This Very Short Introduction looks at Africa's past and reflects on the changing ways it has been imagined and represented, both in Africa and beyond. The author illustrates important aspects of Africa's history with a range of fascinating historical examples, drawn from over 5 millennia across this vast continent. The multitude of topics that the reader will learn about in this succinct work include the unity and diversity of African cultures, slavery, religion, colonial conquest, the diaspora, and the importance of history in understanding contemporary Africa. The book examines questions such as: Who invented the idea of "Africa"? How is African history pieced together, given such a lack of documentary evidence? How did Africa interact with the world 1,000 years ago?
Africa has been known as 'the cradle of mankind', and its recoverable history stretches back to the Pharaohs. But the idea of studying African history is itself new, and the authors show why it is still contested and controversial. This VSI, the first concise work of its kind, will prove essential reading for anyone interested in the African continent and the diversity of human history.
A very well informed and sharply stated historiography... should be in every historiography student's kitbag. A tour de force... it made me think a great deal. * Terence Ranger, The Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies *
You will finish this book better informed, with a better understanding of Africa and a clearer idea of the questions. * Robert Giddings, Tribune *
This small book is a smart and stimulating essay exploring issues of history, sources and methods, Africa in the world, colonialism and postcolonialism, and the past in the present as a means of introducing students and others to academic thinking about African history. * Tom Spear, Journal of African History *
1: The idea of Africa
2: Africans: diversity and unity
3: Africa's past: historical sources
4: Africa in the world
5: Colonialism in Africa
6: Imagining the future, rebuilding the past
7: Memory and forgetting, past and present