Archive for October, 2010

Africa and overview

Posted in Uncategorized on October 22, 2010 by John Murnane


North-East Africa: Aksum and Christianity

Said to be the final resting place of the bibical Ark of the Covenant, Aksum was the first large-scale African state. As John Reader put it, "The unique environmental circumstances of northern Ethiopia combined with the trading opportunities of the Red Sea to fuel the rise of sub-Saharan Africa's first indigenous state," (Reader, 205). Home to the coptic Christians, Aksum became inbroiled in constant war with Isam. The existence of this kingdom led to the legend of "Prestor John"; which, in turn, led to Portugese attempts at circumventing Africa to seek an alliance against the common, Muslim enemy.

  • c. 100 Aksum becomes capital of major state in Eritrea, northern Ethiopia

  • c. 330 – 40 Beginning of conversion of kingdom of Aksum in Ethiopia-Eritrea to Christianity, by Bishop Frumentius

  • 400s Christianity in the Aksum empire in northeastern Africa becomes more widespread

  • c. 550 – 600 Nubians in Sudan, northeastern Africa, become Christian

  • 652 Christian Nubians and Arabs in Egypt agree that Aswan on Nile should mark southern limit of Arab expansion

  • c. 800 – c. 950 Christian empire in Ethiopia continues after the decline of Aksum

  • C. 1200 – 30 King Lalibela of Ethiopia responsible for churches cut from rock

  • 1434 – 68 Reign of Christian emperor Zera Yacub in Ethiopia; he expands church and promotes great monasteries

  • 1529 Muslims defeat Christian Ethiopian forces at the Battle of Shimbra Kure and overrun the kingdom until 1543, when Portuguese troops help to defeat them

A helpful source for much of this informations is John Reader’s, Africa: A Biography of the Continent (New York, 1998).

The Bantu, Great Zimbabwe and World Trade

The Bantu originated in West Africa--in present-day Cameroon. Over a period of hundreds of years, they spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa, bring with them iron-making and farming techniques and the Bantu langauage. Ariving in Southern Africa c. 1000, they soon built a huge city known as Great Zimbabwe. Remains at this city suggest a vibrant trade involving central Africa, Great Zimbabwe, the Swahili on the east coast of Africa, the Middle East, India and China.

* * * *

  • c. 300 – 400 CE Bantu cereal cultivators in southeast Africa begin to herd cattle

  • 1000s Bantu-speaking peoples set up kingdoms in southern Africa

  • c. 1400 Kingdom of Great Zimbabwe in southern Africa thrives on gold trade

  • 1400s Gold from mines in Zimbabwe is exported to Asia via Sofala on the east coast

  • c. 1450 Building at Great Zimbabwe, southern Africa, at its height


Salt, Gold, and the Trans-Saharan Trade Networks

With the domestication of the camel, sub-Saharan West Africa engaged in a trans-Saharan salt-for-gold trade with Muslims in North Africa. Religion followed trade to some extent, as Islam spread into West Africa, epitomized by the Mali empire and the ancient Islamic university at Timbuktu .

  • c. 500 The Ghanaian empire becomes the most important power in West Africa

  • c. 900 Kasar Hausa (Hausaland), a fertile region on the lower Niger river in West Africa, prospers due to increasing trade and industry

  • c. 950 – 1050 Igbo-Ukwu culture thrives in eastern Nigeria

  • 1000s Kingdoms of Takrur and Gao flourish in West Africa due to gold trade

  • c. 1050s Culture of Yoruba people of Ife flourishes in Nigeria in West Africa

  • c. 1100 Ghana empire in West Africa declines

  • c. 1235 Great warrior leader Sun Diata founds Mali empire in West Africa; it expands under his rule

  • 1300 Ife culture of West Africa produces famous brasses

  • 1324 Emperor of Mali, Mansa Musa, goes on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Arabia

  • 1420s Songhai people in Gao region, West Africa, begin raids on Mali empire

  • 1500s Songhai empire in West Africa enters period of greatest expansion and power under Askia Mohammed TurrĂˆ

  • 1500s Trade encourages growth of Hausa states in West Africa



East Africa: Arabs and Swahili

  • 800s Arabs and Persians explore East African coast and set up trading stations at Malindi, Mombasa, Kilwa, and Mogadishu (the Swahili Coast)

  • c. 1430 Sultans of Kilwa on east African coast begin grand building programme

  • 1250-1450 Conducted trade with Great Zimbabwe, India and China


The Portuguese and the Atlantic Slave Trade

  • 1420 Portuguese sailors begin to explore west coast of Africa

  • 1482 Portuguese explore Congo river estuary

  • 1491 Ruler of Congo kingdom baptized as Christian by Portuguese1505-07 Portuguese capture Sofala on east coast and found Mozambique; they begin to trade with Africans

  • 1507 Nzinga Mbemba, Christian and Portuguese ally, becomes king of Kongo kingdom in central Africa

  • c. 1530 Beginning of trans-Atlantic slave trade organized by Portuguese

  • 1560s First Portuguese embassies in, Timbuktu West Africa