Read e-book online Africans: The History of a Continent (African Studies) PDF

By John Iliffe

ISBN-10: 0521484227

ISBN-13: 9780521484220

This historical past of Africa from the origins of mankind to the South African basic election of 1994 refocuses African historical past at the peopling of an environmentally adversarial continent. The social, fiscal and political associations of the African continent have been designed to make sure survival and maximize numbers, yet within the context of scientific growth and different twentieth-century recommendations those associations have bred the main speedy inhabitants development the area has ever noticeable. The heritage of the continent is hence a unmarried tale binding residing Africans to the earliest human ancestors.

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6 By about 7,000 years ago, cattle-herding had certainly spread to highland areas in the central Sahara. It reached North Africa during the following millennium, somewhat later than the herding of sheep and goats, which probably came from southwestern Asia because Africa had no suitable wild species. In North Africa, this pastoral culture was practised by ancestral Berber peoples. In the Saharan highlands it left magnificent rock-paintings. By contrast, there is little if any archaeological evidence to support linguistic indications of the cultivation or domestication of crops during this high-rainfall period, suggesting that Africa was distinctive in practising herding before crop production.

Both appear to have had segmentary social and political systems in which each person belonged to several groups of different size – family, lineage, clan, tribe, perhaps confederation – which acted collectively only when a member conflicted with someone from another group of equivalent size. This segmentary system could limit violence through the threat of retaliation without needing political rulers, so that ancient authors stressed Berber egalitarianism. ‘There was a dislike of kings with great authority’, wrote the Roman historian Livy.

Food-collectors probably domesticated wheat and barley by cutting ears, taking them home, threshing them, and sowing part of the harvest as seed, thereby gradually selecting those strains that best retained the grain in the ear. Sorghum, however, had thick stalks easier to harvest by stripping the grain in the field, which would not have altered the species into a domesticated form. 7 Similar uncertainty surrounds the origins of food-production in Ethiopia. Domesticated cattle existed there by the second millennium bc and perhaps as early as the fourth.

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Africans: The History of a Continent (African Studies) by John Iliffe


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