Saturday, July 24, 2004

Around the 'early modern' world II: African Odysseys

This has been a thought-provoking - and exhausting - exercise. My study of African history as an undergrad was confined to the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries (and largely to specific areas of 'British' west and east Africa); stir in a bit of post-grad work on orientalism, missionaries and related topics, and, er, that's about it. This thread on the periodization of African history at H-Africa is well worth reading. Importantly, some contributors argued very strongly for the need to focus on 'indigenous' perceptions and experiences (this one, by an archaeologist, I thought was particularly forceful). Except, perhaps, in terms of 'encounters' with Europeans from the fifteenth century up to imperial conquests, it's doubtful how much relevance the term 'early modern' has to African history. I mean not so much the loadedness of the term 'modern' here as the basic question of whether there is (however roughly) any identifiable, useful 'period', whatever you might choose to call it, that bears any relation whatsoever to these dates. And then, of course, there's the huge diversity of the continent to consider. That's why my brain is spinning today.

I found myself a little concerned at the very, well, 'modern' perspectives expressed by some commenters in the H-Africa thread, such as this otherwise very interesting one: that is to say, the thousands of years in this vast continent before the 'colonial' and 'postcolonial' periods are all to be lumped together as the 'pre-colonial' or 'independent' period? And it has to be said that much of what you can find on the web does just that: a wealth of detailed resources and studies on the last century can be contrasted with surveys that breathlessly cover centuries at a time for earlier periods, or on 'X topic' in some rather timeless 'pre-colonial' setting. I appreciate that the nature of source materials in many areas may not allow the kind of specificity that document-oriented historians are used to, but even so... (And book and article titles that popped up on Google searches indicate that there's interesting research going on out there.)

Anyway, I have tried to find resources that are not in the ultra-superficial league. There is a weighting towards 'political' narratives; more 'social' stuff would have been good, but never mind. I have included very little on Europeans in Africa or slavery and the slave trade - there are already some relevant links at Early Modern Resources. If you bear in mind that it was compiled by someone who was learning as she went along (search strategy? what's one of those then?), you may hopefully find it useful. (If you're reading it and thinking 'I could have done a better job than that' - then get off your arse and do it, OK?)

African Timelines: 15th to early 19th centuries
The Story of Africa: Slavery
The Portuguese in Africa 1415-1600
Exploring Africa: Maps and Travel Narratives
The Eye of the Beholder (maps of Africa)
Antiquarian Maps of Africa
The Black Man's Burden (1920)
Diffusion and other problems in the history of African states
Misunderstanding natives in the seventeenth century

Political African Women of the 16th-18th centuries
Pre-colonial Homosexuality in Africa
Pre-colonial Metalworking Bibliography
Ethnicity in Africa 1700-1850 Bibliography
African Political Entities before the Scramble
Zakat in pre-colonial sub-Saharan Africa

Timeline: The Maghrib 1400-1600
Timeline: The Maghrib 1600-1800
Warfare and firearms in fifteenth-century Morocco
Sa'did Architecture
Tunisia's Andalusian Heritage
Libya: Ottoman Regency
Ottoman rule in Algeria
Timeline: Egypt 1400-1600
Timeline: Egypt 1600-1800
Egypt under the Ottoman Empire
History of Ottoman Egypt
Egypt: Ottoman Turk Period
Administration in Egypt from Ottoman Times (book review)
Cairo City Maps

The Story of Africa: West African Kingdoms
Timbuktu Libraries
Kingdoms of the Medieval Sudan
Timeline: Western and Central Sudan 1400-1600
Timeline: Western and Central Sudan 1600-1800
The Forest Kingdoms
Timeline: Guinea Coast 1400-1600
Timeline: Guinea Coast 1600-1800
Art,Innovation and Politics in Eighteenth-century Benin
Women in pre-colonial Nigeria

The Story of Africa: Central African Kingdoms
Timeline: Central Africa 1400-1600
Timeline: Central Africa 1600-1800
Luba and Lunda Empires
Kuba Kingdom
The Kongo Kingdom and the Papacy
History of Angola

Timeline: Eastern and Southern Africa 1400-1600
Timeline: Eastern Africa 1600-1800
Timeline: Southern Africa 1600-1800
Kingdoms of Madagascar
The Dutch in South Africa


  1. Anonymous8:59 AM

    Hi sharon,
    Do you think there's somewhere we can advertise the early modern topic exchange?

  2. Anonymous12:23 AM

    Will have to think about that. I keep forgetting to use it...


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