School in a Book: History of Africa

Ancient History (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Sahara Desert: The large desert that spans the center of Africa. In prehistoric times, the desert shrank enough to allow humans to migrate out of Africa. In ancient times, the desert became increasingly dry, preventing communication between Northern and Southern Africans. Egyptians in the North had much more contact with Middle Easterners and Europeans than they did with Africans south of the Sahara.

Ancient Egypt:

Old Kingdom:

Middle Kingdom:

New Kingdom:

Upper Kingdom:

Lower Kingdom:


King Narmer:


The Great Pyramid:

The Pyramid at Giza:


3000 B.C.: to 776 B.C.: In Egypt, pharaohs began to rule after King Narmer united the Upper and Lower Kingdoms. The country moved through the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom stages. During the Old Kingdom, the Great Pyramid was completed and mummification began.

3200–2600 B.C.: Writing was developed in Sumer (cuneiform) and Egypt (hieroglyphs), triggering the beginning of recorded history.

3300 B.C.: Growth of first Egyptian towns.

3000 B.C.: Upper and lower Egypt united. (find out: did Egypt evolve/discover farming independent of Mesopotamia or brought from there? When did relations with Mes begin?)

Old Kingdom: Egypt surrounded by deserts that cut it off from rest of Africa. But fertile and green due to Nile. History very linked with Middle East. Nile offered transportation and irrigation. Wheat and barley (for beer and bread), flax (for linen); cattle for transportation. Advanced religion, medicine, astronomy, engineering. Polytheists. Papyrus hieroglyphs. Pyramids. Great Pyramid at Giza built (when?) many passageways and chambers. Sought to please gods and make a permanent mark on history. Stones of up to 60 tons each. 2.3 million stones used altogether. Pharaohs. Egypt unified in one kingdom for most of their history. Pharaoh considered a living god. Body mummified when died, buried with treasure for afterlife–even food. Sacred writings on walls for protection. Many cities, all hugging the Nile. Most Egyptians were farmers. Mostly uneducated but all very religious. Then–decline for 100 years. No strong ruler.

2040 B.C.: Start of Middle Kingdom with Mentuhotep, who restored greatness. Fine art, literature. Not great conquerors. Egypt still isolated from rest of world. Did invade Nubia for gold, though. (insert main egyptian gods) (Another 100-year decline, then new kingdom)

1550 B.C.: New Kingdom. Egypt at its largest and wealthiest. Became known abroad. Egypt’s Golden Age. Conquered Palestine. At height during rule of Amenhotep III. This capital at Thebes. (Capital moved regularly.) Farmers still lived simply but nobles were very wealthy, had luxury. By law, men and women were equal. Women owned property. Four professions of women allowed: priestess, midwife, dancer, mourner. Scribes and priests second to nobility in importance.

One pharaoh, Akhenaten, tried to change religion to momotheistm (god Aten) but after he died the priests of old gods regained control. Dead king’s name removed from all monuments and records, and his new capital city was abandoned. Many New Kingdom pharaohs were buried in the Valley of the Kings, including King Tutankahamen, whose tomb was rediscovered in 1922. In time of Greeks, Egypt finally conquered. THen became a Roman territory during Roman era. Romans let writings and monuments be forgotten and ruined.

6000-2000 B.C.: Sahara was wetter, crossable.

3500: Sahara began to dry up but some routes stayed open.

2000 B.C.: Kingdom of Kush grew out of Nubia (Sudan), whichtook after Egypt. Trading partner for Egypt, source of gold.

1500 B.C.: Egypt conquered Kush for 750 years.

700 B.C.: Kush transitioned from stone working to iron working (no bronze) and flourished, supplying places in Africa and the Middle East. Ehipia was more self-contained but also important culture of this time.

600: Growth of Nok culture on Niger River, Nigeria and Meroe, [?], Chad, Bantu. Southern Africa shepherds and hunter-gatherers called Khoisan.

350 B.C.: Meroi collapsed and was replaced by Aksum, which grew rich. Great cities and monoliths. Adopted Christianity. Thrived until AD 1000!

200: Jenne-jeno, the first African city (in West Africa) established. Partly due to introduction of camel to the Sahara, so trade could happen in West Africa.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

AD 500: Bantu-speaking people from Nigeria migrated south, “leaving the rain forests to the Pygmies and the Kalahari Desert to the Khoisan bushmen. Bantu speakers in east started trading with Greeks and Romans.

AD 700-1240: Ghana, the first true African state. Center of gold trade. Located inland and more4 north than modern-day Ghana. Successors were Mali and Songhai. Became rich due to Arabs using camels to cross Sahara for the gold, mined further south and west. Brought in sald, European goods came there and slaves were traded out. Fell in 1076, restored, then fell again and in 1240 became part of Mali.

1240-1500: Middle Ages. Four main kingdoms: Mali/Songhay, Ethiopia, Benin and Zimbabwe.

1240: Mali founed by Sundiata Keita. Well-organized state, fertile farmlands beside the Niger River. Gold trade. Powerful. Many wealthy cities. Great Mosque designed by an Egyptian. City called Timbuktu on Niger. Key destination of caravan routes. 100 schools, a university, mosques, market. Ivory, too. Slaves to Muslim world, Venice and Genoa. Imported salt, cloth, ceramics, glass, horses, luxuries. Became Muslim for a time under a sypathetic ruler.

900-1480: Kingdom of Benin in modern-day Nigeria. Benin: West Africa. Forest kingdom. Benin City, capital. Had wide streets, large wooden houses, long surrounding walls. Bronze carvings. Traded in cloth, ivory, metals, palm oil, pepper, poottery and brass art like masks and carvings. King had a rich palace. Ruled at height by Oba Eware the Great, who modernized and didn’t enslave prisoners or engage in slave trade, which protected it from European colonization till 1897.

900-1450: South: Great Zimbabwe. Large reserves of copper, gold. Walled palace city called Great Zimbabwe. Massive stone structures (granite)–how? by whom? A mystery. (A Zimbabwe is a stone-built enclosure and we call Zimbabwes this because of this famous structure.

1450: Zimbabwe overtaken. 1500: Conquered by Songhay (lower down the Niger River).

1000: Collapse of Aksum in East Africa.

1137: Ethiopia (Abyssinia) founded. Christians. Capital moved from Aksum to Lalibela.

1270-1500s: Ethiopia expanded into mountains of East Africa, taking in many once-isolated tribes. Regarded as a mysterious Christian kingdom. Had an emperor. Built 11 cross-shaped churches carved out of solid rock.

1500s: Declined due to internal discord.Not great warriors and never expanded (or even tried to) by military means.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

1629: Zim’s successor kingdom of Rozvi (?) fell to Portugese control. (They wanted the mines.)

1550-1700: Africa developing rapidly and would have advanced much farther, but Europeans came and took many slaves and imported their culture. “Social divisions increased as chieftans and traders made profitable deals.” Somghay and largest slave trade. Taken over by Europeans, along with the gold, and its wealth collapsed. Moroccan army took it over in 1591.

1600s: New states emerged in the south. Were Muslim and mostly traded with Ottomans and Arabs. Ottomans also mostly controlled Northeast Africa.

1543: Portugese took Ethiopia, set up on coast, drove out raiding Muslims. Increased slave trade.

1600s and 1700s: Key individual states: Dahomey and Ashanti. Portugese and Dutch traded in Ashanti primarily. Millions of slaves shipped to the Americas. Many died either during slave wars between African states trying to capture slaves or on voyages across Atlantic (the Middle Passage). A catastrophe for Africa to lose so many people. Tribal security and unity gradually gave way to increased social distrust and control by greedy chiefs.

1575: Portugese first settled in Angola.

1588: English Guinea Company founded

1637: Dutch drove Portugese from the Gold Coast

1652: Dutch East India Company founded Cape Town.

1700s: Africa relatively peaceful despite European settlemtn. 35,000 slaves each year sent to the Americas.

1787: British established Sierra Leone as a refugee for freed slaves.

1822: Liberia founded for freed slaves from the U.S.

Early 1800s: Most European countries stopped trading in slaves, though Portugese continued till 1882.

Early 1800s: Zulu trive in Southern Africa fought constantly with neighbors. Major bloodshed. Zulu warriors! “Time of Troubles.” Islam still going strong. Most of Africa still owned by Africans, but not united against Arabs and Europeans, so very vulnerable.

1805-1848: Egypt controlled by Ottomans, who expanded Egypt to further up Nile River in Sudan. Egypt now leading power in Southern Mediterranean. Mehmet Al Pasha known for his massacre of the former ruling class of Egypt, the Mamluks. Invited them to a banquet after taking control of Egypt. In Cairo. Had them massacred there.

1814-1910: South Africa. Enormous struggles for power as the British, the Boers (Dutch) and the Zulus all competed with each other.

1836: Cape Colony at Southern tip ruled by British. Expanded northward. Fought Zulus and the Boers for control of area. Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, Cecil Rhodes, sought to unite all of Africa under British rule. Boer Wars.

The Modern Era (1900 to the Present)

1902: Peace treaty signed making Boer republics part of British empire, though self-governed.

1910: Union of South Africa founded, unifying several African provinces under the British.

1869: Suez Canal opens to shipping.

1875: Britain took advantage of a local financial crisis and bought 50 percent of shares of Suez Canal.

1871: Stanley, an American journalist, met Dr. David Livingstone at Lake Tansanyika (sp?). Livingstone was seeking the source of the Nile.

1876: Belgium took over the Congo.

1882: British occupy Egypt to protect Suez Canal, which cut their time to India hugely. This caused some fighting.

1884: European nations met in Berlin to divide Africa among themselves. Only Liberia and Ethiopia remained independent.

1893: Frech take Timbuktu, Mali, W. Africa.

1899: British-Egyptian rule of Sudan

1912: African National Congress forms in South Africa.

1880-1912: European nations “scramble for Africa.” Led by Britain, France, plus Germany, Belgium and Italy.

Late 1800s: Britain had modern-day Ghana, Nigeria and controlled Sierra Leone, Egypt and the Gambia. Belgium had the Congo in Central Africa. [see map p362]. French were in West Africa, Britain in w, ne, south; belgium in center and other spred-out colonies. New forms of gov3ernment brought to Africa, but most Africans couldn’t vote and tribes were broken up in the “cake-cutting” process. European colonists often took best farmland for themselves. Profits all went to Europe.(here ins: how african nations gained independence)

1967-2000: Famine in Africa widespread. Drought. Civil war, which made sending aid very dangerous.

1960s: Most states gained independence.

1990-2000: South Africa and Apartheid. S. Af was the last country without self-rule. Still imperialist till Nelson Mandella ended apartheid. Apartheid: separation ofr people according to color or race. Started by the Boers in s. af. in early 1900s. Different laws if you were white, black or “colored” (mixed). Blacks and colored forced to live outside cities and movement restricted. White people in power and resisted opposition from the ANC (African National Congress) in the 60s by harsh laws, including making it illegal to have all-black political parties.

1980s: Colored allowed into government but not blacks. Starting in 1978, several reformers for change, inc President Botha, Desmond Tutu (an Anglican leader), PresidentF.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandella, who was released from prison by Klerk after 28 years. Mandella became the head of the ANC, then president. Free elections that included all people came in 1994 andled to end of apartheird. Argued for peacefrul settlement. Focus turned to need for schooling, poverty, lack of electricity and clean drinking water, unemployment and street crime.


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