Africa Before the European Conquest
Sean Redding (Section 01)
(AFP) (Also Black Studies 48.) The African continent has been called by one historian the social laboratory of humanity. Art, trade, small-scale manufacturing, medical knowledge, religion, state systems, history and legend all flourished before the formal political take-over of the continent by European powers in the late nineteenth century and continue to have a decisive impact on African societies today. It is this varied and sometimes difficult to access history of states and cultures in the period before 1885 that this course will examine. Initially, we will investigate the notion of “tribe” and its relationship to language, political affiliation and identity. The largest segment of the course will examine historical myths and their impact on the research and construction of historical narratives on precolonial Africa while discussing four topics in depth: domestic, local slave-ownership and the impact of the slave trade; the interaction of religion and power on the rise and fall of the kingdom of Kongo and of the states along the southern border of the Sahara (the sahel); the genesis of the Zulu state in southern Africa and the creation of the legend of Tshaka; and the changing roles of women as economic, political and social actors in the period before 1885. We will also discuss some of the differences between oral historical narratives and written ones while we analyze primary documents and histories written by scholars over the past half-century to understand both the history of the people living on the continent as well as the active process of constructing that history. Two class meetings per week. Fall semester. Professor Redding.