Pd 3

Sub-Saharan Africa
Shimrani Banik, Serena Chan,
Stephanie Chan, Ben Gaebler, Xuelin
Hong, Tiffany Lei
Period 3
Prehistory- 600 BCE
Early Cultures
● Starting from around 16,000 BCE there was an emergence of agriculture and
people started to domesticate animals
o People originally gathered nuts, grasses, and tubers
o By ~13,000 BCE, people started to collect wild grains such as wheat,
barley, and millet
● Most early Saharan cultures included hunting and gathering societies and, in
isolated areas, simple groups of cattle breeders (later horses and camels
would be domesticated, accompanied by the growth of the trans-Saharan
caravan routes) who are thought to be the ancestors of the Berbers
● Around 5,000 BCE, the Sahara region experienced a severe aridification,
leading to migrations further south and migration to river valleys (such as
migration to the Nile, Niger, and Congo Rivers)
Beginnings of Civilization
Despite the fact that there was now a surplus of food, many early civilizations
suffered from disease brought on by a lack of proper sewage systems and also
living with animals
Lead, copper, and bronze were all smelted in Africa by the 4,000 BCE and iron
smelting was prominent, especially among the Nok peoples
There was a specialization of labor and the creation of a patriarchal system in many
Religion gradually became more defined:
o Foragers worshipped spirits found in geographic features and specific sacred
o Agriculturalists worshipped Mother Earth and the elements (e.g. wind, fire, and
Roots of “Sudanic” Civilization
Archaeological evidence provides insight into the roots of civilization in Africa:
o The origins of the Soninke people and possibly the Mandinka people can be
traced to the villages of Dar Tichitt, located in Southern Mauritania
o The roots of the Songhai people can be traced back to settlements along the
Niger Bend to the mountains of Cameroon
o The communities living along what is now the Nigerian-Cameroonian border
were speakers of proto-Bantu and they eventually migrated south and east
(Bantu Migrations) in search for more land to farm
Iron played a large role in the survival of the early African settlements
o Spread rapidly among kin and commercial networks
o Allowed people to create more effective hoes
o The invention of the iron machete allowed people to clear forest land for new
settlement locations.
600 BCE - 600 CE
500 BCE - 200 CE: The Nok people lived in West Africa in what is now Nigeria.
○ They were the first group of people in West Africa to smelt iron, and the discovery of iron
allowed them to make stronger and better tools and weapons, some of which were
traded overland.
600 BCE - 200 BCE: Cities began to emerge along rivers and oases.
During this time, the oldest known city in Sub-Saharan Africa, Djenné-Djeno, emerged as a
fishing settlement along a tributary extending from the Niger River.
○ By the 3rd century BCE, Djenné-Djeno had reached urban size, and its residents had
also learned to smelt iron.
○ As a result of its location, it became a center of trade, and was connected to the other
towns by both the Niger River and overland camel routes. Its residents traded rice,
pottery, and
fish for copper, salt, and gold.
○ Although over 50,000 people lived in the city
at its height, it was not organized hierarchically, and
archaeologists believe that instead it was composed
of a group of individual communities.
In 100 CE, the Kingdom of Aksum (Axum) emerged in East Africa.
○ Because of its location, Aksum was a major trading nation. It had access to sea
trade on the Indian Ocean, and caravan routes to Egypt and Meroë generally
passed through Aksum. It’s main seaport was Adulis, and it traded with Egypt,
Arabia, India, and Persia. Amongst many other goods, Aksumite merchants
traded salt, ivory, and gold for cloth, brass, iron, and copper.
○ 325 CE - 360 CE: Aksum reached its height under the ruler Ezana. In 350 CE,
Ezana conquered Meroë and took over the Kingdom of Kush.
○ Advancements: It was the only ancient Sub-Saharan African kingdom to develop
a written language and to mint coins made of bronze, silver, and gold. They also
used terrace farming and built dams
to improve farming.
In the 500s CE, the state of Ghana was
founded in West Africa. It later became
prosperous as a result of trade.
Economic Systems:
● Transregional trade increased during this period as a result of new technology (such
as the camel saddle). Overland trade was facilitated by the use of camels, which were
first used for travel by the Berbers in 200 CE.. Previously, although trade had
occurred across the Sahara, it had been greatly limited by the terrible desert
conditions, so the introduction of camels, which could travel longer distances without
stopping, increased trade across the Sahara.
● Currency was invented and used in Aksum.
Development and Interaction of Cultures:
● As a result of trade, Christianity spread to Sub-Saharan Africa (mainly in East Africa).
○ In Aksum, Ezana, soon after becoming the ruler, had converted to Christianity
and made Christianity the official religion of Aksum.
● Animism, which is the belief that all objects contained spirits, remained popular in
many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Humans and the Environment:
● Bantu migrations, which had started before 600 BCE, continued during this
○ As the Bantu-speaking people moved out of West Africa towards
eastern and southern Africa, they spread both their culture, their
language, and their knowledge of ironworking.
● The spread of farming during this period led humans to have a larger effect
on the environment than before.
● Africa was influenced by Christianity before 600.
● 600-700: Islam reached Northern Africa, gradually spread through the
Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. It was brought by Arab traders and spread
through the Arab slave trade.
● 11th century- Camels, caravans, and the Berbers (nomads/warriors)
extended Muslim authority to the south, Takrur (Muslim state) developed,
as well as the Islamic reform group Almoravids.
● Not all nations fell under Muslim influence. Ethiopia
and the Nubian kingdoms of Kush and Axum,remained Christian despite
the spread of Islam. (Conversion was relatively peaceful).
● The traditional African culture also remained intact- animism, spiritual,
sacrifices. EX: Son-Jara (poem, 1200s)
● Syncretism- blending of African culture with Muslim culture.
Ghana- West Africa
→ Formed by the Soninke
→ Developed into a major trading site for its gold, slaves, iron, and copper
→ Controlled and secured trade routes that developed.
→ Conversion to Islam improved West African relations with the Islamic world. However, this
did not mean that they abandoned their traditional culture.
→ Fell due to lack of food production, ecological conditions, and invasion of the Muslim
Almoravids in 1076.
● Mali- West Africa
→ Was also a major trading site for its gold and metal. Its capital, Timbuktu, is known for its
→ Found by Sundiata, who was an effective and good leader.
→ Mansa Musa (1312-1337)- pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj)
→ Islamic conversion established good trade w/ Arabs and enhanced religious studies &
academics. Very cultural- oral storytelling, song making.
Songhai Empire- rose after the fall of Mali’s empire, but rose to its peak in the 15th and
16th century
● Swahili city-states- East Africa
→ Mix of Bantu and Arabic language due to trade encounters.
→ Not politically unified but were culturally developed and diverse.
→ They were governed by kings who controlled the trade & taxes.
→ They were important for long distance trade; gold, slaves, and ivory were traded
for materials from Persia, China, and India- Indian Ocean Trade.
● Key cities of East Africa- Mombasa, Sofala, Zanzibar
Swahili city-state region of
East Africa
● 8th Century- The gold and salt trade developed. Gold and salt were the main
items that were traded/exchanged through the trans-Saharan trade route as
Sub-Saharan African countries had gold and not a lot of salt, while the
Mediterranean economies had salt and not a lot of gold.
● Ghana was known as the “land of gold” for its abundance of gold while
Timbuktu (capital of Mali) is recognized for its silver.
● Cities grew and flourished as a result of trade as they became major trading
cities. For example, a tax was placed on those who entered and left Ghana so
their economy prospered even more.
● The Indian Ocean trade network developed between East Africa and India &
the Mediterranean. Not only gold and salt were traded, but ivory and slaves as
● By the 10th and 11th Century, East Africa traded with China. They also traded
with the Byzantine Empire as well.
1450 - 1750
West and Central Africa
The Songhai Kingdom
○ This Muslim kingdom rose up in West Africa after the Mali Empire collapsed.
○ Most famous ruler: Askia Mohammed who defeated the last Sunni ruler.
○ He expanded Songhai’s boundaries, centralized power with a complex bureaucracy, built many
mosques, and encouraged trade.
○ The merchant class grew and continued to generate wealth through the gold-salt trade.
○ Songhai prospered until the late 1500s when civil war hit and then Morocco conquered the divided
kingdom in 1590.
The Kongo
○ Grew out of Bantu-descended communities.
○ Before Europeans: Economy based on ivory, cloth, pottery, and metal.
○ After Portuguese (1480s):
■ Monarchs converted to Christianity and adopted European names.
■ It lost some independence, but grew powerful through expansion, centralization, and modern
weaponry from Portugal.
■ The Kongo used its large army to fight its neighbors and enslave prisoners of war for Portugal.
■ It weakened due to internal struggles, but it also rid itself of Portuguese presence with the help of
the Dutch in the late 1600s.
o The Portuguese’s original goal was finding sea routes to India, but the gold and ivory trades in Africa
caught their attention; they wanted control over them.
o They were followed by the Dutch, English, and French, who began trading and building permanent
outposts on the African coast.
o Several African groups were matrilineal in organization and women held leadership positions in
society. i.e. Queen Nzinga of the Mbundu peoples.
o Women took part in market activities and their councils sometimes administered the markets.
o Lower-class women needed to work outside of the home in order to support their families.
Beginnings of the Slave Trade
o The strongest states were those that cooperated with the European slave trade by warring with
neighboring tribes, enslaving them, and selling them to Europeans. i.e. The Ashanti kingdom was
known to exchange gold and slaves to Europeans for muskets and gunpowder, making them
o The Gold Coast: West Africa got this nickname due to the exchange of gold for slaves.
o States and tribes far from the coasts were impacted by Europeans due to their neighboring West
Africans that were in search of slaves.
South Africa
Before Europeans: The Southern tip was settled by various tribes, but mainly descended from the Bantu.
Late 1480s: The Portuguese established an outpost on the Cape of Good Hope.
o Control passed from the Portuguese to the Dutch.
o Dutch settlers a.k.a. Boers or Afrikaners arrived in the mid-1600s and established themselves as
farmers and traders.
o The apartheid system developed from the Boers’ harsh treatment.
o The Boers enslaved the Xhosa, a peaceful herding tribe.
o As they expanded north, they encountered the Zulu, who they had several wars with.
East Africa
East Africa continued to be a part of the Indian Ocean trade network.
Late 1490s: The Portuguese used the port of Malindi to get to Calicut, India.
Early 1500s: They conquered cities (Malindi, Sofala, Mozambique, and Mombasa) and turned them into
colonies because doing so gave them more control over trade in the Indian Ocean, such as in spices.
Late 1720s: The Arabs expelled the Portuguese from Mombasa.
The Atlantic Slave Trade
The Atlantic Slave Trade persisted throughout the entire period.
Early 1450s: Portuguese enslaved Africans and sold them in Europe, but they were brought in relatively
small numbers.
o They were taken to the Americas and the numbers increased.
o Plantations (especially for sugar) and mines in Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Brazil and the
Caribbean needed a source of labor.
o The Catholic Church abolished the encomienda system, so Native Americans were off limits.
o Africa was the best source of slave labor and the slave trade became a central part of the European
The Triangular Trade:
o European manufactured goods (cotton textiles, firearms, gin, etc.) were traded for ivory, timber, gold,
and slaves in Africa.
o The ivory, timber, and gold were sent to Europe and the slaves were sold in the Americas.
o In the Middle Passage, slaves were traded for tobacco, cotton, sugar, and silver (which they cultivated
and mined themselves) and these materials were brought back to Europe.
o The actual Middle Passage forced Africans to endure harsh and inhumane conditions in ships, such as
being tightly packed and facingdiseasesand cruelty.
● This time period saw a shift from simple trade and cultural exchange
between sub sahara and the rest of the world into a more complete global
● This process “started” as a trade relationship then as time progressed into
a political one
 Cultural diffusion also occurred, with Christianity and Islam being
more introduced more formally
● This overall integration can really be tied to one factor,
● The mid 1700’s saw the slave trade reach its peak, being centered on several
port cities on the West Coast
● These coastal kingdoms would wage wars with more inland countries take
prisoners of war and sell them to European slave traders in exchange for guns,
tobacco, textiles and other manufactured goods
● Ghost towns: Developments stopped, culturally & economically
o Economy: Coastal regions became rich while inland communities economies
ceased being productive, farming decreased
o Ethnic Tensions
● African Culture is spread to the Americas, notable role in countries like Brazil,
● By the early 1800’s Britain became very anti slavery and devoted resources to
ending it, leading to a decrease and shift to the east coast of Africa.
1750-1900: Scramble For Africa
At this time, most global interaction in sub saharan was between european & arab traders
on the western and eastern coasts and not the inland area.
However, European industrial development required raw resources, which were being
discovered in Africa, prompting the Scramble for Africa
● This process started in 1879 when American Henry Morton Stanley convinced the
Belgian King Leopold to invest his resources in “opening up” Africa to exploit its
resources, in this case the Congo
● Once other European countries saw what Belgian was doing they all wanted to exploit
Africa’s resource for themselves and prevent other European countries from doing so
which led to Otto Von Bismarck, the German chancellor to call the
Berlin Conference: This conference divided Africa up under various European powers,
the British, French, Portuguese
In west Africa, cash crops like Cocoa were produced with European companies building
railroads and other infrastructure to export it
● Other parts of Africa saw their raw resources exported, Notable the Congo
and Rubber
o Conditions were very bad for native populations, often beaten and
worked under gunpoint
● South Africa had a different situation
o There was a sizable minority of Dutch settlers in Cape Town as opposed
to a very small amount of traders in other part of Africa. Known as
Afrikaners, they had slowly expanded inward
● The english let them be until Diamonds were discovered there and eventually
annexed this area as well
● In doing so, they also forced Native Africans off their land, most notably the
o Eventually Gold was discovered prompted a flood of British citizens
A lot of this British expansion can be tied to one man, Cecil Rhodes, who founded the de De
Beers diamond company
o He expanded British control, Northern and Southern Rhodesia
All this expansions led to tension between the British and the Afrikaners leading to the Boer war,
which the British won but at a tremendous financial expense
o This led to self rule for South Africa, where the white minority instituted many racist policies
On the other side of Africa, there was Ethiopia which successfully resisted Italian expansion as it
had a large supply of European Weaponry
Liberia, on the west coast also resisted European control as it was populated by many former
American slaves, and as a result had support of the U. S. government
Regardless of where in Africa it was, the system was pretty much the same:
o Resources were exported, from gold to slaves to agricultural products to fuel European
industrialization. Infrastructures like railways were only built up in a few cases to facilitate
the export of goods. The native Africans really suffered, with their land being taken away or
being forced to work in terrible conditions
1750-1900: Cultural Exchange
● Missionaries opened schools where christianity was taught as well as craft
jobs like blacksmith
● Native Religions experienced a decline, with many practitioners converting
to christianity
● However, people began to realize that Christian values contrasted with the
policies that the Europeans put into place
o This slowed it growths
● Islam grew as an alternative
European Domination: At the beginning of the 1900s, the world was under the control of
the great powers, with their colonial conquests (Ex: Great Britain, France)
Tensions in Europe eventually led to the two World Wars
Improved military technology and tactics led to more casualties in war
The great powers were weakened by the wars. Great Britain and France, the two leading
colonial powers, were economically weakened.
After World War II, the colonial powers were either defeated or weakened so that they
could no longer stop the Africans from wanting independence.
Decolonization and Independence for the African colonies
Technological Advances
Population Growth and Increased Urbanization
o Land used for farming and factories
o Harmful to environment: Deforestation, depletion of natural resources, pollution,
extinction of species...
In the first half of the twentieth century, European rule was threatened and losing its control due to the nationalistic
movements in Asia. But this was Africa’s period of colonialism.
From World War I, the victors (Britain, France,...) got Germany’s African colonies.
Few Africans benefitted from Europeans’ rule. Land was taken from them and many were forced to work in the European
plantations under harsh conditions and low wages.
More cities: Africans migrated to cities for jobs.
Racial discrimination, especially in eastern and southern Africa
Modern healthcare in Africa: Colonialism worsened public health (spreading of diseases and malnutrition) Finally, in the
1930s, colonial governments began to invest in health care for Africans.
Religion: Seeking to understand the changes (foreign rule, migrations, economic changes) in their lives, many Africans
turned to Christianity or Islam.
Some Africans were able to obtain secondary education and go to college in Europe or America. Learned Western liberal
ideas (like liberty, equality, justice), which is very different from their lives under colonialism. This led to the rise of
nationalism among educated Africans. They would become the leaders of nationalist movements.
African National Congress (ANC):
o founded in 1912 by Western-educated Africans in South Africa
o created to defend the interests of Africans, give them equal voting and civil rights
Before World War II, nationalist movements were small and had little influence.
World War II:
o African soldiers exposed to Allied propaganda that emphasized ideas of freedom and self-determination
o Nationalism increased in Africa
1900- Present: Independence
Most of Africans’ independence was achieved through negotiation
○ Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) gained independence in 1957
■ the first British colony in West Africa to gain independence
■ Kwame Nkrumah led the movement for independence
■ Nkrumah’s party won election victory in 1951, appointed prime minister
○ Nigeria gained independence in 1960
Violence in other colonies
○ Kenya gained independence in 1963
■ White settlers opposed independence
■ Mau Mau: a secret society created by native Kenyans, used guerrilla war tactics to
drive away the white farmers
■ Jomo Kenyatta, Kenyan nationalist, led the movement for independence. Elected the
first president of Kenya in 1964.
○ Congo: independence in 1963
■ Previously ruled harshly by Belgium, which only wanted its rich resources of rubber and
■ Unprepared for independence. Resulted in violence and civil war.
■ 1965: Mobuto Sese Seko seized power in a coup. Government was corrupt.
French colonies: African leaders were more reluctant to call for independence
○ France promised changes without independence: democracy, better education and
health services.
○ Nationalism prevailed and eventually all the French colonies gained independence.
Southern Africa: independence was delayed by the opposition of European settlers
○ African-led movements fought against racial inequality and create majority rule.
○ South Africa gained independence in 1961
■ Controlled mainly by the European minority. Apartheid was used to separate the
races. Discrimination and segregation.
■ African National Congress opposed apartheid.
Eventually, colonial rule was ended in Africa. Afterwards, the new nations tried to create
stable governments.
After Independence
Ethnic and Cultural differences in the new nations made it hard to create peace.
o Nigeria
 Not long after independence, different groups fought for power.
 Civil war ended in 1970.
● Cold War: proxy wars in Africa
Moving towards democracy
● Southern Africa
o democratic progress and less armed conflict since 1991
● South Africa
o Nelson Mandela and ANC won the first national elections that the Africans could participate
equally in.
● Nigeria
o Return to democracy after a succession of military government.
● Violence in the Congo
o Mobuto was overthrown in 1997 after a civil war. After, it was renamed the Democratic Republic of
the Congo.
o 2000: Another civil war. Still working to go toward peace.
● Today, African nations continued trying to create stable governments and peace.
Works Cited
-Beck, R.B., Black, L., Krieger, L.S., Naylor, P.C., Shabaka, D.I. Modern World History: Patterns of
Interactions. USA: McDougal Littel, 2012. Print.
-Bulliet, R.W., Crossley, P.M., Headrick, D.R., Hirsch, S.W., Johnson, L.L., D. The Earth and Its People: A
Global History. 5th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2011. Print.
-Exploring Africa. Islam in Africa: Expand. Retrieved May 08, 2014 from
-McCannon, John. AP World History. 5th ed. New Hampshire: Barron’s, 2012. Print.
-Herlin, Susan J., and Emerita. “Ancient African Civilizations.” University of Louisville, 2003. Web. 18 May
2014. <http://wysinger.homestead.com/africanhistory.html>.

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