Africa can conveniently and indeed must be divided into two, sub-Saharan or Black Africa and North Africa.
The Human race developed in eastern sub- Saharan Africa some 4 million years ago and steadily migrated north and east until they covered the whole inhabitable world. However civilization which commenced only some 6000 years ago started on the banks of large rivers, one of them being the River Nile in North Africa (Egypt). The Egyptian civilisation did not penetrate south of the Sahara Desert which largely remained an uncivilised stone age society until European colonialists arrived some 120 years ago. In this sense Black Africa is similar to Australia where native aboriginal humans were in no hurry to adopt Western “Civilisation”. By contrast in North Africa civilisation spread under Egyptian influence 4000 years ago and was developed steadily then on by Phoenicians, Romans, Christians and Arabic Muslims.
The first Europeans to colonise any part of Africa in modern times were a group of persecuted Christians, a Calvinist sect, Huguenots from Holland who we now call Afrikaners and before that Boers. They settled in the extreme south (Cape of Good Hope) with their bibles and pitch forks around 1650. As with the English Protestants of that time they considered themselves a superior race (but humble before God) and treated the local aboriginal Blacks, who were then relatively few in number as convenient slaves.
The English did not arrive en mass until some 200 years later (1880) when, as the then most powerful nation in the world, were simultaneously ruling Egypt and Sudan in the north and, after the Boer War of 1880-1902, assumed total superiority in the south. After the 1914-1918 First World War England was ruling a contiguous stretch of land from Egypt to the Cape of Good Hope which fortuitously turned out to contain all the mineral riches demanded at the time plus the best farm land. The French actually had more land but they chose the largest desert in the world, the Sahara and uninhabitable jungle.
After the Second World War the African nations demanded and secured independence. In spite of the majority of African countries being left under democratic rule today the continent as a whole is in economic and political chaos. Genocide and Black on Black human rights abuses are all too common, as is the ownership, by Black leaders, of huge Swiss bank accounts of foreign monies intended to help their starving subjects.
In the past 20 years climaxing in 2005, Britain has tried to lead the world to produce a formula to solve this chaos which revolves round introducing the rule of law, developing trust between races to reduce internal wars and permitting free trade.
3000 BC to 1000AD
The whole of the human race originated in the trees of Africa some 4 million years ago and about 100,000 years ago migrated north out of Africa until humans lived in all parts of the world. However civilisation or the art of co-operation rather than conflict, did not commence until after the last Ice Age (some 15,000) years ago. The land heated up and the human race was forced into close proximity with one another around rivers. One of those early river basins was the Nile in North Africa and Egyptian civilisation developed circa 3000 BC. (click for Egypt).
Few of their discoveries and customs migrated south because as the land warmed, the vast and impenetrable Sarah Desert was created. The territories to the north east of Africa, in Arabia also sporned similar early civilisations notably in the context of Africa the Phoenicians of the Levant around the River Jordon. (noted for their invention of glass and the modern alphabet). The Phoenicians in 800 BC not only set up the powerful city state of Carthage, now in present day Tunis, (North Africa), but also were chartered by the Egyptians to sail round the unexplored continent of Africa c. 600 BC and thus became the first to achieve this some 2000 years before the next explorers to do so, the Portuguese.
1000 to 500 BC
Three other areas contributed to the development of civilisation and wealth in northern Africa Kush, close to the present day troubled Dafur region in southern Sudan, rose to power and ruled Egypt for 100 years from BC 780 to 680. In 200 BC the headquarters of the Kush moved east to the banks of the Nile and became famous for producing iron daggers, swords and arrow and spear tips. One of the first to the iron age.
The Noks rose to power c. 600 BC on the banks of the river Niger in present day Mali, just south of the Sahara desert, in the west of northern Africa, also commence iron weapons production plus iron tools for land cultivation. Gold was discovered in the area and a cross desert trade commenced fuelled by gold and iron products and slaves from Mali via Timbuktu to Carthage and onwards to Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in exchange for building materials from the Levant (Lebanon). None of this trade and technical expertise migrated south into sub-Saharan Africa.
During this period North Africa was almost continuously ruled by stronger nations from the north and east of the Mediterranean Sea. (Sub-Saharan Africa still remained untouched as a stone age waste land.)
The major civilising and developing influences in North Africa were from the: Assyrians, who had ruled in northern Iraq since 2000 BC and had learnt the technology of the wheel from the Hittites (early inhabitants of Turkey), invaded and ruled Egypt for 100 years c.600BC. The Egyptians who had no knowledge of the wheel, copied and improved the Assyrian chariot wheels. Alexander the Great, ruler Macedonia (present day Northern Greece and Bulgaria), educated by Aristotle c. BC 340, conquered the Persians and then Egypt in 332 BC. The Egyptians learnt Greek culture and Greeks acquired Babylonian mathematics.
Egypt fell to Rome c 40 BC when Egypt was ruled by a woman, Cleopatra 69-30 BC. In her short life she became mistress to the famous Roman rulers Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony and was eventually murdered by a third, Octavian, who became Augustus Caesar.
Christianity spread to North Africa after 100 AD notably to Egypt, Ethiopia and the area around Carthage. One of the most influential early Christians, St Augustine (354-430) lived at Hippo which is close to Carthage.
The German tribe, the Vandals who sacked Rome, also destroyed Christian and Roman influences in North Africa from AD 430 onwards.
Islam arrived in North Africa a little over 300 years later, filling a religious vacuum with a fever which has lasted to this day.
The next 700 years 700-1400
In 700 AD the Islamic Moroccans (Arabs and Berbers) invaded Europe via Spain and advanced through France as far north as Potiers where they were stopped by a German tribe called the Franks and pushed back to Spain. At this time Islamic countries were culturally and scientifically ahead of Western Europeans and in their 700 years in Spain, where they lived happily alongside Christians and Jews, they built many superb buildings and wrote many scientific papers. (The Christians destroyed all of the latter when they forcibly removed (or killed) all Muslims and Jews from southern Spain in the Spanish Inquisition of 1478.
Northern Africa continued to develop through trade with the Islamic centres of the Middle East. Northern Africa in this context includes all territories round the Sahara desert, to the North on the Mediterranean coast, the west on the Atlantic coast and up the river Niger, in Egypt along the river Nile and what we call East Africa.
Still southern Africa remained a stone age backwater.
In Europe there was little knowledge of this inter-Muslim trade and wealth creation. Although the rumour of massive gold reserves near Timbuktu spread, as in 1324 the ruler of Mali, Mansa Musa made a pilgrimage to Mecca and took with him an entourage of 60,000 people. He gave away vast quantities of gold en route to anybody who took his fancy.
In East Africa small pockets of Christianity remained (The Coptic Church). The land in the east supported farming and their food surpluses were traded for cloth with Arabs who had then penetrated as far south as Mombassa. In all areas where Arabs penetrated south they traded their cloth for ivory (Elephant tusks) and Black African male and female slaves.
The period 1400-1500 was a milestone in world history which witnessed the end of the Medieval period in Europe which from the fall of the Roman Empire in 400 AD had stagnated in chaos until 1400/1450. China was the world’s super-economy with ships patrolling the Indian Ocean. The Islamic world, which included North Africa and Spain and lands contiguously as far east as Indonesia, was as its economic, cultural and scientific peak.
The African south remained a stone age society untouched by the Islamic culture. Portuguese (and Italian) explorers, spurred on to look for Christian trading partners, needed to by-pass the Islamic world of the Middle East and North Africa and keep well clear of the Mediterranean which was policed ruthlessly for the Islamic Ottomans by the Islamic Berbers. The Portuguese, in 1430, sailed south via the dangerous Atlantic Ocean to find the sea route round Africa (As the Phoenicians had done 2000 years earlier. This demonstrated the medieval stagnation in Europe.) The Portuguese did not find any Christians to trade with until 1520 when they finally travelled right round Africa to Ethiopia. However the picture of Africa they pained for Christian Europe as follows:
- The inhabitants were as black as the Ace of Spades and not being Christian were labelled as barbaric. Perhaps they were. Slavery was practiced in all areas with the Islamic Arabs in the north making a lot of money out of it. (The Portuguese were quickly doing the same thing in transporting black slaves to Brazil, sold to them by Black African slave traders.)
- African customs included cannibalism and barbaric sexual customs at puberty. Notably the removal of the male foreskin when the boy was about 12 usually using a sharp stone. And a similar even more barbaric operation on young girls to cut away their sensitive tissues surrounding their vagina. The later is still performed in Sudan as it was 4000 years ago when Egyptians were horrified when they discovered this custom. Areas of local African civilisation discovered by the Portuguese included:
- Zimbabwe, (a rich walled city centre surrounded by farmed land tilled with metal tools).
- Songhai, a Muslim centre and the richest area in Africa (with its capital Timbuktu) was the hub for cross Saharan trade, transporting gold from their mines and slaves and ivory from the south, to the Arabic centres on the Mediterranean coast and further east to Egypt and the Middle East.)
After 1530 the Portuguese began to increase their presence and they commenced trading slaves with the African slave masters who up to this time had mainly dealt with Muslim Arabs. In 1591 the Berbers and Arabs from Morocco, with the help from Portuguese and Spanish gold hunters and their recently aquired firearms invaded Songhai (Timbuktu) and took over the lucrative gold mines. While the Christian Portuguese were exploring western Africa, the Muslim Ottomans extend their hold on the Middle East and the Balkans and commencing in 1516, they invade and ruled Egypt, Libya and Tunisia followed by the whole of present day Iraq. The Islamic blockade eastwards, for Christian traders, was now complete.
Early European Colonizers of Africa
White Christian Dutch are the first Europeans to settle in Southern Africa.
In 1652 Dutch settlers under instruction from their government, set up a ship repairing yard and market garden to service Dutch ships on their long journey to the Spice Islands. This area is now known as Cape Town. Dutch Calvinist refugees soon followed to become the first whites to settle in Africa. These Dutch who are known to English speakers as Afrikaners or Boers were God fearing, peace loving people but they soon came under attack from the indigenous nomadic Africans who resented their land being taken and cultivated by these hard working and well organised foreigner farmers. No other European settlers followed these Boers for the next 200 years. America and India were the main focus for the English. West Africa saw many white skinned Europeans but these were slave traders on their way to the Americas.
THE ENGLISH ARRIVE IN AFRICA c.1800
1760 England was by now the most powerful nation on Earth having removed the French from both North America and India but when loosing America in 1776 the superpower sets about strengthening its naval routes from England to India. In 1790 England assume control in Cape Town from the Boer settlers for strategic reasons and to ensure unmolested support for their ship repair and re-watering yards en-route to India. The Dutch Boers in Cape Town are forced to move north east from the Cape as they become fed up with British attempts to outlaw slavery by all white nations operating in Africa. The British assume full control of the Cape in 1806. By 1835 Dutch Afrikaners leave the Cape area en-mass in what now is called the Great Trek.
The French resurface as a threat to England under Napoleon.
In the early days of Napoleon he was appointed head of the French army and attacked Italy, where in discussions with the Pope he was given the blessing to attack Imperial Britain commencing with their Empire. His first staging post was the conquest of Egypt to be followed by British controlled India. Egypt fell to Napoleon in 1798 in the Battle of the Pyramids. This historic victory was immediately annulled by the English fleet under Nelson who totally destroyed the French Navy in the mouth of the Nile.
The British stayed in but did not occupy Egypt (which was part of the Ottoman Empire) until 1882 when the security of the Suez sea route was put in question by an Arab nationalist uprising. Britain remained in Egypt, extending south in Sudan, until 1956
The European Race to Colonise Africa
Britain was the only world superpower from 1760- 1914 but in 1870 two new European countries, Germany and Italy, were finally unified and joined with the English, French, Belgiums and Portuguese in looking to colonise the only remaining unexplored continent, Africa.
England is very much at the forefront having set up the African Association in London in 1788. Medical doctor Mungo Park from Scotland is commissioned to explore the river Niger and find Timbuktu which is still an important Gold city but in the hands of still hated Muslims. Mungo Park is captured by Muslim Arabs on his first trip and drowns during his second! It is left to French explorer Rene Caillie in 1828 to become the first European to reach Timbuktu. The French quickly follow this up with a full invasion from the north and occupy all of Algeria and the desert, south to Timbuktu and the Niger river basin by 1830. The French conquests are hard won as unfortunately for the French the local Arabs are in the throws of an Islamic fundamentalist revival where fighting to the death is the quick route to heaven. However the French Generals had something to prove having lost so many wars to the British since 1760, ( India, Canada, the Nile, Trafalgar and Waterloo so without any authority from Paris claim Algeria as part of France.
David Livingstone explores Black Africa
In the mean time the early Victorians launched numerous British explorers into Africa, notably another Scottish medic Dr David Livingstone who arrived in South Africa as a Christian missionary in 1841. Livingstone was the first white man to see, the Victoria Falls and the upper reaches of the river Zambezi. He was also the first white man to traverse the African continent (Zambezi river in the east to Luanda on the Atlantic coast) and he also attempted to trace the source of the river Nile. His heart is buried where he died by the African Lake, Bangweulu and his body lies in Westminster Abbey.
Henry Morton Stanley
Sir Henry Stanley as just Mr Stanley emigrated from Britain in 1859 to become a reporter for the New York Herald. In 1871 he was sent by the paper to Africa to find and write a story about David Livingstone. Livingstone he duly found and Stanley remained an African explorer to become just as famous as Livingstone. So famous that he was hired by King Leopold of Belgium to explore and set up the upper reaches of the Congo River as the Kings private estate in Africa. The King ruthlessly exploited the area and its inhabitants to his dying day.
Germany who had just humiliated France in the Franco-Prussian war now feel they should be a world power and in 1884 set up a European conference in Berlin to carve up Africa between the European powers. This is duly done with no regard whatsoever for local African ruling dynasties and histories. The following countries now “own” Africa in approximate ascending order by land mass: France, Britain, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Spain and Italy.
A little earlier a rather sickly young man, Cecil Rhodes, the son of an East Anglican vicar, leaves England in 1870 to join a farming brother in Natal, South Africa. No one man can claim to have acquired so much land and wealth on behalf of his country as Cecil Rhodes.
An aunt loaned Rhodes £3000 for the trip which he invested on arrival in a diamond mine in Boer/Afrikaner Transvaal. (Over the river Vaal). He soon leaves his brothers cotton farm to look after his diamond investments but takes a break from this work to study back home at Oxford University. Here he is influenced by the likes of Ruskin and develops the view that the English have the divine right to rule the world. He sets forth, back to Southern Africa, to do just that. His financial powerbase is created by wheeler dealing in the Transvaal where the fledgling diamond business is in financial difficulties. Using his acquired company De Beers, he purchases a number of bankrupt mines which mainly require mine water extraction technology, which Rhodes acquires, and restarts them.
The fact that the diamond mines are in Boer territory is a disadvantage, so Rhodes supports and is involved in an attempted coupe (against the President of Transvaal, Stephanus Kruger) which fails. Rhodes who had become Prime Minister of the Cape is forced to resign.
The British Government takes up the mantle and sends in the army to acquire the Boer lands of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State to become part of the British Empire.
The Boer War. 1880-81 and 1899-1902
The English expect this to be over quickly but underestimate the Boer will to fight and a bloody and cruel battle commences. Boers are mainly farmers and huntsmen who do what ever they do with the Bible in one hand and a gun in the other. What they do well is guerrilla warfare and they know every inch of their land. The British call for huge reinforcements from home and eventually heavily outnumbering the Boers the battle is won.
A feature of the Boer War is the English invention of the concentration camp (as used by the Germans in the Second World War). In the Boer War the English develop a scorched earth policy by burning Boer farms and rounding up women and children for internment in these concentration camps where food is so short that many die with those who survive looking much the same as the Jewish survivors of Hitler’s Holocaust. The British murder 20,000 innocent women and children in this manner.
In the mean time Cecil Rhodes travels further north into Black Africa to look for the gold mines of the ancient Zimbabwe tribe. There is no gold but his followers stay as farmers taking over the land occupied by the Matabele and Mashona tribes.
The land, Rhodesia is named after him and at that time extended both north and south of the Zambezi River. Now called Zambia in the north and Zimbabwe in the south.
Rhodes died in 1902 as one of the wealthiest men in the world almost fulfilling one of his ambitions in painting the whole of the eastern side of Africa pink (the colour used on maps to show the British Empire.) The only hole in the pink was German occupied East Africa (now called Tanganyika) which England gained after the First World War, making the British ruled territories in the east of Africa going north to south as:
Egypt, Sudan, British Somaliland, Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika, Northern Rhodesia now Zambia, Southern Rhodesia now Zimbabwe, Bechuanaland now Botswana and the Union of South Africa.
To these must be added the huge country of Nigeria in the west which turned out to be both oil rich and disastrously divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south.
The end of the European Empires in Africa and the recommencement of home rule.
After the 1939-45 war the world’s colonised countries saw their opportunity to regain self government when the European colonial masters were too weak to do anything about it. The first major loss to England was of course India in 1948, then for France the loss of Vietnam (French Indo-China) and the commencement of the Algerian war in 1954.
The first African country to move against the British was Egypt under their leader Colonel Nasser who in 1956 nationalised the Suez Canal with out compensation to the British who had paid Egypt £4 million pounds for a 100 % share in 1870. The British immediately retaliated with the help of Israel and France but were forced to withdraw their troops by the Americans and Russians. The Americans did not want to be brought into another war and the Russians who wanted Egypt, and much of the rest of Africa, for themselves. The British for the first time in hundreds of years were forced to cow tow to international pressure. The English Prime Minister Anthony Eden was forced to resign. This set the climate for the whole of Africa to seek independence from their European masters which was achieved with the exception of Rhodesia by most countries in the 1960s. Ian Smith of Rhodesia refused to comply with British instructions to hand over power to the Africans and independently remained in power until 1980. Smith thought (in retrospect quite rightly) that Black Africans were not capable of ruling themselves in a civilised way.
The last 50 years (1955-2005)
Smith was right, no African nation is ruled by a democratic elected government who totally respects the rule of law and human rights and sensibly uses the huge amounts of aid money received from western donor nations to help the starving Africans in their crossly mismanaged economies. Indeed the majority of financial aid finds its way into the private Swiss bank accounts of the African rulers and their cronies. Many African countries have seen millions murdered in ethnic genocides and more millions starved to death as their crops fail due to land grabbing or mismanagement aggravated by climate change.
Before the end of the cold war the Russians and the Americans were sending in troops to secure particular countries for either Communism or Capitalism and the poor locals suffered. The peace following the end of the cold war saw some improvements but the world has now learnt that aid is a waste of money unless local rulers are bypassed as is the case with donations to charities who direct aid to those on the ground who need it. In the mean time dictators come and go generally with out fair and free elections and the worst may still celebrate a victory by publicly eating the unsuccessful candidate. (Liberia)
Sometimes, but unfortunately infrequently, good men come to the top as in the case of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both of South Africa.