History of Africa

The African history is full of turbulences and conflicts, colonization and freedom struggles.

Early History
Frequently referred to as the “cradle of civilization,” Africa is the world’s oldest landmass. About 97% of the continent’s land has been virtually the same for the past 300 million years. Between five and ten million years ago, an African hominid called the Australopithecines started to walk upright. This set-in motion a long evolutionary path towards what became approximately 200,000 years ago, the modern Homo Sapiens. Flash forward another 50,000 years, and a group of Homo Sapiens started to move out of North Africa and into the Middle East. While it is estimated that this group may have only contained several dozen people, this was the first migration from the continent, and they would come to populate the planet.

Africa has been home to some of the greatest civilizations in human history. One of the most important was the Kingdom of Sheba. The Kingdom was located in modern-day Yemen. The foundation of the Kingdom of Sheba lay in an ideal location along a key trade route. In the period around 1,000 BC, caravans of traders would undertake journeys from the area around modern-day Oman, to the Mediterranean. As they did so, they passed through Marib, which at that time was an abundant oasis. It was also one of the only two sources of frankincense (aromatic resin). The city of Marib was known throughout the Arab world for its great fortunes.

The people of the Kingdom were known as the Sabeans. They ruled the region between the tenth to the sixth century BC. The Sabean society collapse came after the spice route was changed.

Middle Ages
From the 7th century AD onwards, the area around Mozambique to Tanzania was home to a number of highly successful city states. The rulers of these city states were the Swahili Sultans. The people in these city states lived in stone houses and wore robes made of silk.

The Swahili Sultans eventually fell victim to infighting, and ambitious viziers and emirs sought to take power from the ruling family. In a weakened state, the Swahili Sultans were very vulnerable, when in the 16th century they came in contact with the Portuguese. Through force and persuasion, the Portuguese were able to turn the region into vassal states.

Contact with Europe
During the 19th century, the various African kingdoms started to come in contact with Europe. This was when colonization of Africa saw a marked increase, and slaves from various African regions were taken to work in colonies and plantations overseas, for instance, in the Americas. But most of the European control was along the coasts. In the inner parts of the continent, the Islamic and local rulers held control.

The people of Africa served in both the World Wars. Following the Second World War, the European powers grew weak and the colonies in Africa began to demand freedom. A strong catalyst in this was India's successful struggle for independence. But even after the many nations saw freedom, greater challenges awaited them in the form of famines, civil wars, diseases, and political instability. Even today, the African countries are grappling with these.

Last Updated on: January 4th, 2018