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HIST251: History of Africa to 1890

Unit 5: Africa and The World Systems (c. 1000–1800 CE)  

Africa is a vast continent, and many of its regions are located at some distance from the main trading axes of the world. Nevertheless, African societies have been deeply integrated into global trends and transnational systems for long periods of time. Intercontinental exchange in the Mediterranean dates back thousands of years, and the Red Sea and Indian Ocean zone have for a long time been sites of trade and contact. The Atlantic zone (discussed in the next unit) was the last frontier breached, about 500 years ago.

In this unit, we will look at the relationships between Africans and others in a period that overlaps the time periods covered in units 3 and 4. Part of this unit focuses on religion, as Africa has historically served as a major site of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious heritage and religious practice. We will also look at commerce and the movement of ideas, particularly in terms of the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean worlds and their connections to multiple African societies.

Unit 5 Time Advisory
Time Advisory: This unit should take you approximately 25 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 5.1: 9 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2: 10 hours

☐    Subunit 5.3: 6 hours

Unit5 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- Recount roles played by Africans in the development of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religions.

  • Synthesize a history of the region around Great Zimbabwe.
  • Appraise the ways in which transcontinental trade affected African societies in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean worlds.

5.1 Religious Worlds   5.1.1 Christianity in Egypt   - Reading: Tour Egypt: Lara Iskander and Jimmy Dunn’s “An Overview Of The Coptic Christians Of Egypt” Link: Tour Egypt: Lara Iskander and Jimmy Dunn’s “An Overview Of The Coptic Christians Of Egypt” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This article provides an excellent introduction to the history, beliefs, and organization of Coptic Christianity.  Please read the article in its entirety.
 
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5.1.2 Christianity in Ethiopia   - Web Media: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: “African Christianity in Ethiopia” Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: “African Christianity in Ethiopia” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the entire article and browse through the image slideshow located at the top of the page.  The article provides an excellent overview of the history of Christianity in Ethiopia between the late-ancient and modern periods.
 
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5.1.3 Judaism in Africa   - Reading: Wikipedia: “African Jews” Link: Wikipedia: “African Jews” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the “Introduction” at the top, “Ancient communities,” “Medieval arrivals,” and “Emergent modern communities.”  Also note the map in the upper-right-hand side of the screen, which depicts the distribution of Jews throughout the continent.
 
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5.1.4 Islam in North Africa   - Reading: RiadReviews.com: “The Spread of Islam in North Africa” Link: RiadReviews.com: “The Spread of Islam in North Africa” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This article discusses Islam’s expansion westward from the Arabian Peninsula to North Africa during the late-antique period.  Please read the entire article.
 
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  • Reading: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Trade and the Spread of Islam in Africa” Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Trade and the Spread of Islam in Africa” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: This article discusses the spread of Islam into Africa via trade networks between the Arabian Peninsula and North and East Africa, between the late-antique and the early-medieval periods.
     
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5.1.5 The Caliphates of North Africa   - Reading: Socyberty: “The Almoravids and Almohads of the Maghrib” Link: Socyberty: “The Almoravids and Almohads of the Maghrib” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This article discusses the growth of Islam amongst two of North Africa’s most powerful Berber groups during the medieval period: the Almoravids and the Almohads.  Please read all four pages of the article (see page numbers at the bottom of the screen).
 
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5.2 Trading Worlds—Indian Ocean   5.2.1 The Indian Ocean Trade Network   - Reading: World History Connected: Erik Gilbert’s “Putting Africa in World History and Vice Versa” Link: World History Connected: Erik Gilbert’s “Putting Africa in World History and Vice Versa” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Erik Gilbert’s article on Africa’s place in world history, which is an excellent meditation on the ways in which historians have and have not included Africa’s many pasts in their recounting of world historical developments. 
 
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  • Lecture: Africa Past & Present: “Episode 32: Africa and the Indian Ocean” Link: Africa Past & Present: “Episode 32: Africa and the Indian Ocean” (Mp3 Podcast)
     
    Instructions: In this podcast, historian Ned Alpers of UCLA discusses the increasing incorporation of the previously separate historiographies of the Indian Ocean and East Africa.  Please listen to the entire episode.
     
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5.2.2 The East African World   - Reading: History Cooperative: Erik Gilbert’s “Coastal East Africa and the Western Indian Ocean: Long-Distance Trade, Empire, Migration, and Regional Unity, 1750–1970” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

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5.2.3 Swahili Society   - Reading: Swahili Language & Culture: “A Brief History of the Swahili Language” Swahili Language & Culture: “A Brief History of the Swahili Language” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This article provides a brief overview of the history of the Swahili language, including its incorporation of words from other languages and its spread from the coastal stretches of East Africa into neighboring regions.  Read the entire article.

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  • Reading: Swahili Online: “Culture” Link: Swahili Online: “Culture” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the following sections: “Introduction,” “Early Inhabitants,” “Coastal Trade,” “Garden Cities: Rise & Fall,” “Garden Cities: Good Living,” and “Dialogue & Resistance.”  You may also want to view the “Timeline,” but this is not required.
     
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5.2.4 Great Zimbabwe   - Reading: Exploring Africa, “History of Africa during the time of the Kingdom of Great Zimbabwe” Link: Exploring Africa, “History of Africa during the time of the Kingdom of Great Zimbabwe” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This resource discusses the history of one of southeastern Africa’s largest and most powerful kingdoms: Great Zimbabwe.  Please read the entire article.
 
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  • Reading: Archaeology: Roderick J. Mcintosh’s “Riddle of Great Zimbabwe” Link: Archaeology: Roderick J. Mcintosh’s “Riddle of Great Zimbabwe” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Roderick J. Mcintosh’s article discusses the twentieth-century archeological discovery of the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, and its impact on our understanding of the history of this region of the continent.  Please read it in its entirety.
     
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5.2.5 Somali Society   - Reading: Wikipedia: “History of Somalia” Link: Wikipedia: “History of Somalia” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the “Ancient,” “Medieval,” and “Early Modern” sections.  This article provides a general overview of the history of what is now Somalia.
 
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5.2.6 Polynesia and Africa   - Reading: Stephen Ellis’s “A History of Madagascar” Link: Stephen Ellis’s “A History of Madagascar” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Stephen Ellis’s article provides a brief history of the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar.  Please read the entire article.
 
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5.3 Trading Worlds—The Mediterranean and Sahara   5.3.1 The Mediterranean Trading System   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Mediterranean Trading System” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Mediterranean Trading System” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read the linked entry.

5.3.2 Across the Sahara   - Web Media: Library of Congress: “Ancient Manuscripts: From the Desert Libraries of Timbuktu” Link: Library of Congress: “Ancient Manuscripts: From the Desert Libraries of Timbuktu” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on “Enter Exhibition” and browse through the list of manuscripts.  Pay particularly close attention to those discussing slavery.
 
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  • Activity: MERLOT: “Learning Exercise: Ancient Manuscripts from the Desert Libraries of Timbuktu” Link: MERLOT: “Learning Exercise: Ancient Manuscripts from the Desert Libraries of Timbuktu” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Test your knowledge!  After working through the Library of Congress’s manuscript exhibit in the resource before, click on the link provided above and scroll down to the “Text of Learning Exercise” section.  Answer questions 1–5.
     
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5.3.3 Ottoman Africa   - Reading: Countries Quest: “History, Mamluk Rule and Ottoman Conquest” Link: Countries Quest: “History, Mamluk Rule and Ottoman Conquest” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This resource discusses the various Islamic powers that, at various points, ruled stretches of North Africa between the medieval and early modern periods.  Read the entire article.
 
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  • Reading: Sanderson Beck’s “Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco 1700-1950” Link: Sanderson Beck’s “Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco 1700-1950” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the sections “Algeria in the Ottoman Empire 1700-1830” and “Tunisia under the Ottoman Empire 1700-1881.”
     
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