African History Essay

Your essay should clearly separate your answer to each question by recalling the number of each question.  You should submit your answer in one single Word document.  Your entire essay should have 3 to 5 double spaced pages.  You must use what you need to answer each question completely.

No research is required to answer this question.  The course materials should be more than enough to provide you with the information needed to answer the question.  When referring to published documents (including this course’s textbook and additional readings, videotaped lectures, power point presentations, and films), you must cite them properly, following the author-date Chicago manual of Style (see the Welcome page on this website).

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  1. What conceptions of Africa do you bring to the course? Be honest- there’s no right or wrong answer.
  2. From what you have heard, read, or watched (films of various kinds), what are some common stereotypes held about Africa?

This assignment is graded according to your ability to identify and articulate a central theme, marshal evidence from the course’s materials to support the position outlined above as well as to show your ability to follow directions, present accurate information and cite examples from the text that you paraphrase. Finally, this assignment will be graded on your demonstrated ability to provide adequate explanation of historical context and adhere to the rules of English grammar.  For this assignment, I look for whether you have re-stated the thesis and whether you have developed logical paragraphs that explain how the examples you have chosen support your statement about the question’s focus/target.

I have attached the materials needed for the essay. 

Physical Context of African History

Geography and Environment

© 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
Physical Features of the Continent
Most prominent feature of African continent is its size
Much larger than commonly imagined
Democratic Republic of the Congo: nearly the size of Western Europe

© 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
Physical Features of the Continent
Northern edge of the continent is bounded by Mediterranean Sea
From Algeria to Morocco the coastal strip enjoys “Mediterranean climate”
South of this coastal strip lies the Sahara
“Sahara” is the Arabic word for desert

© 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
Physical Features of the Continent
South of the Sahara is a vast savannah
Rainfall here is sufficient to support mixture of grass and trees
Enfolded in this vast savannah is an equatorial forest zone
Rain forests covered much of West African coast from modern-day Sierra Leone to the Volta River in modern Ghana

© 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
Physical Features of the Continent
At southern tip of the continent, south of the Kalahari & the Namib deserts, is a small pocket of Mediterranean climate
The Cape region has the same winter rains & mild climate found on the north coast

© 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

If there exists a typical African environment it would be the mixed grass and trees of the
savannah.
6

© 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

Map 1-1: African environments
7

© 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

Pygmy men in the process of felling a rainforest tree. Note the steel axe.
Pygmies do not live in isolation and obtain metal tools through trade.
8

© 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
Challenges of the African Environment
Despite myths about the fertility of tropical soils, most African soils
Are actually rather poor
The continent is geologically inactive
Rainfall is cyclical
Intertropical Convergence Zone

Challenges of the African Environment
Disease
Malaria and yellow fever
Plasmodium falciparum attacks central nervous system- cerebral malaria
Yellow fever has been far kinder to Africans but just as hard on outsiders as malaria
Diseases that primarily affect animals can still exert a powerful effect on human history, such as Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)
© 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

© 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
Challenges of the African Environment
Economists interested in why some parts of the world are more economically developed than others concluded that Africa’s environment accounts for 2 – 4% drag on GDP

© 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
The African Environment in Global Perspective
Challenges posed by the African environment vary by region and reflect scale and diversity of the continent
Despite similarities of their environments, historical development of Australasia and Africa are quite different

© 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
The African Environment in Global Perspective
Other regions of Australasia follow historical trajectory similar to Africa’s
Java and Sumatra, like most of Africa, were close enough to Eurasia that they were able to participate in the exchange of ideas, crops, & technology for the last 6 or 7 thousand years in the Eastern hemisphere

© 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
The African Environment in Global Perspective
The part of the African continent with a history most like that of Australia is the distant southern tip of the continent.
Common misconception: the African environment is uniquely wild, pristine, and Edenic (untouched by humans)

© 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
The African Environment in Global Perspective
While Africa has many wild and sparsely inhabited places, these are no more characteristic of Africa than North America
Humans have lived in Africa longer than anywhere else in the world
Human impact on Africa’s environment is probably the same as on other continents

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    Published on Oct 8, 2012
    With more than a billion people spread across 54 countries speaking more than 3,000 languages, Africa cannot — and should not — be limited to a single narrative. Africa Straight Up is a more complete story about Africa and its diaspora.
    Share your personal story about Africa at Africa.com or on Twitter @Africa_com with the hashtag #AfricaStraightUp.

    WRITTEN AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BY
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    A Cartographic and Historiographic Essay

    Introduction
    Maps are complicated things
    They both reflect and inform our understanding of the world
    Images of Africa and the world have changed radically over time
    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Introduction
    15th century: new cartographic techniques & maritime technologies redraw the world
    Modern field of history took shape in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
    Early European attempts at world history were deeply influenced by these new notions of identity and difference
    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Introduction
    While maps of the world were becoming more “correct,” world history may very well have been becoming more “wrong”
    Africans (and other non-whites) were literally written out of history
    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Introduction
    The 20th century saw the advent of a concerted challenge to this Eurocentric model of history
    “Area Studies” movement
    In the late twentieth century, a new perspective on world history developed
    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Ptolemy’s Map of the World (circa 170 C.E.)
    This is one of the most commonly cited “ancient maps” of the world. The only problem is that it isn’t really Ptolemy’s map. No actual copies of Ptolemy’s map actually exist. What we have, instead, are a host of later reproductions (many dating from the early fifteenth century) that are based upon Ptolemy’s system of coordinates. The result is that this map sometimes better represents late medieval European notions of the world
    than that of the ancient Greeks. The map does accurately represent, however, that educated members of Mediterranean society during the period very much saw the ancient world as being more or less a single body of land that surrounded major inland seas. Note that what we now think of as Africa was labeled more clearly as Libya and Ethiopia, than as Africa, which actually denotes just a small region of the northern coast.
    6

    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    The Hereford Mappamundi (1290 C.E.)
    This medieval English map provides an insight into the world as viewed through a biblical lens. Jerusalem occupies the center of the map, which is oriented to the east (which is, after all, where we get the term “oriented”). There are a number of notable elements in this map. Chief is that even at this date, cartographers conceived of the world as a whole, largely as a single landmass that surrounded the Mediterranean Sea. Also, much of the detail ascribed to Africa appears to have been drawn from Roman sources, with the names of Roman provinces such as Numidia and Mauritania appering clearly on the map. This is a good example of the power of “convention” in informing maps and people’s conceptions of the world. And, to show that even some of the most famous cartographers can have a bad day, what we now think of as Africa is labeled as “Europe” and what we think of as Europe is labeled as “Africa”—in big gold letters, no less.
    7

    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Da Ming Hun Yi Ta (1389 C.E.) Great Ming Amalgamated Map
    This is a Chinese world map dating from the Ming Dynasty. The fact that it is north oriented has been attributed to the fact that it was the Chinese who first developed and utilized the magnetic compass, although the Chinese saw magnets as pointing south, rather than north. China and Japan are visible to the right, with Africa and Europe blending on the left-hand side of the map. This is a good example of the relative accuracy of early Chinese maps, and of how Africa was very much a part of the Chinese image of the world, even before the voyage of Zheng He’s treasure fleet to the East African coast in the early 1400s. Note that the interior lakes of East Africa are clearly (if not somewhat overly dramatically) pictured.
    8

    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Al-Idrisi’s Tabula Rogeriana (1456)
    This map is a good example of Islamic cartography from the fifteenth century, with this particular map having been one of many produced for the Norman king of Sicily, Roger, by the Islamic scholar al-Idrisi. The map is notable for its heavy debt to Ptolemy, and also for its southern orientation, with Africa at the top and Europe and Asia at the bottom right and left, respectively. Indeed, many maps from this era were south oriented, with the convention of being oriented north not having yet been established. The map offers considerable detail of African river systems, although it makes the mistake of combining the Senegal and Niger Rivers into one, and having them flow into the Nile in the east. This was an error common to Islamic geographies from the ninth to eighteenth centuries, and this error was later transmitted to European and American maps of Africa, as well.
    9

    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Ramusio/Gastaldi (1554)
    This south-oriented Italian map offers a sharp contrast to works from the previous century. Drawing upon extensive data from voyages along Africa’s western and eastern coasts by the Portuguese, we now see Africa taking a more familiar shape. What is perhaps more interesting, however, is the degree of interior detail which the map provides. Despite the fact that no European travelers or traders had ventured past the
    coastline, this map offers extensive interior detail, providing the locations of numerous rivers and states. What is apparent is that European traders had clearly enquired of African merchants and rulers as to what lay in the hinterland. This is a clear indication that during this early period European merchants and cartographers trusted African knowledge regarding the continent’s physical and political geography. Note also the frequent references to “Reg.,” meaning “Kingdom of,” a sign that Europeans recognized the existence of numerous African states.
    10

    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Mercator (1607)
    Gerardus Mercator is, of course, one of the best-known cartographers of the modern period. This beautifully rendered map reflects much of the same interior detail as that found in Ramusio/Gastaldi, but with some interesting additions. Note the presence of “Prester John” in the Upper Nile region of “Abbisini” (Abyssinia). Placing this mythical Christian king in Africa was a common element of European cartography during the period, and reflected the belief that many Africans were, like Europeans, Christians. This is a powerful example of the degree to which maps of this period depicted Africa not in terms of the exotic, but in terms of the familiar. Also, note that the South Atlantic is here identified as the “Oceanus Aethiopicus” or Ethiopian Ocean. What we now think of as the “Atlantic” was once known by another name, and that at least up to the seventeenth-century Africa was still exerting a significant enough “cartographic sphere of influence” that one of the adjoining oceans was being named for the continent.
    11

    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    H. Moll “Negroland and Guinea” (1729)
    This map provides a stark contrast to those of the previous century. Note that a significant amount of African interior detail, particularly as it relates to political geography, has not been included. Also, the Ethiopian Ocean has been replaced by the Atlantic, a convention established by English cartographers. Note also the identification, in the title box of the map, of “European Settlements, explaining what belongs to England, Denmark, Holland & [others].” These settlements are actually trading posts, mostly along the Gold Coast. Nonetheless, it is a powerful marker of a growing Western willingness to lay claim to portions of the continent, however small. Also significant is the first appearance of an overtly racial characterization of the continent, with a large swath of the savannah region being defined as “Negroland.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, this map also contains a reference to the slave trade, with the region of southern Nigeria being identified as the “Slave Coast.” When the nature of this map is compared to the roughly contemporaneous quote by Hume found in the essay at the beginning of this section, it is clear that dramatic changes were afoot for the representation of Africa and Africans during this period.
    12

    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Arrowsmith (1802)
    Maps from the early nineteenth century, as typified by this one prepared for the British Committee and Members of the British Association for the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa, are notable for an even more dramatic absence of interior detail. This development reflects a growing perspective on the part of many Westerners that if information about territory had not been obtained “first hand” by a trained European observer, then it was not reliable. Thus, large swaths of Africa which had once been filled with information gleaned from African sources were now left blank. The result is that maps from the early 1800s are often typified by areas of extreme detail and areas that are completely empty. The very fact that there is a “British Association for the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa” is foreshadowing of the coming conquest and colonization of the African continent.
    13

    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Granger Map of Colonial Africa in 1914 (1934)
    Dating from 1934, this map shows the results of the “Scramble for Africa” and the colonization of the continent as it stood in 1914. The transformation of the African political map is particularly dramatic, showing a continent that has been almost completely occupied by foreign powers. Only Ethiopia (“Abyssinia”) and Liberia are identified as independent states. What the map does not show is also telling. For example, the new colonial boundaries also reflect the beginning of linguistic and cultural changes in the areas under the control of different colonial powers. Also,
    reflect on what sort of impact maps like this one might have had on the world view and self-image of European and African populations. What sort of version of world history would a map like this seem to validate?.
    14

    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Map of Independent African States
    Here we see a modern representation of Africa’s political divisions. Note the similarities between these boundaries and the ones found on the map of colonial Africa. The colonial boundaries of Africa have proven amazingly “sticky,” with some, such as the division between Ethiopia and Eritrea, even reasserting themselves after brief periods of amalgamation. Notably, some countries, such as Ghana and Mali, did try to establish links
    to historical African political entities via the selection of new names at independence. By the latter twentieth century, the convention of referring to the continent as “Africa” was so established that for many people it became difficult to believe that the continent had ever been called anything else. This is an excellent example of the power that comes from mapmaking. The ability to impose a name on something from outside is a powerful means to define. It is a prime example of the less overt but nonetheless powerful influence Europe has exerted over the continent in the last several hundred years.
    15

    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Mercator vs. Winkel Tripel Projections
    These two maps provide insight into how different map projections can offer very different perspectives of the world (and Africa). The Mercator projection is perhaps the more familiar map, with its giant Greenland and generally large representation of North America and Eurasia. Africa appears relatively small in this projection. The Winkel Tripel projection, conversely, offers a somewhat more accurate image of the relative size of the continents. Note that both of these maps reflect the common American cartographic convention of cutting Asia in half so as to center the United States in the map.
    16

    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    See previous slide’s notes.
    17

    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    How Big Is Africa?
    Produced by the Outreach Program of the Boston University African Studies Center, this map offers a much more striking perspective on the size of Africa, with Europe, the United States, and China all fitting comfortably within the continent’s boundaries. The comparison is made all the more striking if one takes into account the relative populations of these regions. Africa’s total population is currently around 800 million. The combined population of the United States, Europe, and China is over 2.5 billion— roughly three times the population of Africa.
    18

    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    The Earth at Night
    This composite photograph, made from night-time satellite photos, offers a remarkable insight into our contemporary world. On one hand, it offers a clear insight into the global distribution of wealth, population, and what is often called development. Notably, there is a considerable overlap between the most densely populated and most developed portions of the world. Despite frequent references to “African overpopulation,” one of the long-term challenges faced by Africa has been that of sparse population. A different perspective to that of development would be that of energy consumption. Africans, on average, consume only a miniscule percentage of the world’s energy, with the average American using roughly 200 times as much energy in their lifetime as the average African.
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    © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Grain Production for Selected Regions
    This map is based on a map that was prepared by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and it shows the growth of average annual grain production worldwide over the last 40 years. According to the UNEP, because grain is a basic foodstuff, grain production is a good indicator of overall agricultural productivity. In the past decades world grain production has grown significantly and Africa has participated in that trend. During the period in question, China’s average annual grain production more than tripled. U.S. grain production doubled. African grain production grew by 68 percent, which is significant, but looks less impressive compared to other world regions like China or the United States. This is doubly true when one takes into account the much higher rate of population growth in Africa compared to Europe or Asia. This suggests three possibilities. First, it may be that there is a huge potential for growth in African agriculture if sufficient capital were available to purchase inputs, such as fertilizer, or to improve irrigation. If so, it may be that Africa will become a major food producer in the near future. Second, it is possible that the widespread reliance on cassava, yams, and bananas (none of which are grains) as staple foods in Africa means that grain production is a less effective metric for the broader productivity of African agriculture than it would be for Europe and the United States, where grain is more central to people’s diets and is widely used to feed livestock. Thus, what looks like an empirical fact about African agricultural productivity relative to other parts of the world may obscure as much as it illuminates. A third possibility is that the African continent has fewer regions that are well suited to industrial agriculture than other continents and will never be able to produce huge quantities of grain. If that is the case, Africa’s future economic development may of necessity come from areas other than agriculture. Above all it shows that maps, even maps like this one that seem to present a neutral and quantitative perspective, need to be interpreted carefully.
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