This chapter examines the impact of the Cold War on Africa. It explains that while Africa is the least-known Cold War battleground, the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba became embroiled in the internal affairs of countless African countries. The chapter analyzes the ideologies, practices, and interests of these main external actors and describes the four major arenas of conflict that are representative of broad trends in Cold War intervention in Africa. It also discusses how the Cold War altered the dynamics of local struggles, created unprecedented levels of destruction and widespread instability, and contributed to many of the problems that plague Africa today.
David B. Mattingly and Kevin MacDonald
This article examines early urban societies in Africa. It emphasizes three key issues: the strikingly wide geographical range and structural variety of urban forms; the apparent dichotomy between more hierarchical and more heterarchical urban societies; the contrasting functions of towns in the service of state formation or inter-regional exchange. The earliest cities in Africa are linked to the great rivers of the continent, in particular the Nile and the Niger. There have also been significant urban expressions along the Mediterranean seaboard, or on the Red Sea and East African coast, where contact with neighbouring civilizations was part of the context. Yet, African urban forms assume a dazzling array of expressions, confounding traditional expectations of normative Old World archetypes of what defines ‘urban’.
Inquiries into commodification, social distinction, and fashion have offered fresh perspectives on social relations and cultural formations in Africa. Imported consumer goods were both elemental to social relationships and a cornerstone of Africa's global interfaces. This article explores how the social dynamics of consumer demand in Africa were shaped by, and gave shape to, larger social, economic, and political relationships from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century. This approach underscores the interrelation of African cultural imperatives and histories of globalization. Focusing on East Africa in the late nineteenth century, the article begins with a snapshot of consumer trends before the nineteenth century. It then examines three dimensions of consumption in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century: marketing consumer objects, the social relations of consumption, and the ways manufacturers accommodated African consumer demand. Taken together, these themes augment our understanding of social change in Africa, contribute to wider reflections on consumption as a mode of trans-societal relation, and highlight how manufactured objects can be conceptually and physically transformed throughout their global life cycles.
The transatlantic slave trade peaked in the third quarter of the eighteenth century, when more than 80,000 slaves annually were being shipped from Africa for the Americas. This overshadowed the older-established trade in slaves northwards from West Africa across the Sahara Desert to the Muslim world, which was probably under 10,000 annually. Despite the long history of commerce, direct European involvement in Africa remained limited. In contrast to the Americas, European colonial occupation of African territory was minimal before the later nineteenth century. Some African states maintained diplomatic relations with their trading partners across the Atlantic. The operation of the Atlantic trade had the effect of linking up different parts of Africa with each other, as well as with Europe and the Americas. The autonomous (or northern-oriented) character of the West African historical process might seem to be self-evidently illustrated by one of the major developments of this period, a series of jihads, or ‘Islamic Revolutions’, in which Muslim clerics seized power from existing ruling groups.
This article describes the origins of Africa; the ‘First Great Transition’ of human history from foraging to food production; the era of agricultural elaboration; the ‘Second Great Transition’, from villages and tiny local political units to towns and states; early towns and states in West Africa and the Horn of Africa; the era of empires, and Africa in the Atlantic Age. To view Africa over the very long term is to discover that the notable developments of Africa's past followed similar pathways and proceeded at similar paces as comparable changes elsewhere in the world. Two great transitions of human history in the Holocene — from foraging to farming and, several thousand years later, from villages and informal governance to towns and states — shows that Africa was a continent of primary invention in those times.
Africa is the continent least associated with cities and it is the least urbanized today. The maps of early modern Europe reflect this bias, with elephants and other beasts featured in place of towns to fill in unknown spaces. However, towns have a long history in parts of Africa. This article begins by discussing the early cities in Africa. It then considers the colonial era, and suggests that the layered nature of urbanization over time sees decline in some urban networks but a rapid growth in cities along the lines of new economic forces, reflecting the power of both capitalist-inclined and racist ideas. In the challenges they began to raise to the forms put into play, the African masses began the process of urban reconstruction. The final sections cover the last half century, more or less, since the end of colonialism.
Heather J. Sharkey
This chapter sketches a history of European colonial states in Africa, north and south of the Sahara, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It explains when and why colonial states emerged, what they did, how they worked, and who shaped them. Noting discrepancies between the theory and practice of colonial administration, the chapter shows that colonial administration was far more diffuse and less closely coordinated than official discourses of governance suggested. The performance of colonialism involved a wide range of actors: not only European military and civilian elites and African chiefs, but also African translators and tax collectors, as well as European forestry experts, missionaries, anthropologists, and settlers. The chapter also considers debates over reconciling the violence and exploitation of colonial states with their claims to, and aspirations for, social development in Africa, particularly in light of their relationship to the postcolonial states that succeeded them.
In recent decades, research on the African diaspora has increasingly expanded from its established focus on the northern Atlantic to Latin America, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean world, and the African continent itself. This chapter discusses differing definitions of the diaspora, considers the role of pioneering scholars in early twentieth-century Cuba, Brazil, and the United States, and examines the debate between those who have stressed lines of cultural continuity between Africa and African American peoples, on the one hand, and those who have stressed cultural transformation or ‘creolization’ in the Americas, on the other. Recent research on African American religions has moved the field beyond the search for African origins by showing how the practitioners of these belief systems creatively and strategically imagined and reimagined ‘African’ ritual identities and Africa itself. Finally, the process of creolization in the African continent itself and in the Indian Ocean are considered.
This chapter offers a series of approaches to, and questions about, the different types of historical engagement to be found in African literatures. History, in African literatures, is not a term that applies simply to narratives that engage with the past: African literatures offer historians examples of the imagination in history and the imagination as history. The chapter proposes a three-tiered methodology: first, consideration of the time and place of literary production; second, consideration of the ways in which works of literature engage with the concepts of time, memory, and historical consciousness; and third, consideration of the temporal and geographical distances separating literary works from their current audiences.
Slave trading is a salient theme in African history and in the continent’s global connections between the eleventh and nineteenth centuries. This chapter focuses on the economic dimensions of African slave trades, summarizes the state of research on the size and demography of slaving, and explores the commodity trades of which slaving was a part. It argues that whereas the slave trades have typically been studied ocean-by-ocean with Africa as a point of departure, recentring the history of slaving onto the African continent allows for a global perspective in which all of Africa’s slave trades can be taken into account simultaneously and in dynamic interaction. Shifting focus onto Africa allows for a number of themes common to different slave trades to emerge, including the key role of textiles in all of them.
Although Atlantic Africa was the last of the continent's shores to establish regular overseas connections, many aspects of its interactions mirrored those of East and North Africa. Ghana's successors in the Western Sudan, the empires of Mali and Songhai, continued to assure safety, stability, and wealth to Arab and Berber traders from the north. Trans-Saharan trade supplied books and paper to the centres of Islamic learning at Timbuktu and elsewhere. In 1591, however, the power, wealth, and expansive policies of the Songhai rulers provoked a retaliatory invasion by the sultan of Morocco. This article explores the first two centuries of contacts in the African Atlantic under three interconnected and somewhat overlapping headings: the establishment of diplomatic relations, the growth of commercial exchanges, and the development of intercultural and cross-cultural relations. In each case it notes the different patterns that developed in Upper Guinea, the Gold Coast, the Niger Delta, and West Central Africa.
The course of the 2011 Libyan revolution, international intervention, and the regime’s application of armed force created new forms of sub-state affiliation and mobilization. International and regional intervention has exacerbated Libya’s chaos and deepened its fault lines. The civil war in 2014 was the culmination of these fissures and international pressures but conflicts since then by the myriad armed groups have become increasingly predatory—a scramble for the country’s oil wealth and the capture of state institutions. Libya’s conflicts are directly tied to the pathologies of the rentier oil state under Gaddafi and the failure of post-2011 distributive policies, along with endemic corruption and cronyism. Meanwhile, Western engagement is focused on parochial aims such as counterterrorism and stemming irregular migration. For the foreseeable future, Libya is likely to suffer from truncated sovereignty, a fractured national identity, regional meddling, simmering armed conflict, and hyper-localized politics.
John M. Lonsdale
Following on from the argument of the joint introduction to African nationalism, this chapter emphasizes Africa’s place in a global history of nationalism by emphasizing what seems to be a universal instinct to search out instructive history in order either to ride modernity’s adventure or to face up to its ordeal. The early scholarly analysis of African nationalism assumed that colonialism’s allegedly modernizing history was the past that counted, with nationalist elites riding the tide of social change that consigned ‘tribal loyalty’ to the past. Scholars are now more aware of deeper African pasts that made Africans see colonialism as less of an adventure, more of an ordeal, especially for deep-rooted ideas of household self-mastery as the basis of African citizenships. This archive of political thought encouraged local ethnic patriotisms in which the lively constitutional histories of African kingdoms, and the sense of ethnic moral economies outraged by class formation. Territorial nationalisms were shaped as much by such local energies as by demands for unity against colonial rule. Such contradictions could be at their most severe in southern Africa, as liberation movements had to take up arms against entrenched white minorities. African nationalisms, in short, have been shaped as much by African history as by imported ideas.
This chapter aims to place the Arab uprisings of 2011 in historical perspective, addressing questions of change and continuity by comparing and contrasting these uprisings with previous cases of contentious mobilization in the region, going back to the nineteenth century. The chapter argues that the uprisings can be linked to growing protests against domestic regimes in the region since the 1970s, and are similar to people-power uprisings in other parts of the world. The chapter points to the under-researched democratic genealogies of these uprisings, arguing that these played an important role in securing the unity of contentious crowds. The mass uprisings had their surprising and creative dimensions; they emerged without any preceding state breakdown and they constituted the people as a sovereign subject in a way distinctive from anticolonial nationalism.
Linda Herrera and Abdelrahman Mansour
This chapter examines Arab youth from within the historic backdrop of the Arab uprisings that engulfed more than half of the Arab states. Millions of people, the overwhelming majority of them born between the 1980s and 2000s, took to streets, schools, and social media, with demands for change. Within a short period, they were met with counterrevolutions, and a period of instability. Among the questions posed for contemplation at this historical juncture are: are the youth who crystallized into the generation of the uprisings causing a disruption to the prevailing order, and if so, in what direction? What are the active and passive strategies young people are pursuing to unsettle the status quo and for what kind of alternative order? We address these questions through a focus on two areas: education and schooling; and virtual communities.
It is now a half-century since most countries on the African continent saw the end of colonial rule. The first sustained scholarly attention to decolonization was authored largely by social scientists in the 1950s, who focused on ruling elites, party politics, constitutional development, and the transfer of power. Their successors, in the 1960s–1970s, brought new interpretive tools to the study of decolonization, including dependency theory, in order to make sense of the contemporary realities of political instability and economic underdevelopment. Since the 1980s, historians have brought the insights of women’s history, labour history, and social history to the table in order to demonstrate that nationalist scripts were often written ‘from below’. More recently, a focus on political imagination and political cultures, as well as the utilization of comparative and transnational approaches, has worked to free decolonization from its moorings as either the triumphal ‘end’ of colonial history or the opening scene in a postcolonial tale of ‘what went wrong’.
Kenneth F. Kiple
This article reviews scholarship on the biology of African slaves. Mother Africa ensured that her sons and daughters could tolerate a disease environment sufficiently harsh that it served as a barrier to European outsiders for many centuries, keeping them confined to the coast and, save for some notable exceptions, away from the interior. Falciparum malaria and yellow fever, however, the chief ramparts in this barrier, did not remain confined to Africa. Rather, they reached the Americas with the Atlantic slave trade to rage among non-immune white and red people alike. But they largely spared blacks who were relatively resistant to these African illnesses, as well as to the bulk of those Eurasian diseases whose ravages were mostly directed at indigenous peoples. The sum of these pathogenic susceptibilities and immunities added up to the elimination of the latter (and white indentured servants) as contenders for tropical plantation labourers, and placed that onus squarely on the shoulders of the Africans. Yet, such a nomination in an age of rationalism bore with it the notion that black people, because of their ability to resist fevers, were sufficiently different biologically from Europeans as to constitute a separate branch of humankind and a lower one at that.
This article focuses on working with children affected by HIV/AIDS in South Arica. In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, relief organizations focused their efforts on the material needs of children, but their psychological and emotional needs are no less important. Recognizing this, the Sinomlando Centre for Oral History and Memory Work in Africa, a research and community development center located at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, in Pietermaritzburg South Africa, has pioneered a model of psychosocial intervention for children in grief—particularly but not exclusively in the context of HIV/AIDS. This model uses the methodology of oral history in a novel manner, combined with other techniques such as life story work and narrative therapy. During the early years of the project, the model followed for the family visits was the oral history interview. A discussion on caregiver as the narrator and skills required in memory work especially in these cases concludes this article.
Across Africa, the term chief has been—and still is—used to describe individuals whose status and influence is extremely diverse; no single analytical model can explain the multiple phenomena of ‘chieftaincy’. But a broad pattern can be observed. Across much of the continent, individuals who possessed political authority in precolonial societies did so most effectively not by monopolizing a single kind of power, but by dealing in multiple forms of powerful knowledge. In the colonial period and subsequently, this brokering of knowledge has acquired a new productive potency, serving as a means to both mediate and reproduce a distinction between tradition on the one hand and the state on the other.
The chapter examines conversion to Christianity, one of the most significant social and cultural transformations in twentieth-century Africa. The focus is upon the role of Christianity in African society, with emphasis on the making of identities of class, ethnicity, gender, generation, and nation. The diversity of African Christianity is examined in terms of both the range of African societies it encountered and the spectrum of changing mission Christianities, which extend back as far as the late fifteenth century. Scholarship has been advanced through a greater sensitivity to missionary and African literary production as well as increasing use of photographic data. Growing interest in African cultural history has caused scholars to shift emphasis away from missionaries and their institutions towards an interest in what Christianity meant for ordinary adherents, including the mental transformations involved in conversion and the significance of baptism, pilgrimage, and the religious landscape.