The swahili coast to 1500
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The Swahili Coast to 1500. History 1700. Introduction. Africa – Giant Plateau Lofty Height in the East, sloping off to the west Highest Areas – spine from Ethiopia to South Africa Eastern part of Africa – narrow band at sea-level Somalia in the north to Sabi River mouth in south

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The Swahili Coast to 1500

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The swahili coast to 1500

The Swahili Coast to 1500

History 1700


Introduction

Introduction

  • Africa – Giant Plateau

    • Lofty Height in the East, sloping off to the west

    • Highest Areas – spine from Ethiopia to South Africa

  • Eastern part of Africa – narrow band at sea-level

    • Somalia in the north to Sabi River mouth in south

    • Band known as the Swahili Coast – fluctuates

      • At times disappearing, other time 15-20 miles


Swahili coast ecological zone

Swahili Coast – Ecological Zone

  • Distinct Ecological Zone – common characteristics

    • Hundreds of miles long, few miles broad on average

    • Off-shore islands – Pemba, Zanzibar, Lamu, Mafia

    • Located entirely in tropics – similar climate north to south

    • Relatively fertile soil, and free of tsetse fly

    • Many small harbors, occasional larger ones

    • In some ways, forms it’s own world


Early interior contact

Early interior contact

  • Relatively little contact with inland area, or nyiha or nyika area

  • Difficult for three reasons

    • Lack of navigable rivers

    • Tsetse fly in interior – no pack animals

    • Inland area characterized by thorny scrub vegetation – few people, and little the coastal people wanted

      • Few areas with no tsetse fly, like Somalia, interior people nomadic, little the coastal people wanted

      • Only luxury goods – ivory and gums

  • Coast area distinct from interior, also relatively isolated from it


The shirazi

The Shirazi

  • Long Time – Africans themselves, and visitors – assumed Swahili was product of migrations to African coast of people from Arabia and Persia.

  • Migrants known as Shirazi

  • Muslims – therefore, people of Swahili Coast were an extension or outpost of the Islamic world, and not “really” African

  • Interpretation not unlike that of Great Zimbabwe

  • People of Swahili Coast also believe in Shirazi origins outside of Africa – fabrication/genealogical distortions of 19th century.


Swahili coast to 1500

Swahili Coast to 1500

  • History as we understand it today – inter-disciplinary – comparative linguistics and archeology

  • History of coast and development of Swahili culture far more complex and subtle than Islam world outpost interpretation

  • Periodization from around 100 CE to 1498 and arrival of the Portuguese

    • Four Periods – Intertwined with broader global history


Period one 100 ce to 350 ce

Period One – 100 CE to 350 CE

  • Periplus of the Erythrean Sea

    • Roman Imperial Officer from Alexandria (Egypt), end of first century

    • Voyage – down Red Sea, into Indian Ocean, along East Coast of Africa – port called Rhapta – traded for ivory/tortoise shell

    • Recorded trade into region with Egypt – 15 centuries old – oriented eastwards to Persian Gulf area and Arabia – as far away as China, Indonesia, India

    • During Roman Period – Africa not in trade network – trade largely between Mediterranean and India

      • Archeological evidence – India, Roman coins, nothing from Africa – largely uninhabited coast

      • Monsoons – East-West commerce – Indian Ocean Basin

      • Intertropical Convergence Line and relative wind predictability


Period two 350 ce to 800 ce

Period Two – 350 CE to 800 CE

  • Continued trade between India, China, Persia, through the Red Sea – East Africa largely ignored

  • Beginning late 4th century through 5th/6th centuries, all trade through Red Sea drops off precipitously.

  • Three economic/geopolitical reasons:

    • Roman Empire declined – Byzantine/Vandal successors could not sustain trade.

    • Rise of Sassanid Empire – contemporary Iraq/Iran. Bypassed trade through Red Sea, with patterns from Persian Gulf Zone to Indian Ocean continuing until 643 CE with Arab invasions after death of Muhammad

    • Axum – Growth of new state – located in northern Ethiopia-Eritrean zone. Population of mixed Africans and immigrants from Yemen (Saba). Arab and Jewish influences combined with local African culture. Conversion of leaders to Christianity, allied with Rome in 4th century. Geographically positioned to take advantage of remaining Eastern Mediterranean trade


Period three 800 to 1150

Period Three – 800 to 1150

  • Abbasid Caliphs – Arab Empire and its bureaucratization, based in Baghdad after its founding c. 750 CE.

    • Geographical expansion, well-developed bureaucracy, common culture, Islamic religion, written Arabic

    • Trade – Expansion beyond previous routes to India and East Asia. Monsoon winds to Africa.

    • Swahili Coast looked much different than that reported by the author of the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea

      • Intervening period – two migrations took place


Two migrations

Two Migrations

  • Neolithic Culture Southern Cushitic peoples from Ethiopia – brought herding cattle, sheep, goats, some agriculture

  • Kwale/Eastern Stream of Bantu

    • Entered along Tanzanian coast, moved southwards

    • By 10th century – firm demographic base of Bantu speakers established, new culture developing

    • Unique culture – technologically, religiously, economically, linguistically

    • By 1000 CE, Bantu language which today called Swahili emerging with distinct dialects along the coast


Arrival of merchants abbassid caliphate

Arrival of Merchants –Abbassid Caliphate

  • 9th/10th centuries – merchants bring with them two final components to transform area’s specifically Bantu culture into Swahili culture

    • Long-distance trade

    • Heirarchy-ruled town, with stone buildings

  • Stimulus of trade – first real cities emerge on Swahili Coast between 800 and 1100 – growth of some dozen cities

    • Luxury goods – gold, ivory, slaves, spices

    • In return for iron tools, sugar and other foodstuffs, cloth/ornaments

    • Prosperity of coastal entrepot cities – dependent on cont’d economic health of Indian Ocean Basin. Changes in region’s economic history not connected with military disruption and civil instability – like case of Western Sudan, Ghana and Almoravids

    • Gradual fluctuations in underlying economic prosperity of region and fluctuations of trade itself


East versus west africa

East versus West Africa

  • Differences in sources of stability/instability

    • Prosperity of coastal entrepot cities – dependent on cont’d economic health of Indian Ocean Basin. Changes in region’s economic history not connected with military disruption and civil instability – like case of Western Sudan, Ghana and Almoravids

    • Gradual fluctuations in underlying economic prosperity of region and fluctuations of trade itself

  • Differences in structure of trade

    • West Africa – unitary system – trade carried out for most part by one large set of merchants

    • Swahili Coast – Three distinct sets of merchants in relatively peaceful trade

      • Asian traders who owned vessels and sailed to coastal cities

      • African traders from interior who brought things to city-states

      • Swahili city-dwellers serving as middle-men


Period four 1150 to 1500

Period Four – 1150 to 1500

  • Period of intensification of previous patterns – changes taking place in center of Islam

    • New expansive phase of Islam with Abbasid Caliphate, due to succession crisis, with Abu Bekr and his decedents in the middle of it

    • Spread into Indian Ocean Basin, India by 1206 CE over next 150 years throughout South/Southeast Asia

    • Expansion to the west – Saladin conquered south-west Arabia down to Aden – opened up Red Sea trade routes

  • Same time – Europe emerging from Dark Ages – Renaissance of 12th century – revival of demand for gold/ivory and other products from Indian Ocean Basin

  • Double stimulus – great increase of trade with East Coast of Africa – pushed southwards, eventually to Sofala, Kilimani and Kilwa


Two phenomenon along coast

Two Phenomenon along Coast

  • Growth of a host of new cities – wealth indicated by increase of use of stone for buildings rather than mud and wattle

  • Spread of Islamic Religion

    • Sharia – uniformity of legal practice – made sense of the Abbassid government

    • Ulema or legal scholars – held positions of great importance with their interpretation of Sharia

    • Muslims brought with them their religion, Sharia, ulema

    • Appeal of Islam to Bantu-speaking Africans

      • Universal message - increased cosmopolitanism with trade and new ideas

      • Sufi form in Africa – acceptance of saints, veneration of ancestors, toleration of rituals – type of Islam tolerant to African religious practices, like West Africa

      • Economic – Islamic contacts – gain access to banking and credit systems. Made economic sense to become a Muslim


Intermarriage

Intermarriage

  • Merchants did not bring their wives

  • Muslims up to four wives

  • Ideology of Kinship – once marriages took place, children, etc., Muslim merchants established direct connections, aiding in their trade and agriculture, and guaranteed safety

  • Swahili language – began to acquire new words from Arabic

    • By 19th c. some 30% of Swahili lexicon of Arabic derivation.


Conclusion

Conclusion

  • By last period – 1150-1500 – two processes of trade and Islam – new Swahili culture developed – appropriately named, meaning “People of the Coast.”

  • Characteristics –

    • Self-consciously Muslim

    • Cities modeled on those in Middle East/Persia

    • Mosques built, courts established, schools founded

    • Same time – population remained distinctly non-Arab, non-Persian, black African, and language Bantu

    • African culture that had incorporated elements of Islamic culture, with brand new African-Persian-Arab culture, using new written language (Swahili), Sharia, and acceptance of Islam

    • Some forty urban Swahili enclaves on coast, language lingua franca

    • Future – Strong economically, weak politically – no single city emerges as leader, and all remain independent


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