Chapter One
Some Questions on Development

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Brief Guide to Reading

Studies on early African history are lacking for many reasons, the most obvious being that African history was for a long time considered by the colonialists as having so little value that it was not worth reconstructing. Another decisive factor is that studies of Africa were mainly carried out by European bourgeois anthropologists, whose philosophical outlook on ‘primitive societies’ caused them to separate African society from its historical context. There was a concentration on micro-units and no reference to overall patterns. The new African scholarship has been under way for too short a time to have provided any significant breakthrough. The few books cited below are part of the new approach.

B. Davidson, Africa in History.

Henri Labouret, Africa before the White Man

M. Shinnie, Ancient African Kingdoms.

M. Panikkar, The Serpent and the Crescent.

The above group of books are assessments by non-Africans from a sympathetic perspective and with sufficient value for them to be respected and widely used inside Africa. M. Panikkar is an unusual example of an Asian scholar with a professional interest in the African continent.

J. Ajayi and I. Espie (editors), A Thousand Years of West African History.

B. A. Ogot and J. A. Kieran (editors), Zamani, a Survey of East African History.

African historians have begun to provide syntheses of the continent’s history by putting together relevant collections — usually on some section of the continent, as in the two examples above. Unfortunately, the quality varies from one selection to another, and African writers have not as yet provided any coherent overview of the regions with which the are supposedly dealing.

G. Afolabi Ojo, Yoruba Culture, a Geographical Analysis.

B. M. Fagan, Southern Africa during the Iron Age.

What these two dissimilar books have in common is an awareness of the material environment. Afolabi Ojo is a Nigerian geographer and B. M. Fagan is an English archaeologist.


Table of Contents

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Walter Rodney 1973

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