Role of written and unwritten sources in African historiography

Role of written and unwritten sources in the reconstruction of African history

Introduction: The task of reconstructing African history has been a challenging one. A major challenge in this endeavour is that many parts of Africa until recently remained pre- literate and therefore lacked records of their past. However, it would be misleading and fallacious to conclude that all parts of the continent suffered from this limitation.

Egypt evolved its hieroglyphics three thousand years before the beginning of the Christian era. In Ethiopia, the Ge’ez language was used in ancient Axum. It had been committed to writing before A.D 400. External contacts also enriched the African continent. Islam religion for example brought Arabic language and a tradition of scholarship and historiography. This remains a vital source of information and inspiration to students of African historiography. The Islamic tradition of scholarship and historiography created learning centres such as Timbuktu, Jenne and Sokoto in the western Sudan .

Contacts between Africa and classical civilizations such as the Greco-Roman civilization helped to introduce their languages and literature to Mediterranean Africa. Swahili language in East Africa became a language of commerce. In other parts of Africa, the Arabic language was used in writing indigenous languages.

From the 15th c, European explorers, missionaries and colonialists kept the records of their contacts and activities. All these are valuable sources about African historiography. These sources are broadly classified into written and unwritten sources…(more information available at the purchased doc).

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  • Category: History, political science and public administration


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