chapter  3
40 Pages

Political Development in Historic Africa

Despite the systematic removal of Africans from any substantive decision-making power during European colonial rule (c. 1900-1960), and despite the persistent conflicts and crises that have continued to impede African development since colonial times (c. 1960-present), historic Africa occupies a central position in our world. Africa has been called the most central of all continents geographically, with the majority of its landmass and population concentrated in the tropics (immediately north and south of the equator) and its Great Rift Valley being the earth’s most visible topographical feature (when viewed from the moon). East Africa’s Great Rift Valley has provided more opportunities for modern archaeologists to dig deeper into the early development of human beings than any other place. Since most of the documented prehistory of humankind took place in or near the Great Rift Valley, many scholars have argued that Africa was the original home of our earliest human ancestors. It is widely recognized that ancient Egypt (in the northern part of Africa’s Nile River Valley) developed the world’s earliest grand-scale civilization. It is also known that medieval African empires supplied large exports of gold to medieval Eurasian civilizations. African history, so central to the early development of human beings, ancient civilizations, and medieval commerce in our world’s history, has nonetheless been disregarded in Eurocentric studies. As late as the 1960s, a renowned British historian even maintained that Africa had no history. By that time, however, new kinds of historical techniques and data made it possible for Africans and Africanists (affiliated with new universities in independent African nations) to seriously begin reclaiming the rich African past. Historians like J. A.