The History of people on the African continent is fascinating and our understanding of it is growing dramatically. African history, like Africa, is best understood by diviiding Africa into regions. Northern African history is unique because of the importance of the Egyptian culture to the ancient world and because of the influence of Islam starting about 650 and continuing through today. Eastern Africa is best known for Axum which was the first Christian region in Africa and the development of the Swahili culture in the city states of the east coast of Africa. South Africa is the home to many great tribes, the stone city of Great Zimbabwe and the eventual settlement by the Dutch and English who exploited the region for its natural resources. Finally, western Africa is known for the great civilizations of Ghana, Mali and Songhai. Each of these states was an important trading center for gold, salt and selling slaves into north Africa and eventually to the Europeans in the Americas.
The AP World History Course is designed to test your knowledge of each of the African regional civilization history and it tends to divide its information in six categories to think about. These categories are politics, economics, religion, social life, intellectual life, and art. Often the AP exam also expects students to know how the geography of Africa because of the influences geography in Africa has had on the historical developments over time.
Since much of African history has been shared through oral story telling, historians have been slow to understand and fully appreciate the inventions, culture, and complexity of political life throughout Africa. Click on the dynasty time periods to the right to learn more about each of the African dynastic periods.
Africa is enormous. Many students do not realize how large Africa is because they have grown up looking at Mercator projection maps which minimize the size of the southern hemispere continents. To get a better idea of who big Africa, Australia and South America are look at them on a globe or Robinson projection map. Africa is also divided into regions by geography. The Sahara desert separates the continent into northern Africa and southern Africa and the east and west coasts are also radically different.
This satelite image makes the importance of understanding the geography of Africa obvious. The Sahara Desert is the dominant geographical feature of northern Africa but the rain forests of the central Africa and the Great Rift Valley in eastern Africa are also very important.