Historiography and Methods of African History

Source: Historiography and Methods of African History (Oxford Bibliographies) 2012 A.D.

From the source, “


The study of African history as an independent and autonomous focus of scholarship is a recent development. Until the late colonial period, it was widely believed among Western historians that Africa, south of the Sahara, had no “civilization” and thus no history. Others insisted that even if there were events of a historical nature, such a history was unknown and unknowable, since African societies, for the most part, were nonliterate and as such left no records that historians could study. The era of decolonization and the immediate post-independence years witnessed a growing rank of Africanists vigorously reject this Eurocentric and anti-African historical epistemology that privileged civilization and written sources as the only rational bases for historical scholarship and that denied the possibility of civilization and history to small-scale and nonliterate societies dominant in Africa. Using an array of sources, these scholars were successful in showing that Africa not only had a history but that its history and the writing of it date back to ancient Antiquity. Ancient and classical writers wrote about Africa, even though their writings were unsystematic. They were followed by Islamic and Arabic writers, who left first- or secondhand accounts of African states and societies that have continued to prove valuable for scholars of African history. The next phase of African historiography was dominated by European traders, travelers, as well as missionaries and other adventurers, whose accounts of Africa, while generally tendentious and Eurocentric, remain major sources for the reconstruction of the African past. European conquest and domination spawned a new era of colonial historiography that justified European imperialism and espoused the ideology of a savage Africa in need of European civilization and tutelage. With decolonization and independence came the era of nationalist and liberalist historiography which rejected the notion of a barbaric and static Africa “without history.” It sought to restore autonomy and initiative to the Africans, as well as authenticity and respectability to the historicity of the African past. Rejecting the privileging of written sources, it argued for and adopted the disciplined, rigorous, and corroborative use of a variety of sources and multidisciplinary methods from archaeology, ethnography, anthropology, linguistics, and art history to oral traditions.”

If one is going to study the Israelite and overall Shemitic presence in Africa, then one needs to understand the current state of African historiography.

This source regarding the historiography of Africa reveal the strengths and the limitations of writing African history. In general, Africa and traditionally African based peoples have extensive history that has written records dating back to pre-classical antiquity regarding various peoples like the Egyptians, Ethiopians, and the Israelites. The ancient historians were then followed by the Islamic and Arabic scholars throughout the Middle Ages. Both the ancient and the medieval scholars attest to the fact that Shemitic influences (Africa gaining its name from Abraham’s descendant known as Afer, a part of Shem’s allotment being in Africa, etc) and peoples (the Shemitic-Hamitic Phoenicians) have impacted and settled Africa at various time points. One of the strengths of modern post colonial African historiography thought is that it is multi-disciplinary that includes archeology, ethnography, anthropology, linguistics, art history, and oral traditions.

One of the problems with some scholars of post colonial “Afrocentric” thought is that many try to craft Africa as being this entirely independent state. What is the problem with that? It dispels the oral traditions of many West African peoples like the parts of the Igbo, Ashanti, Soninke, and Hausa peoples who clearly state they come from the Middle East. Post colonial “Afrocentric thought essentially is calling some of its primary West Africa, Central, and South African ethnic groups liars because their oral traditions state they are not natives to Africa. I believe a fine balance must be struck in which ancient African civilizations should not be white-washed but acknowledgment needs to be made that Lower Egypt was subject to steady genetic admixture from Japhetic peoples. I believe a fine balance must be struck in which out of Africa migrations took place (e.g. the Phoenicians establishing various colonies around the Mediterranean, Moors expanding into the Iberian peninsula, etc) but also acknowledging into Africa migrations from places like the ancient near east by groups like the Israelites and Philistines. Africa is a continent just as Europe is a continent. Europe has had black peoples migrate into it and influence it for thousands of years just as Africa has had different black peoples and white peoples move in and out of it for thousands of years. I believe it is important to focus on the traversal of the people, not necessarily the continent or landmass.

By Black History In The Bible

"And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." - John 8:45-47

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