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date: 26 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Both agricultural intensification and the study of the processes that prompt intensification have a long history in Africa. There are multiple reasons why a community might choose to increase its inputs of labour to establish, maintain, or expand an agricultural system. This article illustrates this point through reference to societies throughout sub-Saharan Africa that have undergone periods of intensification and dis-intensification over the last 500 years or so and through a summary of the far older processes of agricultural change undertaken in north and northeastern Africa. It suggests that the range of trajectories displayed in the archaeological and historical record points to the significance of political, economic, and environmental contingencies, all of which are subject to changes through time.

Keywords: agricultural system, sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural change, African archaeology, north Africa

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