either through some serious offence or by capture in war. They were “rightless persons” or “permanent servants’ and subject to sale, in effect slaves, but it was usually a form of slavery which was tolerant and allowed them to work in much the same way as other people.
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