North and Central African Societies

North and Central African
Setting the Stage
• Throughout history, different groups of
Africans have found different ways to organize
themselves to meet their political, economic,
and social needs. In the varied regions of
Africa, climate and topography, or landforms,
influenced how each community developed.
Hunting-Gathering Societies
• Oldest form of social organization
Hunting-Gathering Societies
• Forest Dwellers
– The Efe- live in groups of 10 to 100 people
• they are all related, they occupy their own shelter of grass
and brush but don’t live there long because they are
– Women- are the gatherers in this society
– Men and younger boys- do all the hunting together
but sometimes they go solo
– Diet- they add to their diet by trading honey, game
and other products for crops from nearby farms
Social Structure
• Respected older male is the tribe leader
• He does not give orders though like a chief
• They are not governed by formal written laws
• They settle arguments with long discussions
Stateless Societies
• Lineage- descendants of a common ancestor,
past generations and future generations, they
feel strong loyalties towards each other.
Stateless Societies
• Stateless Societies- Many Lineages took the
place of rulers, no one family had power over
the next
• Igbo Tribe- if dispute arose respected elders of
different lineages would meet and settle it.
– Europeans would force them to pick one ruler in
the 19th century
Tracing Family Descent
• Based on possession and property and how
they are passed on
• Patrilineal- Through father, passed down from
father to son, when a son marries, his children
remain part of his fathers extended family
• Matrilineal- Through their mothers ancestors,
young men from their mothers family inherit
land and wealth. Even in a matrilineal society
men still hold authority
Age-Set System
• Young people form close ties to individuals
outside their lineage
• Each age-set passes together through clearly
identified life stages, such as warrior or elder,
Ceremonies mark the passage of each new
stage; men and women both go through
different age sets.
Muslim States
• After Muhammad's death in 632, Muslims swept
across the northwest part of the continent
– Islam played a vital role in North Africa
• By 670- Muslims ruled Egypt and had entered the
Maghrib- the part of North Africa that is today
the Mediterranean coast of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria
and Morocco
• Muslims believed that God’s law is a higher
authority than any human law, Muslim rulers
often relied on religious scholars as government
Islamic Law
• Following the law is a religious obligation
• Various Muslim states had ethnic and cultural
differences; they would have different
interpretations and schools of Islamic law.
Almoravid Reformers
• 11th century, Started when a group of Berber
Muslims made a hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca.
They convinced a Muslim scholar from
Morocco named Abd Allah Ibn Yasin to return
with them to teach people about Islam
• Almoravids- strict religious brotherhood, Ibn
Yasin led the Almoravids in an effort to spread
Islam through conquest.
After Ibn Yasin death in 1059
• The Almoravids went on to
take Morocco and found
their capital Marrakech,
overran Ghana in 1076 and
captured southern parts of
Spain where they would be
called the Moors
Almohads Take Over
• Mid 1100’s, Almohads- another group of Berber
Muslim reformers, seized power from the
• Ibn Tumart- criticized the former rulers for
moving away from traditional practice of Islam,
urged his followers to strictly obey the teachings
of the Qur’an and Islamic Law.
• Abd al Mumin- leader of the Almohads, fought to
over throw the Almoravids and restore traditional
Islamic beliefs
Almohads cont.
• Kept capital at Marrakech, their territory stretched
from Marrakech to Tripoli and Tunis on the
• The Almohad empire broke up into individual
Muslim Dynasties; they had lasted for over 100
years and united Maghrib under one ruler for the
first time.

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