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Themes / Events


Africa's recorded past, whether by document or oral tradition, stretches back over five millennia. How we present a history is often dependent upon our direction of approach, and for African history today, there are two main approaches: as a Social Science and as a Humanity. The Social Science approach more often than not considers history organized along themes - slavery, gender, politics - and looks to explore how people dealt with problems. Humanistic history is usually presented as a narrative, and often follows a chronological line - breaking history into eras or describing the evolution of a particular event.
  1. Slavery
  2. Human Origins in Africa
  3. Scramble for Africa
  4. Race for Independence
  5. Conflict and War


Public Domain Image: Africa and its Explorations, Mungo Park et al., London 1907.

Whether slavery existed within sub-Saharan African societies before the arrival of Europeans is a hotly contested point between Afrocentric and Eurocentric academics. What is certain is that Africans were subjected to several forms of slavery over the centuries, including chattel slavery under both the Muslims with the trans-Saharan slave trade, and Europeans through the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Human Origins in Africa

Hominid Skull - Photo: Getty Images

Is Africa truly the cradle of humankind? The oldest fossils of humankind's early ancestors have been found across the African continent and DNA evidence also supports Africa's significant role in human evolution.

Scramble for Africa

During the colonial era, Africa was transformed through internal and external pressures. Famine and disease, as well as territorial conflicts such as the Mfecane, caused distinct changes in African society. The abolition of the slave trade, forcibly imposed on Europe's African interests by Britain, as well as the European Scramble for Africa, left traditional African cultures fractured and bleeding.

Race for Independence

The struggle for independence which followed the First World War had a serious effect on Europe's African empires. Both peaceful and bloody resistance to Colonial domination occurred as Africa reclaimed it's own identity.

Conflict and War

Africa history has been turbulent, with many wars and conflicts: from ancient battles, to wars of independence, and today's civil wars.

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