History of Africa

History of Africa date back to 7500 years ago. Civilization in Africa began to appear more than 5,000 years ago with the rise of ancient Egypt. From about 2,500 years ago in sub – Saharan Africa, many other different kingdoms also developed. The Sahara acted as a barrier to keep this area separate from the rest of the world until the arrival of Arab traders in the 8th century. From the 15th century, the arrival of Europeans, the subsequent slave trade and European imperialism had a profound effect on the continent. Since the 1950s, all African nations have reclaimed independence, although modern Africa continues to struggle with its post colonial legacy and environmental problem. History of Africa is interesting.

Ancient Empires:

North Africa was in a good position to trade with western Asia. This caused rich empires to develop, including Meroe (Modern Sudan, c.600 BC – AD 350) and Aksum (A trading state in northern Ethiopia, c.100 BC – AD 1000). The Ancient Empire of Ghana (in West Africa, c.500 – 1300) developed for similar reasons.


From the city of Meroe, The Kushites controlled trade in the Red sea and the Nile River from 600 BC.They exported luxury goods, such as ostrich feathers and leopard skins, and built fine temples and flat – topped pyramids over the graves of their dead.


Ghana (then located on the borders of modern Mali and Mauritania) was one of Africa’s most important Empires. It controlled the trans-Saharan trade in gold and surviving gold artifacts show the incredible wealth of the kingdom. Ghana’s kings wore gold jewellery and gold – embroidered clothes and turbans.


From c.300, Chiristianity was introduced to Aksum which under the reign of King Ezana became known as a holy city. During this period, Aksum took over the Empire based at Meroe. Aksum’s people built tall, stone stelae (Monuments) to mark the tombs of dead kings. History of Africa is interesting.

Early Inhabitants:

Humans have inhabited Africa for 4 millions years. The Sahara was once a fertile land rich in plants and animals. But thousands of years ago, it dried up and people moved south to the savannah to farm there.

Rock Painting:

Rock and bone pictures often depicted everyday events, such as dancing, hunting animals and fishing. Painters used animal fat colored with vegetable dyes.

Nok Culture:

The earliest evidence of Iron Age settlement is called the Nok culture (500 BC – AD 200) which existed in what is now central Nigera. Nok people lived in farming communities. They made iron weapons and tools for farming and also produced fine terracotta sculptures. History of Africa is interesting.

Spread of Religions:

From the 8th century, trade, conquests and colonialism spread religions such as Islam in Africa. In North Africa, Islam completely replaced traditional religions which often included the worship of ancestors.

Ancestor Worship:

In many parts of Africa, communities had sacred shrines where they placed offerings for the spirits of their dead ancestors. Today, during certain annual festivals, members of the community wear specials masks, sing, dance and tell stories in honour of their ancestors.


By c.800, Middle Eastern Arabs had taken Islam to North Africa. From the 11th century, trade helped spread Islam across the Sahara into West Africa and up the river Nile into Sudan.

Slave Trade:

By the 1470s, the Portuguese were treading copper, brass, gold and slaves with Benin in West Africa. In the 1480s the Portuaguse arrived in the islands of Principe and Sao Tome in the Gulf of Guinea, just off the West African coast. They established sugar plantations and forced African captives (mainly kidnapped in Senegal and Gambia) to work as slaves on the plantations. This was the beginning of European domination in Africa.


During the 1800s, Europeans colonized areas in Africa, introducing Christianity and taking economic control. They used African workders to grow or mine precious raw materials, but sent the materials to be manufactured in Europe and America where profits stayed. During this period, slavery was at its height and many Africans were kidnapped to work in the Americas.

African Diaspora:

The slave trade scattered more than 20 million Africans throughout the Americas and Europe, undermining African culture in the process. Over the centuries, the dispersed decendents of these slaves became known as the African Diaspora.


Europe sent missionaries to afica to set up schools and churches, and to convert Africans to Christianity. They also tried to abolish African traditional religions, often puishing those who still practiced them.


In 19th – century Caribbean colonies, traditional ancestor worship combined with Christianity to produce a religion called Voodoo.

Scramble for Africa:

In 1884 European leaders decided that their countries could claim African territories as colonies when occupied by Europeans. This started a scramble to the interior in search of new lands. By 1902 all of Africa was colonized, except Libera and Ethiopia.

World Wars I and II:

Although both World Wars were European, thousands of Africans lost their lives as colonial rulers forced them to join the army. One cause of World War I was German resentment against other European countries during colonization. In World War II, North Africa became a battleground, as German and Itlian forces invaded British – and French – ruled territories.

World War I:

At the time World War I broke out in 1914, the Ottoman Empire controlled North Africa. The Egyptians colluded with the British to overthrow Turkish rule and were helped from 1916 to 1918 by the eccentric soldies and author Thomas Edward Lawrence (1889 -1935) who became famous as Lawrence of Arabia. After the war, Egypt became a British protectorate but signed a treaty for independence in 1922.

EI Alamein:

EI In 1941, Itlian and German forces invaded North African territories held by the British. The British recruited soldiers from their colonies of Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone to join the fight. In 1942, the British defeated the Germens at the historic battle of EI Alamein. This battle was turning point in the war.

African Resistance:

Africans strenuously resisted colonialism. The Ethiopians fought to stay independent and won (1896). Zimbabwe and Sudan rebelled against the British (1896 and 1920). Tribes in Angola tried to over throw the Portuguese (1920). Tribes in Angola tried to over throw the Portuguese (1902). In Namibia and Tanzania, thousands were killed in uprising against the Germans (1904 – 1908). And in Nigeria, tribes resisted the French rule of surrounding areas (1920s).

Operations Torch:

In 1942, American and British soldiers landed in Morocco and Algeria in an invasion called Operation Torch. Joined by the French, the allies attacked the German and Itlian armies, forcing them into Tunisia. After a bloody battle, Germany’s Afrika Korps surrendered. The war on African Soil was over by May 1943.

Haile Selassie:

Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (r.1930 – 74) led his troops against the Italian invasion of 1935. The Italians forced the Emperor into exile in 1936. But he returned in 1941. Haile Selassie instituted reforms, suppressed slavery and worked with organization of African Unity. In 1974, the army overthrew the Emperor, installed military rule and later had him executed.


After World War II, many Africans wanted to end colonial rule and govern their own countries. Colonial powere such as France, Portugal and Britain fought to prevent this and there were bloody wars of independence in Algeria, Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe. By the late 1960s most African countries had gained independency, but political and economic problems remained.

Angola War:

In 1961 Angola’s people rose in revolt against the Portuguese colonial government. The Portuguese army crushed the rebels who fled into exile in Zaire. While in exile, the rebels formed liberation movements and waged fuerrilla warfare in Angola. In 1974, the liberation forces staged a military uprising and overthrew the Portuguese who finally granted independency in 1975. After independency a bitter civil war erupted between two political groups, both of whom wanted to governm Angola. One side was backed by South African troops, the other by Russian troops. The Angolan factions agreed to a ceasefire in 1994.

Gold Coast:

One of the first colonies to become independent was the former British colony of the Gold Coast. After World War II, anti – colonial feeling had intensified and in 1957, the state Ghana (Which was named after a powerful West African medieval Empire) became the new country’s first Prime Minister. In 1960, Nkrumah declared Ghana republic and himself President for life. He became increasingly dictatorial, while drawing ever further away from the west. In 1966 a polic –military coup otherthrew Nkrumah.

Organization of African Unity:

In 1963, the heads of 30 independent African states met to gorm the OAU (Organization of African Unity). Its aim was to promote political and economic co – operation between the states and help colonies achieve independence.


By the 1980s, only South Africa was still trying to retain white – minority power. The white government had passed the apartheid (Separateness) Policy in 1948, which classified people according to race. Under apartheid, those classified as black, coloured or Asian had few rights. Apartheid was abolished in 1994.

Village Co – Operatives:

Agricultural wokers (mainly women) setup village cooperatives to grow food crops which they sell at the local market. This reverses a situation that existed under colonial governments, when small – scale farmers were fored to grow cash crops (Cofee, groundnuts, cocoa, and cotton) to sell to large European companies. The farmers could not grow food crops for themselves and had to buy expensive imports, such as rice.

Modern Africa:

Mineral – rich Africa has thriving mining industry. More recently, new African electronics plants are specializing in the assembly of imported electronic components.


A century ago, East African governments established game reserves and parks to protect wildlife from hunters. Today, tourists pay to stay in the parks and go on safari to see the wild animals. Kenya now makes more money from tourism than from any other source.

Environmental Devastation:

In semi – arid areas of Africa, such as Somalia, land is gradually turning into desert. Since the 1950, there has been a fall in the average annual rainfall and much of the land has become very dry. The people have often over – used the land for cash crops and cut down the trees for firewood.

Ken Saro – Wiwa:

Ken Saro – Wiwa (1941 – 1995), human rights campaigner was hanged along with eight others by Nigeria’s military government. His Crime was to speak out against the pollution of tribal lands by government backed international oil companies.

Timeline for The History of Africa:

2500 BC Climatic changes in the Sahara region force people to move southward.
C.600 BC Kushite people of Sudan expand and base their capital at Meroe.
C.AD 320 – 25 King Ezama of Aksum becomes Christian.
500 – 1300 The Kingdom of Ghana controls Trans Saharan trade.
641 Arabs conquer Egypt, and convert it to Islam.
600s The Empire based at Aksum begins to decline.
1947 Portuguese explorers land on east coast, after sailing around Africa.
1900 Most of the Sahara Region comes under French colonial rule.
1940 Italian forces invade North Africa Germans Follow one year later.
1945 League of Arab states is founded it includes eight African nations.
1973 – 75 Horn of Africa suffers a severe drought.
1994 – 95 In Rwanda 800,000 Hutus are massacred by Tutsis. Millions flee the country.

Encyclopedia Index

From History of Africa to HOME PAGE

© Copyright 2016 english-for-students.com.