African History


North Africa

         Mediterranean mild climate on northern coast

         Sahara Desert— Desertification

         Atlas Mountains

         Nile River and Nile Delta

West Africa

         The vast majority of West Africa is savannah and semiarid Sahel

         Expansion of the Sahara, called desertification, has affected people living in West Africa for the past 3000 years.

         Access to Atlantic Ocean and navigable rivers like the Niger River encouraged trade

Central Africa

         Main feature is the Congo Rainforest, the world’s second largest rainforest.

         Congo River, important to trade and transportation

Southern Africa

         A lot of variation in climate throughout the region

         Kalahari Desert

         Victoria Falls

         Zambezi River

        Too difficult to navigate to be a useful trading route


Emerging Civilizations

u    About 8000 years ago hunter-gatherers in Africa began to domesticate animals and plants.

     1.  Control over food production à

     2.  Permanent settlementsà

     3.  Civilizations

·        Sedentary versus nomadic



East Africa

         Archeologists call East Africa the cradle of humanity.

         Has the largest number of hominid fossils

        Olduvai Gorge

        Great Rift Valley

     Nubia, Kush, & Axum

·        Ancient Nubia built 223 Pyramids, double the number of pyramids built in Egypt.

·        2000 B.C. Nubia and Egypt trade with each other

·        Egypt wanted control over trade in ivory, ebony, frankincense, and leopard skins.

·        Egypt took control over Nubia’s trading and collected taxes from Nubia for a few hundred years.

Weapons Technology

u    Nubia acquired bronze weapons technology from the Egyptians.

u    Nubia forced Egypt out of Kush territory.

u    Kush conquered Egypt in 750 B.C.

Iron Trumps Bronze

u    The Assyrians take the Egyptian territory from Kush in 663 B.C.

u    Kush gets iron working technology from Assyrians

u    Kush had a lot of iron ore.


u    The Kush city Meroë was the center of a huge trade in iron products.

u    Kush traded their iron products with the Roman Empire, Arabia, India, and an East African Arab colony called Axum.


u    Began as an Arab colonyà

u    Got iron technology from Kushà

u    Axum became an independent stateà

u    Competed with Kush for control over the ivory tradeà

u    Axum ruler King Ezana ordered the invasion of Kush and conquered it.

u    King Ezana adopted Christianity as the official religion of Axum 330 A.D.

u    Axum became the first Christian Empire in the world.


West Africa

The Kingdom of Ghana (500 AD – 1170 AD)

   Rise of Ghana

         Ghana had a lot of gold and iron ore.

         Ghana became the first far-reaching trade empire in West Africa

         Ghana’s kings established and maintained their power through:

1.       their vast wealth (gold),

2.     personal relationship with subjects,

3.     and large standing armies (iron).

     Decline of Ghana

         Spread of the Sahara Desert strained Ghana’s growing populationà

         Urban populations became dependent on imported foodà

         Muslim traders took primary control over the Saharan trade à

         Ghana’s income from trade declinedà

     Ghana’s Collapse

         Food shortage and reduced income made the empire less stable.

         Ghana territory came under increased influence of the spreading Islamic empire to the north.

         The Mali leader Sundiata Keita defeats the remnants of the Ghana Empire around 1240 AD.


The Kingdom of Mali (1230 AD – 1600)

     Rise of Mali

         Established by Sundiata Keita

        Epic of Sundiata

         Sundiata Keita adopts Islam as the official religion of Mali

         Timbuktu becomes one of the world’s largest trading centers and the world’s most advanced centers of learning.

         Eventually, Mali covered a territory larger than western Europe.

         … and consisted of numerous vassal kingdoms and provinces in West and Central Africa.

     Mansa Musa

n      Doubled the size of the Mali Kingdom

n      Established a very effective way to governà

        a strong central government and provinces overseen by appointed governors  

n      Timbuktu’s Sankore Mosque grew to have about 20,000 students.

     Musa’s Pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca)

n      Thousands of servants and soldiers went with him.

n      They took along hundreds of camels carrying gold.

n      On the way to and from Makkah, they spent so much gold that they caused the value of gold to fall in Africa, Arabia, and all around the Mediterranean Ocean.

     Mali’s decline

n      Mansa Musa was the last powerful ruler of Mali.

n      In 1359 (22 years after Musa’s death) the kingdom was divided by civil war

n      The nearby Kingdom of Songhai was growing more powerful.

n      In 1464, the Songhai leader Sunni Ali captured Timbuktu.

      Primary Documents

·        Epic of Sundiata and other oral histories

·        Ibn Battuta’s first hand accounts (written documents)


The Kingdom of Songhai (1009 – 1600)

          King Kossi

    Converted to Islam in 1009 AD and established the Dia Dynasty.

    Many historians consider this the official start date for the Songhai Empire

    After converting to Islam, Kossi’s kingdom benefited from increased Muslim control of the Saharan trade routes.

          Sunni Ali

·        During the reign of Sunni Ali most of what had been the Ghana and Mali Empires were taken by the Songhai Empire.

    Sunni Ali captured Timbuktu and along with its great University of Sankore.

    Sunni Ali also captured the great city of Jenne, and married the Queen of Jenne, Dara.

          Muhammad Ture

    Usurped control of Songhai after Sunni Ali’s death, beginning the Askia Dynasty in 1493.

    His ruling style was similar to Mansa Musa.

    Songhai was at the height of the Empire during his reign.

          Decline of Songhai

    After Muhammad Ture’s reign, Songhai began it’s slow decline.

    At the end of the 16th century, Songhai was invaded by the Sultan of Morocco.


Migration of the Bantus & Great Zimbabwe

·        Starting in 1000 BC the Bantu people began migrating from Northwest Central Africa to the rest of Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa.

    The Bantu were semi-nomadic subsistence farmers who followed Africa’s river systems to plant their crops.

    As they peacefully moved across Africa, they spread knowledge of iron working and important crops like sorghum, millet, and yams.

    They also spread their language and culture.

    Even today the national language of Kenya and Tanzania is Swahili—a Bantu language with Arabic influence.


Great Zimbabwe

n      Around 1000 AD descendents of the Bantu migration into Southern Africa founded    Great Zimbabwe along the Zambezi River.

n      Between 1300 and 1450 AD Great Zimbabwe was the most wealthy and powerful civilization in Southern Africa

n      The ruins of The Great Enclosure are the most impressive evidence of Zimbabwe’s power and global trade.


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(a slower paced MP3 is here)

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