Africa, History

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Africa's history has gone through a variety of stages; it is considered by many to be the place of origin for all human life, was brutally taken over in the 'Scramble for Africa' by many European countries interested in exploiting the continent's resources, and is now, on the whole, very poor and one of the least developed areas in the world.

Ancient Egypt

The Ancient Egyptians were one of the world's first great civilisations. It was based upon the Nile almost entirely, its floodplains providing arable land.

Geography of Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt was divided into the 'Black Land' and the 'Red Land'. The Black Land was the fertile area on the banks of the Nile - most Egyptian cities and towns were located around here. The Red Land was the desolate areas in the deserts.[1] Interestingly, the two main subdivisions - Upper and Lower Egypt - are misaligned with modern geography. This is due to the orientation of the Nile.[2]


Ancient Egyptian religion, aside for a brief period during the reign of pharaoh Akhenaten, was polytheistic; that is, having many gods and goddesses. Some of the most important gods and goddesses were:

  • Ra, the Sun god
  • Geb, the god of vegetation
  • Isis, the goddess of fertility and love
  • Nephthys, the goddess of divine assistance
  • Nut, the goddess of the sky
  • Osiris, the god of death
  • Seth, the god of evil
  • Shu, the god of wind
  • Tefnut, the goddess of rain



The Ancient Egyptians used a linguistic system known as hieroglyphics. Over 2000 distinct hieroglyphs are known. Vowels were rarely written except in occasions of possible ambiguity. [4]The writing became known to archaeologists through work on the Rosetta Stone.[5]


From the 16th century onwards, many Africans were taken forcibly from their tribal homes to West African ports to be sold as slaves. For many, the journey to the ports was long and difficult and they were often sold and bought along the way. When they arrived at the ports they were taken in large slave ships. They were eventually taken to places such as America, the Caribbean and South America. Eventually, over 12,000,000 were taken away, forming the basis of African-American and Afro-Caribbean communities. The slavery stopped almost altogether towards the end of the 19th century.[6]However, small amounts of unregulated slavery occur in some parts of Africa.

Scramble for Africa

One of the first countries to be taken over by Europeans in the Scramble for Africa was Egypt, by an Albanian officer called Mohammed Ali. He later took over Sudan. The French later took charge of Algeria, eventually taking over much of Western Africa - indeed, many West African countries retain French as an official language. The British also took large chunks. Portugal took lots of Southern Africa. In the end few African countries remained independent however economic, transport and supply infrastructures grew rapidly.[7]

Modern Africa

The 1950s through to the 1980s marked the independence of many African countries from European rule.[8] However, as militaries developed in African states many military coups occurred, including those of Idi Amin in Uganda and of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.[9][10]

Arab Spring

Please see the article on the Arab Spring.