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Images of Colonial Africa. What Constitutes Africa?. What constitutes Colonial Africa?. Colonial Africa. A historical designation of time—roughly 1860s-1960s A political description—who has institutional authority A social description—power imbalance in relationships.

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What constitutes colonial africa

What constitutes Colonial Africa?

Colonial africa
Colonial Africa

  • A historical designation of time—roughly 1860s-1960s

  • A political description—who has institutional authority

  • A social description—power imbalance in relationships

Colonialism vs imperialism
“Colonialism” vs. “Imperialism”

  • In general, the two terms are used interchangeably

  • Both indicate concrete territorial claims by foreign powers as well as a broader culture of power imbalance

  • Some scholars differentiate between European designs and agendas (Imperialism) and the “on-the-ground” project of conquest and rule (Colonialism)

Challenges in studying colonial africa
Challenges in Studying Colonial Africa

  • Is Africa a useful unit of analysis?

  • How to recover local voices?

  • Who represents a group or society?

  • How to read largely biased sources?

    • What constitutes a historical source?

Africa and the world
Africa and the World

  • Correcting diffusionist narratives

  • Ecological factors



  • Sites of connection

    -Ancient Mediterranean

    -Trans-Saharan routes

    -East Africa and the Indian Ocean

Rethinking conventional wisdom
Rethinking “Conventional Wisdom”

  • Origins of Humanity—Great Rift Valley

  • Independent development of iron technology, farming, pastoralism

  • Movement of information/technology between Africa and the world always a two-way process

  • “Afrocentrism” a separate issue

Ecology and disease
Ecology and Disease

  • Ecological Circumstances not homogeneous across the continent

  • Many areas have physical barriers limiting connections with the outside

  • Disease environment also a factor—both a challenge to indigenous survival and a barrier to outside visitors

Ancient contact with the mediterranean world
Ancient Contact with the Mediterranean World

  • “Periplus of the Erythraean Sea,” written as a guide for Greek sea captains in the 2nd century AD

    Two days' sail beyond, there lies the very last market-town of the continent of Azania, which is called Rhapta; which has its name from the sewed boats (rhapton ploiarion) already mentioned; in which there is ivory in great quantity, and tortoise-shell. Along this coast live men of piratical habits, very great in stature, and under separate chiefs for each place. The Mapharitic chief governs it under some ancient right that subjects it to the sovereignty of the state that is become first in Arabia. And the people of Muza now hold it under his authority, and send thither many large ships; using Arab captains and agents, who are familiar with the natives and intermarry with them, and who know the whole coast and understand the language.

Images of colonial africa

  • Axum (Aksum) an important connection between Mediterranean and Indian Ocean worlds—began to decline in the 8th century

Caravan trade
Caravan Trade

  • Begins c. 300 AD

  • Trade items include salt, kola nuts, cloth, gold and slaves

  • Trade networks begin to take on Islamic character c. 10th century AD

Account of mansa musa s pilgrimage
Account of Mansa Musa’s Pilgrimage

When Mansa Musa left the land of the Maghrib for the Pilgrimage he followed the desert route, and came out near the Pyramids in Egypt. He sent a rich present to al-Nasir. It is said that it included 50,000 dinars. Al-Nasir accommodated him at al-Qarafa al-Kubra and gave it to him as a fief. The sultan received him in his audience room, talked to him, gave him a gift, and supplied him with provisions. He gave them horses and camels, and sent along with him emirs to serve him until he performed his religious duty in the year 724/1324.

Indian ocean trade
Indian Ocean Trade

  • Governed, in part, by monsoon winds

  • Undertaken by dhow

  • Involved a web of traders—mostly Muslim—in Africa, the Persian Gulf and India

  • City-states benefited by charging customs on trade

  • Slave trade a significant element

Swahili coast
Swahili Coast

  • Defined in part by language—Bantu structure with some Arabic vocabulary

  • Relationship between the coast and the interior significant

  • Swahili identity grounded in trade