The history of Africa begins with the prehistory of Africa and the emergence of Homo sapiens in East Africa, continuing into the present as a patchwork of diverse and politically developing nation states. Some early evidence of agriculture in Africa dates from 16,000 BCE, and metallurgy from about 4000 BCE. The recorded history of early civilization arose in Egypt, and later in Nubia, the Maghreb and the Horn of Africa. During the Middle Ages, Islam spread through the regions. Crossing the Maghreb and the Sahel, a major center of Muslim culture was Timbuktu. Some notable pre-colonial states and societies in Africa include the Nok culture, Mali Empire, Ashanti Empire, Kingdom of Mapungubwe, Kingdom of Sine, Kingdom of Saloum, Kingdom of Baol, Kingdom of Zimbabwe, Kingdom of Kongo, Ancient Carthage, Numidia, Mauretania, the Aksumite Empire, the Ajuuraan State and the Adal Sultanate.
From the late 15th century, Europeans and Arabs took slaves from West, Central and Southeast Africa overseas in the African slave trade. European colonization of Africa developed rapidly in the Scramble for Africa of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Following struggles for independence in many parts of the continent, as well as a weakened Europe after the Second World War; decolonization took place.
Africa's history has been challenging for researchers in the field of African studies because of the scarcity of written sources in large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Scholarly techniques such as the recording of oral history, historical linguistics, archaeology and genetics have been crucial.
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“The history of this country was made largely by people who wanted to be left alone. Those who could not thrive when left to themselves never felt at ease in America.”
—Eric Hoffer (19021983)
“As History stands, it is a sort of Chinese Play, without end and without lesson.”
—Henry Brooks Adams (18381918)
“Are you there, Africa with the bulging chest and oblong thigh? Sulking Africa, wrought of iron, in the fire, Africa of the millions of royal slaves, deported Africa, drifting continent, are you there? Slowly you vanish, you withdraw into the past, into the tales of castaways, colonial museums, the works of scholars.”
—Jean Genet (19101986)