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Teaching about the African Past in the Context of World History

R. Hunt Davis, Jr.
University of Florida

    Africa remains neglected or missing altogether in many world history courses at both the advanced high school and introductory college levels. When it does appear, the approach is all too often one of focusing on the external dimensions of African history, such as the gradual Portuguese circumnavigation of the continent, European exploration, the establishment of colonial empires, and the problems that beset contemporary Africa. In this latter case, the problems, though real, are often exaggerated. Alternatively, there tends to be a glorification of the African past and a concentration on ancient Egypt and its splendors, the great empires such as Ghana, Mali, and Songhai with their golden trade, and the military might of gifted leaders such as Shaka. The former approach is one that notes the existence of Africa but is not about African history to any significant degree. The “glorious African past” approach, while helpful in correcting negative stereotypes, has two weaknesses. The first is that it continues the emphasis of the rather shopworn “great men, great states, and great events” history, only now in an African guise. Secondly, from the perspective of world history, the linkages to the wider global context are missing or at least under-examined. Such problems persist despite the availability of world history textbooks that incorporate Africa into their coverage.1 In part, this is the result of many world history teachers having had only a limited, if any, exposure to African history during the course of their own formal education and teacher training. In some instances this leads them to skip over unfamiliar material. The purpose of this article, then, is to suggest ways that world history teachers can readily connect African history to the wider world history. This is not a substitute for teaching African history as such, but it does bring Africa more fully into world history.
    This approach to integrating Africa into world history revolves around the notion of the “intercommunicating world” with its geographical designation of an “intercommunicating zone” as set forth by Philip Curtin.2 According to this model, at one time the intercommunicating world was limited to the Eastern Hemisphere. Over time, it gradually expanded to embrace more of the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe. It then spread outside the Eastern Hemisphere to include the Western Hemisphere and Oceania. Thus, the geographical “zones” in which intercommunication occurred expanded dramatically over the past several millennia. Looking at the world this way enables us to examine those parts of Africa that were in communication with parts of the world outside Africa, as well as the chronology of that process. What we find is that, over time, an expanding portion of the continent joined the intercommunicating zone and a diminishing portion remained outside it. This essay will be concerned with questions about when and why any given area of Africa came to be included in the intercommunicating zone, and what this tells us about the ways in which Africa fits into wider patterns of world history. Readers should note, however, that this approach is limited by the fact that it neglects those portions of the African continent that were outside the intercommunicating zone at any given time.
     Geography is the starting point for this discussion, followed by an examination of six phases of Africa’s history: Africa and the origins of history; Africa and the classical or ancient world; Africa and the post-classical world; Africa and the Atlantic world; Africa and the colonial world; and Africa and the contemporary globalized world.3

Geography, the starting point
    The physical proximity of northern and northeastern Africa to Europe and Asia insured that these regions would become part of the intercommunicating world early on. Ancient Egypt was crucial to the formation of this world, and as the classical Mediterranean evolved, North Africa was as much a part of it as southern Europe. The Horn of Africa was geographically and culturally linked to the Arabian Peninsula, and developed in concert with it. The trade wind patterns of the Indian Ocean constituted the mechanism that linked the East African coast to wider developments in the Indian Ocean basin starting about 2000 years ago. In contrast to the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic currents and wind patterns proved to be a barrier to contact with the wider world until the European maritime revolution of the fifteenth century. However, once the Portuguese had opened up direct maritime access along the entire Atlantic coastline, vast new regions of Africa became part of the intercommunicating zone. 4
    The Sahara Desert likewise posed a barrier to the spread of the classical world deeply into the African continent, but it was not an absolute barrier. Camels, which came to be used throughout the Sahara in the early centuries CE, provided a reliable means of transport in the desert regions and, in turn, greatly facilitated the exchange of goods, people, and ideas. In East Africa, the arid and semi-arid regions of the coastal hinterland retarded a similar spread inland from the coastal zone. Furthermore, there were no rivers in East Africa that allowed for unimpeded navigation from the coast deep into the interior in the way that the Nile did for some 500 or so miles into the African interior. Indeed, aside from the Gambia, Senegal, and Niger Rivers, none of the other major African rivers were navigable very far into the interior. Once beyond the fall line through which rivers passed as they descended from the interior high plateau to the coastal plain, however, many rivers (such as the Congo) were navigable for great distances. In the pre-industrial era, then, physical geography greatly influenced the timing and nature of the expansion of the intercommunicating zone within Africa.

Africa and the origins of history
    Humankind first emerged on the African continent, due largely to Africa’s favorable environment. Indeed, the oldest hominid fossils have all been discovered in Africa, including the 3.18 million year-old skeleton known as “Lucy” discovered in Ethiopia in 1974, and the 6 to 7 million year-old skull found in Chad in 2002. From these early origins, the more advanced Homo habilis emerged about two million years ago in East Africa, to be followed by the appearance of Homo erectus approximately 1.6 million years ago. Homo erectus soon replaced other hominids in Africa, and—due to the ability to adapt to a variety of environmental conditions—also initiated the first movement of hominids out of Africa. About 200,000 years ago, however, a new species of hominid evolved in Africa. Homo sapiens (from which our own sub-species, Homo sapiens sapiens evolved) were more intelligent and more adaptable than Homo erectus, and soon emigrated out of Africa. By about 25,000 years ago, Homo sapiens had displaced other hominid groups and had populated the entire world.4
    The complex and diverse cultural patterns of contemporary human society constitute the current stage of a long process of cultural evolution that goes back to early hominids. While the earliest use of stone tools dates to Homo habilis, a much more sophisticated stone technology emerged with Homo erectus, along with evidence of organized hunting and the use of fire. Homo sapiens quickened the pace of cultural change, technological sophistication, and social organization. Gradually, too, they began to behave and think as modern humans. The earliest examples of these traits date from Africa 70,000 years ago with the 2001discovery of bone tools at Blombos Cave in South Africa.
    Two developments were crucial in enabling human society to advance to more complex stages: food production and metallurgy, especially the development of an iron‑based technology. In many ways, the beginning of food production marks the beginning of history. Africa was at the forefront of these developments. Between 11,500 and 10,000 years ago people living in three widely separate areas of the world—the Middle East, East Asia (separately in North and South China), and the eastern Sahara region of Africa—began to domesticate crops. The Saharan Africans were also domesticating cattle at this time, perhaps even before they grew crops. A second global wave of agricultural innovation emerged by 7,000 years ago, with two of the new centers located in the Horn of Africa and a third in the wooded savanna region of West Africa, along with centers in the South Central Andes, Central Mexico, and the Eastern United States. By 5000 BCE, agriculture was taking hold along the Egyptian Nile. Iron working also had deep African roots. While it first appeared in present-day Turkey about 1500 BCE and spread by diffusion to much of the Eastern Hemisphere, there is now sufficient evidence to indicate that it also originated independently in sub-Saharan Africa prior to 1,000 BCE.5

Africa and the ancient world
    Egypt was, of course, one of the foremost civilizations of the ancient world. And, though often treated otherwise, it was very much a part of Africa. The ancient Egyptian language, for example, belonged to the Afro-Asiatic family of languages, which had its origins on the African side of the Red Sea. Also, the institution of sacral kingship that became the basis for the pharaoh god-kings derived from the Sudan to the south. At the outset of the emergence of the intercommunicating world, then, there was a profound African presence in the form of Egypt. The Nubian Nile region was also part of this ancient world, and under the New Kingdom (ca. 1570-1090) was fully incorporated into it. The Kingdom of Kush that followed, with its capitals first at Napata on the Dongola Reach of the Nile and then at Meroë in the rain-fed savanna region, was also part of the intercommunicating ancient world. In contrast to Egypt, however, it did not come much under the influence of Hellenism. Rather, it preserved the older Egyptian culture in the process of further developing its own cultural synthesis.
    To the east of Meroë lay Aksum, located in the northern Ethiopian highlands. Its origins lay early in the first millennium BCE, with the Aksumite state coming into existence by the first century CE. Due to its strategic location at the mouth of the Red Sea, trading connections brought it fully into the orbit of the ancient world, with Greek becoming an important language of commerce. In the fourth century, its ruler converted to Christianity, thus giving rise to the distinctive and enduring Ethiopian Coptic Church.6
    Western North Africa, also known as the Maghrib, was pulled into the ancient world during the early centuries of the first millennium BCE via the Phoenician trade diaspora. Carthage emerged as a center of Phoenician influence in what is present-day Tunisia. It ultimately contested Rome, the heir of Hellenism, for paramountcy in the Mediterranean, although it did not win that contest. Instead, Roman rule in the Maghrib incorporated the coastal plains into the classical world through Latinization of the elites and the towns.

Africa and the post-classical world
    The classical world unraveled between 200 and 700 CE, but the intercommunicating world did not. Rather, Africa’s involvement with the intercommunicating world took on new forms. A focus on the decline of the Roman west in the fifth century and the disruption of its North African provinces is important, but from the perspective of Africa and world history it should not be overstressed. Nor should the failure of Byzantium to retain control of Africa. What is most critical for Africa in the context of world history in this period was the emergence of Islam in the seventh century.7 The spread of Islam, indeed, extended the intercommunicating zone much deeper into the African continent than ever before.
    In North Africa, the Islamic conquest and the Arabization that followed displaced Christianity and refocused North African attention toward the center of the Islamic world. North Africa in this period also began looking southward across the Sahara Desert to the sudanic belt of sub-Saharan Africa. Thanks to the spread of the camel during the Roman era, regularized caravan trade via the trans-Saharan trade routes soon emerged, and connected the “port cities” on the northern and southern “shores” of the desert. By this time the sudanic agricultural communities had reached a stage of social complexity sufficient to provide both a source and a market for goods. The merchants who carried goods across the desert also transmitted ideas, including those about Islam. In the decades centering around 1000 CE, the rulers of the sudanic states of Gao, Takrūr, and Kanem converted to Islam. The celebrated fourteenth century pilgrimage of Mansa Musa, ruler of the vast Mali Empire, provides an insight into the significance that the Islamic world had assumed for interior West Africa. 13
    In contrast to North Africa, however, Islam spread incrementally among the sudanic population as a whole. In sudanic West Africa, for example, Arabic became the principal language of religion and learning, but it did not become the language of governance or daily life. On the East African coast, Islam spread to the Swahili trading cities via the Indian Ocean trade and became one of the markers of Swahili culture and identity. Yet as with sudanic West Africa, Arabic did not replace the indigenous language, though it strongly influenced it. In a variety of ways, then, Africans in large areas of the continent incorporated Islam into their lives and on their own terms.

Africa and the Atlantic world
    The Atlantic world had its origins in the Portuguese maritime expansion of the fifteenth century. The African Atlantic seaboard now joined the Indian Ocean seaboard as a site of direct contact with the wider world.8 In terms of world history, this brought first the coastal zones and then, gradually, their hinterlands into the intercommunicating zone. As a result, in West Africa there was a gradual reorientation of trade away from the trans-Saharan routes as it was refocused toward the coast. This in turn led to significant new commercial, political, and cultural developments. One of the most fascinating developments took place in the west central African Kongo kingdom. In the late fifteenth century, its ruler converted to Christianity. The ruling elite soon assumed Portuguese names and a Kongolese Christian identity. They eagerly borrowed technology and goods as well as religion from Portugal. The Portuguese, however, were more interested in obtaining slaves for their Atlantic island plantations. Before long, the slave trade undermined the kingdom and led to its collapse.
    The tragic history of Kongo in many ways stands as a symbol for the longer-term consequences of the Atlantic age for Africa. The first two centuries of this historical period were fairly auspicious for Africa, and Africans were generally eager to take advantage of the new opportunities arising from their participation in the intercommunicating zone.9 Yet the European demand for tropical commodities, especially sugar, led to the second and highly destructive phase of the Atlantic age in the form of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Its central years were from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century, with the peak exports of 115,000 or more slaves per year taking place in the 1820s and 1830s.10 The western world benefited enormously from the slave trade and the utilization of slave labor, but Africa suffered mightily from its steadily growing participation in the continually expanding intercommunicating zone. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that the roots of Africa’s current underdevelopment and poverty lie in these two centuries. The costs to Africa were not just demographic (through slave exports, warfare, and the disruption of society that led to a decline in births), but also severely disrupted and distorted African social, political, economic, and cultural institutions.
    The Atlantic age ushered in more than just a European commercial presence in Africa—it also inaugurated the beginning of a permanent settler presence. The arrival of the Dutch at Cape Town in 1652 initiated what was to be the continent’s most significant settler colony and created a permanent population of European origin that placed South Africa on a different trajectory from the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, the history of South Africa offers many comparisons with that of the United States as well as Brazil, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
    In the nineteenth century the relationship between Europe and Africa began to change again. In the 1830s, Europe ceased utilizing enslaved labor in its tropical colonies and instead sought tropical commodities such as palm oil, palm kernels, and groundnuts produced in Africa. African farmers responded readily to the new economic opportunities these cash crops could provide, but often were on unequal footing in this increasingly globalized market. There is considerable debate over the terms of trade in the nineteenth century, but the long run consequence of this type of trade has been that external markets with externally set prices came to play a decisive role in Africa.
    Discussing Africa in terms of the Atlantic world can divert attention from other aspects of Africa’s involvement with the intercommunicating zone during these centuries. In particular, involvement with the Islamic world continued to be very significant for much of the northern half of the continent. The eighteenth century in West Africa witnessed a number of jihads led by religious leaders of Sufi orders intent upon establishing theocratic states based on Islamic precepts and law. The most significant of these states was that of Sokoto in northern Nigeria, which emerged at the outset of the nineteenth century. Its leaders considered their new state a re-established caliphate that would lead the entire Islamic world.

Africa and the colonial world
    Western European states rapidly expanded their control over the continent in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. This further intensified Africa’s participation in the intercommunicating zone, which for the first time involved all parts of the continent. In sharp contrast to earlier stages of Africa’s incorporation into the intercommunicating zone, such as the spread of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa or the first couple of centuries of the Atlantic era, in the colonial era outside forces exercised undue influence and power in determining the terms of Africa’s involvement in the intercommunicating zone. 20
    Much of South Africa had been a colonial territory for over two centuries before the onslaught of the late nineteenth-century colonial conquest, and France had seized Algeria in the 1830s. Even still, until the 1880s most Africans still lived under African systems of governance. Yet by 1914 nearly the entire continent except for Ethiopia and Liberia were part of one or another European colonial empire. This colonial partition of Africa was part of the second wave of European imperial expansion, as the industrializing nation-states of Europe competed with each other for territory in those parts of the globe not yet under their control. 11 21
    The colonial period led to several key outcomes for Africa that were to shape its participation in the intercommunicating world of the twentieth (and now twenty-first) century. First and foremost, Africans lived under alien rulers whose firmly-held racial views and stereotypes shaped their approach to their colonial subjects. Indeed, colonial racism was perhaps stronger in Africa than in any other part of the colonial world. Africans thus continually had to struggle against an imposed color line that W.E.B. du Bois described in 1903 as “the problem for the Twentieth Century.”12 In the political realm, European racism led to the view that Africa was “ownerless territory” and thus to be shared among the European powers on a competitive basis. Europe completely redrew the political map of Africa so that the continent’s political boundaries were—and remain—almost entirely artificial, and show little resemblance to pre-colonial political entities. This imposed political map and many of its accompanying political institutions has conditioned the nature of post-colonial Africa’s participation in the contemporary world of intercommunicating states.13 22
    A second key outcome was the permeation of European cultural and social institutions in African societies. While societies such as South Africa and Algeria (with their significant European settler populations) were more deeply affected than others, no part of Africa escaped this development. European languages displaced indigenous languages as the languages of authority and power in the colonial states as well as in their successor states. One result was that African elites, through their acquisition of European languages, were now able to communicate more readily on a worldwide basis. Among other things, this facilitated the rise of Pan-Africanism, which utilized English and French as its principal languages. On the other hand, social stratification within African societies came to be correlated in large part with a command of the relevant colonial languages. This is perhaps the most enduring of the colonial cultural legacies. In most parts of the continent the majority of the population, lacking as they do fluency in the official languages, find themselves marginalized and excluded from both national and international realms of power and authority. 23
    At the individual level, the shift in the locus of economic activities from within to outside the family during the colonial era probably had the most far-reaching consequences. Increasingly, cash income generated through wage labor, cash crop agriculture, petty trade, or government service became necessary to sustain families, thus removing essential decisions over the control and allocation of productive resources and the distribution of output from the hands of average Africans. At the national level, the most far-reaching development was the entrenchment of Africa as a producer of raw materials and primary products and as a consumer of imported finished goods. In the era of the slave trade, African labor was forcibly sent abroad to produce primary products, but the indigenous economy remained just that--indigenous. Beginning with the commercial changes of the early nineteenth century, however, African labor remained on the continent to produce primary products for shipment abroad. The intensifying African involvement in the intercommunicating zone thus increasingly transformed economic decision-making in Africa from an indigenous to an exogenous process.14 24

Africa and the globalized world

    The spread of the intercommunicating zone to the far corners of the earth during the second wave of the European imperial expansion constituted the last stage for the emergence of today’s globalized world. Throughout the colonial world, the rise of nationalism led to the collapse of the European colonial empires, weakened as they were by the Second World War. Africans participated fully in this process. Upon achieving independence some African states joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that had emerged out of the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia. Through the NAM and other international forums, African leaders sought to cooperate across continental boundaries with the leaders of other former colonial states. Their goals were, among other things, to formulate policies to redress the startling imbalances between the largely industrialized Northern Hemisphere and the mainly non-industrialized Southern Hemisphere.

    Since independence, however, Africa’s path has also diverged considerably from the rest of the Southern Hemisphere. The most startling aspect is the extent of African poverty. Of the world’s 49 poorest countries (identified as those with over half of their population subsisting on a dollar a day or less), 34 are in Africa. This vast poverty is a cumulative result of the developments of the colonial era, perhaps none of which is more important than the proliferation of weak and fragmented independent states. Such states lack the resources to meet the needs of their citizens, they are too weak to negotiate fair terms with multinational companies seeking to exploit their natural resources, and they lack the police power to maintain internal order. They are also prone to civil war and other forms of internal upheaval, which in turn further impoverishes the populace. It is no surprise that Angola, Burundi, the Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, the Sudan, and Uganda are on the poorest countries list, for all have suffered greatly from civil war. Nor is it a surprise that most African states also lack adequate resources to address the AIDS pandemic, which has to date affected Africa more than any other continent. The devastating impact of AIDS is entrenching African poverty even further.15 26
    While any balanced assessment of Africa’s place in the globalized world needs to address the great problems the continent’s people face, there is also the danger of falling into the trap of Afro-pessimism. In the political realm, some of the world’s most dramatic recent democratic gains have taken place in Africa. Foremost among them has been South Africa’s relatively peaceful transition from apartheid to a fully representative democratic form of government. Algeria has moved away from authoritarian military rule to contested elections and democratic institutions despite the ongoing violence stemming from armed Islamic militants. Uganda is yet another country that has made great strides in distancing itself from its despotic past and establishing a government that seeks to meet its peoples needs, including making great strides in the battle against AIDS. Such developments do not take place in a vacuum, nor are they merely the results of well-intended external development assistance. Rather, they reflect the desires, aspirations, and abilities of Africans themselves. Furthermore, Africa is also the youngest continent in terms of its demographic profile. As a young continent, it is a continent filled with human energy, which if effectively harnessed and directed from within Africa, has the potential for ameliorating the current circumstances of Africa’s position in today’s globalized world. Indeed, the recent creation of the African Union to replace the previous Organization of African Unity reflects such hopes and aspirations.16

    Although Africa is the continent in which human beings originated and where history ultimately began, today it is the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged continent. How did this happen? The transition that resulted in these circumstances is very much at the core of teaching about the African past in the context of world history. It occurred in connection with the expansion of the intercommunicating zone and how this developed in Africa. In its formative stage, African civilizations were at the forefront of creating the intercommunicating zone. As it extended further into Africa with developments such as the expansion of Islam and the commercial opportunities of the early Atlantic era, Africans were fully in a position to make their own choices about the new economic, social, and cultural opportunities that the expanding intercommunicating zone presented them. From the mid-seventeenth century on, however, first the expanding slave trade, then colonial rule, and finally the stark north-south global divide progressively limited the ability of Africans to make their own choices about the dimensions of the world in which they lived. Another way of stating this is that prior to the mid-seventeenth century, when power and authority were fully vested in the African continent, Africans were able to negotiate and re-work the terms through which their incorporation into the intercommunicating zone took place from a position of strength. As a result of the slave trade, colonialism, and the globalized world’s starkly asymmetric relations of wealth and power between north and south, however, modern-day Africans now must negotiate and re-work the terms of their involvement in the wider world from a position of weakness. The challenge to the teacher of world history is to enable their students to understand this dramatic transformation in the lives of the people of the African continent.

Biographical Note: R. Hunt Davis, Jr. is Professor Emeritus of History and African Studies at the University of Florida.


1 A good example of world history textbooks that provide sound coverage of Africa is Peter N. Stearns et al., World Civilizations: The Global Experience (4th ed.; New York: Longman, 2004). Such books are more of a rarity at the secondary level. Gilbert T. Sewall recently reviewed seven middle and high school world history textbooks for The American Textbook Council (“World History Textbooks: A Review”, 2004). When it comes to Africa, he concluded that “In all world history textbooks coverage of Africa falls short” (p. 25).

2 See Philip D. Curtin et al., African History From Earliest Times to Independence (2nd ed.; New York: Longman, 1995), and his chapter “Africa in World History” in Paul Bohannan and Philip Curtin, eds., Africa and Africans (4th ed.; Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press, Inc., 1995).

3 A recent work by Erik Gilbert and Jonathan T. Reynolds, Africa in World History: From Prehistory to the Present (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004) presents a similar periodization, although the authors’ concern lies more with African history than with Africa in the context of world history. The book’s basic chronological divide is 1500 C.E., and more than two-thirds of its 368 pages of text are devoted to Africa since 1500. The book is a useful starting point for world history teachers new to the field of African history. It also offers helpful insights and interpretations to those with a greater familiarity with the African past.

4 The best way to keep abreast of the continually evolving field of study on human origins is through scientific periodicals. One excellent source is Nature (, which regularly publishes major articles on this topic. For example, the 11 July 2002 issue announced the discovery of the Chad skull known as Toumaď as well as publishing a series of classic papers on human evolution dating back to 1925. On October 27, 2004, Nature also published an article on the recent discovery of Homo Floresiensis, a species of tiny hominids who lived on the island of Flores in Indonesia. National Geographic ( also regularly reports on research findings in this field (type in “human evolution” in the search area on its web page).

5 For more on early agricultural developments in Africa, see Chapters 3-4 in Christopher Ehret, The Civilizations of Africa: A History to 1800 (Charlottesville, Va.: University of Virginia Press, 2002); for iron technology, see his Chapter 5.

6 Graham Connah, African Civilizations: An Archaeological Perspective (2nd ed.; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001) has useful chapters on both Nubia (“Birth on the Nile: The Nubian Achievement”) and Aksum (“The Benefits of Isolation: The Ethiopian Highlands”).

7 To gain a sense of the global reach of Islamic civilization in the fourteenth century and of Africa’s place in it, see Ross E. Dunn, The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14t Century (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986).

8 Donald R. Wright, The World and a Very Small Place in Africa (2nd ed.; Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2004). Through focusing on the small state of Niumi at the mouth of the Gambia River, Wright provides a detailed analysis of the evolving nature of this part of the African continent with the intercommunicating world. A second edition of this book appeared in 2004.

9 David Northrup, Africa’s Discovery of Europe, 1450-1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), examines how Africans viewed the European presence instead of presenting the more familiar European view of Africa.

10 This figure includes the flow of slaves from the savanna and the Horn of Africa into the Muslim world as well as the far larger numbers going to the Americas and the European plantations on Indian Ocean islands. See Patrick Manning, Slavery and African Life (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), Fig. 1.1, p. 18. See also Herbert S. Klein, The Atlantic Slave Trade (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999) for a succinct and readable discussion of the Atlantic dimensions of the slave trade.

11 While the United States was not directly involved in partitioning Africa, it also participated in this colonial expansion, both within North America and in places such as the Philippines. One apt comparison between US colonial expansion and what took place in Africa is that of the conquest of the Sioux and of the Zulu. See James O. Gump, The Dust Rose Like Smoke: The Subjugation of the Zulu and the Sioux (Lincoln, Nebr.: University of Nebraska Press, 1994).

12 W.E.B. du Bois, The Souls of Black Folks (Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1903; reprinted New York: Bartleby.Com,1999), Forethought.

13 See Ieuan Ll. Griffiths, The African Inheritance (New York: Routledge, 1995).

14 For the view of an African historian on the effects of colonial rule see A. Adu Boahen, African Perspectives on Colonialism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987).

15 For a fuller assessment of the historical process out of which Africa's current position in the world has emerged, see Frederick Cooper, Africa Since 1940: The Past of the Present (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

16 An excellent publication for an overview of contemporary Africa is F. Jeffress Ramsay and Wayne Edge, Global Studies: Africa (10th ed.; Guilford, Conn.: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin Company, 2004). With new editions appearing on a regular basis, it not only provides up-to-date information on individual countries but also contains useful essays on current issues. It also contains a helpful selection of world web sites for Africa and an excellent bibliography.


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