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Africa Before The Transatlantic Slave Trade

1664 words - 7 pages

Africa before the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Racist views of Africa

In the last 50 years much has been done to combat the entirely false and negative views about the history of Africa and Africans, which were developed in Europe in order to justify the Transatlantic Slave Trade and European colonial rule in Africa that followed it. In the eighteenth century such racist views were summed up by the words of the Scottish philosopher David Hume, who said, ‘I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilised nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent either in action or in speculation. No ingenious manufacture among ...view middle of the document...

However even before the rise of this civilisation, the earlier monarchy of Ta Seti was founded in Nubia, in what is today the Sudan. Egypt of the pharaohs is best known for its great monuments and feats of engineering (such as the Pyramids), but it also made great advances in many other fields too. The Egyptians produced early forms of paper and a written script. They developed the calendar too and made important contributions in various branches of mathematics, such as geometry and algebra, and it seems likely that they understood and perhaps invented the use of zero. They made important contributions in mechanics, philosophy, irrigation and architecture. In medicine, the Egyptians understood the body’s dependence on the brain over 1000 years before the Greek scholar Democritus. Some historians now believe that ancient Egypt had an important influence on ancient Greece, and they point to the fact that Greek scholars such as Pythagoras and Archimedes studied in Egypt, and that the work of Aristotle and Plato was largely based on earlier scholarship in Egypt. For example, what is commonly known as Pythagoras’ theorem, was known to the ancient Egyptians hundreds of years before Pythagoras’ birth.

How Europe learned from Africa

Some of the world’s other great civilisations, such as Kush, Axum, Ghana, Mali, and Great Zimbabwe, also flourished in Africa and some major scientific advances were known in Africa long before they were known in Europe. Towards the middle of the 12th century, the north African scientist, Al Idrisi, wrote, ‘What results from the opinion of philosophers, learned men and those skilled in observation of the heavenly bodies, is that the world is as round as a sphere, of which the waters are adherent and maintained upon its surface by natural equilibrium.’ Africans were certainly involved in trans-oceanic travel long before Europeans and there is some evidence to suggest that Africans crossed the Atlantic and reached the American continent, perhaps even north America, as early as 500 BC. In the 14th century, the Syrian writer, al-Umari, wrote about the voyage of the Emperor of Mali who crossed the Atlantic with 2000 ships but failed to return. Africans in east and south-eastern Africa also set up great civilisations that established important trading links with the kingdoms and empires of India and China long before Europeans had learned how to navigate the Atlantic ocean. When Europeans first sailed to Africa in the 15th century, African pilots and navigators shared with them their knowledge of
trans-oceanic travel.

It was gold from the great empires of West Africa, Ghana, Mali and Songhay, which provided the means for the economic take off of Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries and aroused the interest of Europeans in western Africa. An early historian in the 9th century wrote ‘the king of Ghana is a great king. In his territory are mines of gold.’ When the famous historian of Muslim Spain, al-Bakri wrote about...

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