African History

African History goes back much further than slavery, but it is often forgotten about or discussed in society today.

One of the most important topics when discussing African history are the empires that were formed during different time periods. There are a wide range which existed, but here we list 7 of the most influential African empires which were formed:

1. The Kingdom of Kush

This empire stood as a regional power in Africa for 1000+ years. The Kingdom of Kush was known to be an economic center that operated a lucrative market in ivory, incense, iron and gold.

2. The Land of Punt

Historical accounts of this kingdom date back to around 2500 B.C., when it appears in Egyptian records as "Land of the Gods" rich in ebony, gold, myrrh & exotic animals. Egyptians are known to have sent huge caravans and flotillas on trade missions to Punt - most notably during the 15th century B.C. reign of Queen Hatshepsut - yet they never identified where it was located. 

3. Carthage

Carthage was a North African commercial hub that flourished for over 500 years. Carthage's influence eventually extended from North Africa to Spain & parts of the Mediterranean, but its thirst for expansion led to increased friction with the burgeoning Roman Republic.  

 4. The Kingdom of Aksum

During the same period that the Roman Empire rose and fell, the influential Kingdom of Aksum held sway over parts of what are now Eritrea and Northern Ethiopia. Surprisingly little is known about about Aksum's origins, but by 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. it was a trading juggernaut whose gold and ivory made it a vital link between ancient Europe and the Far East. 

5. The Mali Empire

Founding of the Mali empire dates back to the 1200s, when a ruler named Sundiata Keita - sometimes called the "Lion King"- led to a revolt against a Sosso king and united his subjects into a new state. Under Keita, the empire tightened its grip over a large portion of West Africa & grew rich on trade. 

6. The Songhai Empire

This Western African kingdom was larger than Western Europe, and was once amongst the most powerful states in the world. The Songhai Empire later crumbled in the late 1500s after a period of civil war and internal strife left it open to an invasion by the Sultan of Morocco. 

7. The Great Zimbabwe

The Great Zimbabwe was an imposing collection of stacked boulders, stone towers and defensive walls assembled from cut granite blocks, and was particularly rich in cattle & precious metals. Little is known about its history - though the remains of artifacts such as Chinese pottery, Arabian glass & European textiles show that it was once a well-connected mercantile center.  

 

Many great historical figures and leaders originated from Africa, whose impact on the world is overlooked by today's generation. Mansa Musa was the richest person in history to have ever lived, and was a 14th century Malian emperor. Mansa Musa got his wealth primarily through trading gold & salt, which were found in abundance in West Africa at the time. He also used his money to strengthen many cultural centers, particularly Timbuktu, which he annexed in 1324. 

It was when Musa made his Hajj to Mecca, that the rest of the world became aware of the extent of his wealth. He spent so much money buying lots of stuff that he messed up the global economy for a while: the gold he spent circulated, and there was so much of it, that the value actually went down. However, Musa used most of his money to build a great number of mosques (legend says he built one every Friday of his reign). He also commissioned many universities throughout the kingdom, many of which, along with the mosques, are still standing today, 700 years later.  

Africa Before Transatlantic Enslavement

Africa is the birthplace of humanity & the cradle of civilization. We still marvel at the great achievements of Kemet, or Ancient Egypt, for example, one of the most notable of the early African civilizations, which was first developed in the Nile valley over 5000 years ago. 

Africa can be credited not only with giving rise to many scientific developments associated with Egypt, engineering, mathematics, architecture, medicine etc, but also with important early political development such as state formation and monarchy. This demonstrates that economic and political development, as well as scientific development was, during this early period, perhaps more advanced in Africa than in other continents. 

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