From several points of view, Africa, despite its pre-history and ancient history, is a late participant in world history. The commonly used dividing line between prehistory and history is the existence of written sources. These are missing for large parts of the continent almost until our own time.

African history

For a long time, western sub-Saharan Africa was also regarded as a history-free territory. In recent decades, this ethnocentric failure has given way to the realization that the people of Africa as well as Europe and Asia have a long and diverse history. Writing sources – Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arabic – have much to say about North Africa and a great deal about West Africa. Several African people have also, under Islamic influence, created literary monuments in their own languages ​​in Arabic writing.

  • Countryaah: Offers a full list of 54 countries and territories in the continent of Africa  in alphabetical order.

At the end of the 15th century, European sources began to give glimpses of knowledge of peoples and conditions along the coasts. However, for a continuous history, this material is generally not enough until the last few centuries. However, history research on Africa has developed an interaction with a number of other sciences. Archeology has important contributions to make not only about distant millions of years, but also of much later times. From linguistic research and ethnology, conclusions can be drawn about cultural and popular streams, from thousands of years before our era until the 19th century.

Not least has been sought to refine the method of utilizing the oral traditions that many African peoples, especially in the central parts of the continent, have preserved in the present. It may be the question of chief genealogies, stories of origins and migrations, stories that reflect social and economic changes. By analyzing the stereotypes and variants of the traditions, it is sometimes possible to reconstruct a historical past.

According to Abbreviationfinder, the reconstruction of Africa’s history is only at its beginning, and many are still hypotheses. But the boundaries have been pushed behind the earliest sources of scripture. In general, one now chooses to set the boundary between Africa’s prehistory and its history in the iron technology victory train across the continent, which took place during the long period of 500 BC – 1000 AD.

In ancient history writing about Africa, a sharp geographical boundary in the Sahara was often set. To the north of the desert, Africa belonged to the civilized and historical world through Roman and Arabs; south of it, everything had stood still for millennia. It is now clear that in ancient times the Sahara did not constitute a barrier to transport.

8,000-10,000 years ago, the Sahara had a humid climate and could feed a livestock-eating population. Lake Chad had an area thirteen times larger than the current one. Then began a slow, still ongoing drying out and widening of the desert. But even in recent times, the Sahara has prevented the movement of goods, people and ideas throughout the continent. Africa can be treated as a historical whole.

Country Air Force (male) Fleet (man) Army (man)
Algeria 14,000 (2017) 6,000 (2017) 110 000 (2017)
Angola 6,000 (2017) 1,000 (2017) 100,000 (2017)
Benin 250 (2017) 500 (2017) 6,500 (2017)
Botswana 500 (2017) 8,500 (2017)
Burkina Faso 600 (2017) 6,400 (2017)
Burundi 200 (2015) 50 (2017) 30,000 (2017)
central African Republic 150 (2017) 7,000 (2017)
Djibouti 250 (2017) 200 (2017) 8,000 (2017)
Egypt 30,000 (2017) 18,500 (2017) 310 000 (2017)
Equatorial Guinea 100 (2017) 250 (2017) 1,100 (2017)
Ivory Coast 1,400 (2017) 1,000 (2017) 23,000 (2017)
Eritrea 350 (2017) 1,400 (2017) 200,000 (2017)
Ethiopia 3,000 (2017) 135,000 (2017)
Gabon 1,000 (2017) 500 (2017) 3,200 (2017)
Gambia 70 (2015) 800 (2017)
Ghana 2,000 (2017) 2,000 (2017) 11,500 (2017)
Guinea 800 (2017) 400 (2017) 8,500 (2017)
Guinea-Bissau 100 (2017) 350 (2017) 4,000 (2017)
Cameroon 400 (2017) 1,500 (2017) 12,500 (2017)
Cape Verde 100 (2017) 100 (2017) 1,000 (2017)
Kenya 2,500 (2017) 1 600 (2017) 20,000 (2017)
Congo-Brazzaville 1,200 (2017) 800 (2017) 8,000 (2017)
Congo-Kinshasa 2,550 (2017) 6 700 (2017) 103 000 (2017)
Lesotho 110 (2015) 2,000 (2017)
Liberia 50 (2017) 2,000 (2017)
Libya 18,000 (2010) 8,000 (2010) 50,000 (2010)
Madagascar 500 (2017) 500 (2017) 12,500 (2017)
Malawi 220 (2015) 10 700 (2017)
Mali 400 (2012) 50 (2012) 10,000 (2017)
Morocco 13,000 (2017) 7 800 (2017) 175 000 (2017)
Mauritania 250 (2017) 600 (2017) 15,000 (2017)
Mozambique 1,000 (2017) 200 (2017) 10,000 (2017)
Namibia 900 (2017) 9,000 (2017)
Niger 100 (2017) 5,200 (2017)
Nigeria 10,000 (2017) 8,000 (2017) 100,000 (2017)
Rwanda 1,000 (2017) 32 000 (2017)
São Tomé & Príncipe
Senegal 750 (2017) 750 (2017) 11,900 (2017)
Seychelles 20 (2017) 200 (2017) 200 (2017)
Sierra Leone 200 (2015) 8,500 (2017)
Somalia 19 800 (2017)
Sudan 3,000 (2017) 1,300 (2017) 100,000 (2017)
South Africa 10 450 (2017) 7 550 (2017) 40 200 (2017)
South Sudan 185,000 (2017)
Tanzania 3,000 (2017) 1,000 (2017) 23,000 (2017)
Chad 350 (2017) 25,000 (2017)
Togo 250 (2017) 200 (2017) 8 100 (2017)
Tunisia 4,000 (2017) 4 800 (2017) 27,000 (2017)
Uganda 400 (2015) 45,000 (2017)
Zambia 1 600 (2017) 13,500 (2017)
Zimbabwe 4,000 (2017) 25,000 (2017)

The African Iron Age

The African Iron Age

Iron as a material for weapons and peaceful commodities came to Egypt from Asia through the Assyrians, who invaded the country in the 6th century BC. For a time, Nillanden had been ruled by Nubians from the south of the first cataract. They now retreated to their own area, called Kush. A little later, Meroe (between the 5th and 6th cataracts) became the capital of a Nubian state formation. Excavations there have brought an Egyptian-Nubian culture to the day. inscriptions whose hieroglyphs have not yet been interpreted.

The Mero Empire flourished from about 500 BC to 300 AD, when the Christian Aksum Empire, founded on the Ethiopian highlands by immigrants from Arabia, gained dominion in the region for a few centuries and became the origin of present-day Ethiopia. Meroe was a gold-rich country, but the strangest thing is the finds near the capital of huge slag piles, which may be remnants of large ironworks. However, because iron objects are rare in mero excavations, several researchers believe that these are other metals. Therefore, Meroe’s role in the spread of iron technology across Africa is disputed.

One theory is that in the fall of the Mero Empire, iron handling spread west towards Chad and all the way to Nigeria and from there further south across the continent. But the evidence so far drawn on ironmaking is considerably older in the Niger area than on Lake Chad. Already in the 400s BC iron was produced in the area between Niger and the Benue River, where terracotta sculptures of high artistic quality from the same period were also found. The bargain village Nok has been named for this African Iron Age culture. The impulses may have come from the north through the Sahara. In the 7th century BC the iron-minded Phoenicians had founded Carthage (Tunisia), which became the center of their trade, by vessels on the Mediterranean and with caravans south toward Niger, where gold and ivory were available.

According to the most widely used linguistic theory, the Nigeria-Cameroon region is the region of origin for all the African people who speak Bantu languages. From about 500 BC they should have begun to spread, partly south through the rainforest towards the Congo (Kinshasa) -Angola region, and partly east towards the Great Lakes. From these new centers, in new waves, the last in the 11th century AD, they must have occupied the whole of central and southern Africa except the southeastern part, where the former population of Khoi and San remained.

The archaeological finds of ironmaking and iron forging in these parts of Africa are chronologically consistent with the assumed migration of dietary talents. These people may thus have been the pioneers of iron. With the help of iron tools, they can also have cleared land for the cultivation of bread seed. Thus, agriculture too would have reached most of the continent through them. Corresponding upheavals had reached Asia in both the West and the East, and Europe thousands of years earlier. But translating temperate zones’ technology into tropical environments, where the tsets fly also attacked the cattle, was a difficult and time-consuming task.

Thus, according to these theories, new peoples, new technologies and new economies would have marked the “dawn of history” in sub-Saharan Africa during the period 500 BC – 1000 AD.

The entrance of Islam

North Africa was also transformed by “people migrations” at this stage. Rome did in the 200s and 100s BC end the Carthaginian power, occupied and Latinized the southern Mediterranean coast, built cities, planted colonists, introduced wine and olive cultivation – all without deeply touching the Berber people inland. Christianity broke through early, and the Roman province of Africa became the home of both church fathers such as Tertullian and Augustine and of opposition movements such as the donors.

In the 400s, the vandals invaded the area, but were driven out by the Byzantine emperor’s troops after a century. Byzan’s empire also became a short episode. The next invasion had deeper and more permanent effects. Around 640, the Muslim Arabs conquered Egypt and then continued west through the Libyan desert.

For the rest of the century, infiltration in North Africa was completed, by the Arabs called the Maghreb ‘the land where the sun goes down’, the ‘western country’. The military occupation was followed by a slower cultural and religious conquest. The traces of Roman and Byzantine Christianity disappeared in a few centuries. The Berber people resisted Arabization and Islamization. It was not until the 11th century, when Arab nomads from Egypt flooded the Maghreb, that the region was seriously incorporated into Islam. But in the mountain regions, Berber retained his uniqueness and independence towards our time.

African empires 1000-1600

Throughout the newly depicted period, trade between the Mediterranean coast and the Sahara oases continued, but relations with the black peoples south of the desert appear to have been sporadic. However, the situation was changing as the dromedary was introduced from the east. Arabian camel nomads in the eastern desert and camel-rearing berber, e.g. tuareger, in the west, caravan traffic made regular. People in West Sudan had, among other things, gold and slaves to offer and needed in return, among other things. salt and horses from the north.

This is how Islam’s continuing advancement began through Sudan, a combination of economic activity, military pressure and religious propaganda. The first Sudanese people to be drawn into the sphere were the soninke, whose kingdom of Ghana lay on the grassland (Sahel) and probably had just arrived to organize peaceful and warlike relations with the Tuareg, especially the mining trade. By the mid-1000s, an Arab geographer describes the capital of the kingdom as divided into two, a Muslim merchant city with mosques and schools and a city for the king and his “sorcerers”.

Ghana’s neighbor to the north was a Berber Federation led by a Muslim sect, the Almoravids, who had made themselves lords over Algeria, Morocco and Andalusia in Spain. A branch of the movement began towards the end of the century jihad (holy war) against Ghana, which seems to have become more Muslim but politically weakened. Instead, in the 1100s, a new and even more extensive Sudanese kingdom, Mali, was founded, founded by clans of the Malinka people. Oral tradition and Arabic scholars point out Sundiata (“King Lion”) as the real founder of the kingdom at the beginning of the 13th century. It then stretched from the Atlantic to the Niger Curve. The main trading town was Timbuktu. In the 1300s, a Malay ruler made a widely famous pilgrimage to Mecca,

Timbuktu reached the peak as a commercial and Muslim learning city under Mali’s successor as ruler state in the region, Songhai. The prosperity of this state lasted from the mid-1400s to the end of the 16th century, when suddenly an invasion of the Sahara from Morocco ended the medieval power generation of West Sudanese people. The Moroccans had rifles; the firearms began to reshape Africa’s history.

Further east in Sudan, Kanem and Bornu played similar economic and cultural roles during the same period as Mali and Songhai. Further south, in present-day Northern Nigeria, a loose federation of Hausa cities emerged in the 1300s, whose upper class was more or less Muslim. Closer to the Gulf of Guinea, outside the sphere of Islam, states also emerged of significant economic and cultural levels, mainly among them Benin.

Even elsewhere in Africa than in the West, one can see how domestic or intercontinental trade stimulates political and cultural development. At least since the 9th century, maritime trade, controlled by the monsoon winds, took place between the countries of the Persian Gulf and the east coast of Africa.

The Arab and Persian merchants searched for ivory, gold and slaves and delivered in return fabrics and even Chinese porcelain. Above all, they transmitted impulses from Islamic city culture. A pearl band of commercial cities – Mombasa, Kilwa and others. – arose, with a small Arabic-speaking merchant class and a large African majority with traditional culture and religion.

The coveted gold came from the Shona peoples’ lands in present-day Zimbabwe, which has taken the name of the region’s largest archaeological remains, Greater Zimbabwe, a powerful plant of terraced royal farms, the center of the thriving kingdom for the period 1000–1400. Via Sofala on the coast and Kilwa, gold went out on the world market, also to Europe. In the 15th century, the center of power in the region moved north to the Zambezi Valley, where a kingdom was formed that the Portuguese then called Monomotapa (distortion of the ruling title Mwene Mutapa).

Even further afield in Africa, the Lund people from the 15th century achieved a vast empire, and at the mouth of the Congo River arose at the same time the Kingdom of Congo, based on agriculture and trade with surrounding peoples.

Quite unique among the state formations of the era was Christian Ethiopia. In the 1100s it gained a powerful dynasty, famous especially for the complex of underground churches built at the capital (Lalibela). At the end of the 13th century, a new royal family came into being, which included descendants of King Solomon. During a constant struggle against Muslim neighbors, the kingdom was greatly expanded.

Africa in world communication 1500-1800

Thus, much of Africa was in a period that corresponds to our Middle Ages in a development that could have reduced the continent’s political and economic backlog to the outside world. The arrival of European mariners and other external forces, instead of Africa, was now drawn into a new transformation process. However, the scope of the change should not be exaggerated. The continent had already been drawn into international trade before.

Incidentally, the strongest forces of change in the entire northern half of Africa were not Europeans, but among other things. the expansion of the Ottoman Empire and the activities of the African people. Morocco’s already mentioned attack on Songhai at the end of the 16th century had a negative impact on the ancient trade through the Sahara. It helped the West Sudanese peoples to steer their commerce towards the coast and the Atlantic.

On the other side of Africa, the Ottomans’ government in Egypt, in effect soon exercised by the old ruling layer of Mamluks, led to both political and economic decay. The presence of the Turks in the region increased the Muslim pressure on Ethiopia, which weakened but still held, despite the simultaneous invasion of southern Gala people, a “people migration” that continued into the 19th century.

The movements of the nomad people also propagated southward. Nile peoples and Bantu-speaking peoples migrated and reshaped the older kingdoms that existed in the region of the Great Lakes. From these upheavals came a number of kingdoms: Bunyoro, Buganda and others. Much later, they gained trade and cultural contact with the coastal towns. Many of them have re-emerged as states in the present, after the colonial bracket of the 19th century.

For a short time, the Portuguese played on the East African coast. From the beginning of the 16th century, Mombasa was their main support point, but after less than two hundred years Arab princes from the Persian Gulf drove them away, and their presence was reduced to Mozambique. Their influence, like those of the Moroccans, had been largely negative from a commercial point of view.

The Portuguese’s attempts to gain control of the gold in the Zambezi region had little success and contributed to the decay of the African kingdom of Monomotapa. Again, foreign interference was a disruptive factor in Africa’s development.

An entirely different effect, even the degrading one, was given to the Dutch colony on the Godahoppsudden from the middle of the 17th century. The colonists, the Boers, soon began to spread to the east and north during constant battles and disputes with threat men and Bushmen (khoi and san), which were more or less annihilated. During the 18th century, at the colony’s ever-widening eastern border, they encountered Xhosa, a Slavic-speaking people of completely different resilience. Out of that conflict, racist South Africa would emerge.

Their most fatal effects were European activity in West Africa, especially on the Guinea coast. The main support points of the Portuguese in the area were Elmina (in present-day Ghana) as the center of the gold trade and the island of São Tomé, where slave exports were mainly conducted. Then a traffic that traditionally linked West Africa to the Mediterranean through the desert began to be turned to the sea side.

The economic upheaval brought with it political changes. Old kingdoms fell away, new states grew strong on the basis of trade with coastal Europeans and their African aides. Benin, who refused to engage in slave traffic, lost his power to the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo, which ruled by changing slaves to rifles. Further west, Dahomey emerged as a slave-trading military state. Even more powerful was Ashanti on the Gold Coast. Common to these kingdoms was that they turned their faces from the north towards the coast and the ocean trade. Within this, the Portuguese lost their monopoly during the 16th and 16th centuries. Dutch, French and English established themselves more and more massively on the coast. Traffic was increasingly dominated by the slave trade. It reached its peak in the 18th century and during the first half of the 19th century.

Africa’s loss of people – in the most laborious and fertile age – during the four centuries of the slave trade is estimated to be highly different: between 15 and 100 million, including depending on how one calculates mortality during slave transport to land and sea. Undoubtedly, the damaging effects of this vein have been great, especially in large central African areas, where nature was pleasant and the conditions for social life scarce. The region’s enduring poverty has at least one explanation in this “history’s greatest crime” (compare slavery).

Africa History