African History: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

African History: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

John Parker, Richard Rathbone

Language: English

Pages: 185

ISBN: 0192802488

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This Very Short Introduction looks at Africa's past and reflects on the changing ways it has been imagined and represented, both in Africa and beyond. The author illustrates important aspects of Africa's history with a range of fascinating historical examples, drawn from over 5 millennia across this vast continent. The multitude of topics that the reader will learn about in this succinct work include the unity and diversity of African cultures, slavery, religion, colonial conquest, the diaspora, and the importance of history in understanding contemporary Africa. The book examines questions such as: Who invented the idea of "Africa"? How is African history pieced together, given such a lack of documentary evidence? How did Africa interact with the world 1,000 years ago?

Africa has been known as 'the cradle of mankind', and its recoverable history stretches back to the Pharaohs. But the idea of studying African history is itself new, and the authors show why it is still contested and controversial. This VSI, the first concise work of its kind, will prove essential reading for anyone interested in the African continent and the diversity of human history.


A very well informed and sharply stated historiography... should be in every historiography student's kitbag. A tour de force... it made me think a great deal. Terence Ranger, The Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies You will finish this book better informed, with a better understanding of Africa and a clearer idea of the questions. Robert Giddings, Tribune This small book is a smart and stimulating essay exploring issues of history, sources and methods, Africa in the world, colonialism and postcolonialism, and the past in the present as a means of introducing students and others to academic thinking about African history. Tom Spear, Journal of African History

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difference. In contemporary Africa, in short, the tension between the ideas of unity and diversity remains very much to the fore. Chapter 3 Africa’s past: historical sources In common with historians of all places, historians of Africa have faced significant constraints. Before thinking about the particular problems faced by those attempting to recover Africa’s past, it is important to stress that many such problems are shared with historians working on other parts of the world. The lives of

ordinary working people, of women, or of children, for example, can be difficult and often impossible to capture and to interpret. But Africa presents its own challenges; some are formidable and not all have proved capable of resolution. In the process of addressing these challenges, historians have developed a range of methods which have not only increased the sophistication of African historical studies but have also added to the research techniques and the analytical armoury of the whole field

potentially revolutionary implications for established chronologies. Claims that discoveries in the Termit region of Niger show early, indigenous innovation in iron smelting, for example, remain fiercely contested decades after radiocarbon dates were calculated. In short, archaeology in Africa faces huge technical and logistical constraints. Some of this has been the result of political instability, some of the cost of fieldwork. Both have had an especially damaging impact upon the few active

concerned slaves born in America. Some accounts exist of the experiences within Africa of ‘recaptives’; that is, slaves freed from ships intercepted by British naval patrols and resettled in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and elsewhere. But Baquaqua’s narrative is one of just a handful by Africans who actually endured the Middle Passage. The most famous is that of Olaudah Equiano, published in London in 1789 (although recent research has raised serious doubts over the authenticity of Equiano’s African

multi-party elections. The political struggle for the present is, for the moment, resolved; what remains is representing and reconciling the struggles of the past. One of the many tasks that now faces a democratic South Africa is how to rethink and to rewrite its history. How should history be taught in schools and universities? Should the process inaugurated by the county’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission be about forgiving and forgetting, or about righting past wrongs? In the dark years of

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