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Carleton University
HIST 2706
Mohamed Ali

CHAPTER 8: EASTERN AFRICA TO THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. Assess the importance of Christianity in the medieval kingdom of Ethiopia. The Zagwe rulers reopened links between the Ethiopian Church and the Holy land of Palestine. Even in its centuries of greatest isolation, the Ethiopian Church had maintained contact with the remnants of the Egyptian Coptic Church. Throughout the period of the Coptic decline with the rise of Islam, the Ethiopian Church continued to have an Egyptian appointed as its most senior bishop. Ethiopians saw themselves as an outpost of Christianity – a sort of chosen people of God – surrounded by pagans and Muslims. By the early 13 th century, trading relations between Egypt and Ethiopia have improved enough for Ethiopian Christians to travel freely through Muslim Egypt. 2. Discuss the role of trade in the Muslim penetration of the horn of Africa between the tenth and fourteenth centuries. During the tenth and eleventh centuries, Muslim merchants, probably of Arab origin, began penetrating the Awash valley towards the highlands of Ethiopia. They set up small trading settlements from which they controlled the external trade of the interior. Initially they exercised little direct control over the surrounding non-Muslim, Cushitic-speaking communities. Gradually however they came to dominate the economic life of the region. In the early 12 century, a merchant family from Mecca brought together a number of interior Muslim settlements to form the “sultanate of Shoa”. Other similar Muslim states followed and by 1300 of the sultanate of Shoa had been taken over by the kingdom of Ifat. Muslim merchants penetrated the highlands south of the Blue Nile. They set up the small trading and raiding states of Dawara, Sharka, Bali and Hadya which brought them into conflict with Christian Ethiopia. OR Account for the changing balance of power between Christian Ethiopia and the Muslim states of the Horn of Africa between 1300 and 1560 CE As the rise of Islam in the 8 century shifted the nexus of international trade from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf, the Axumite kingdom of Ethiopia withdrew into the central highlands. Its distinctive culture and Christianity was consolidated in isolation from the outside world, under first the Zagwe and then the Solomonic dynasties. From the 12 to 14 centuries Ethiopia extended its control southwards, over the Shoan plateau and the central region of Amhara. th Meanwhile Muslim merchants had penetrated the Awash valley and by the 12 and 13 centuries had established a series of trading and raiding states. Conflict with Christian Ethiopia, which began in the 14 century, reached its peak in the th 16 when Muslim Adal almost destroyed its Christian rival, the latter only recovering when the Muslim leader was killed in battle. 3. What were the main changes that developed in the societies of the east African interior with the coming of the Later Iron Age? How significant and reliable is the archaeological evidence as an indication of social and economic change in this period? For the east African interior, south of Ethiopia, the period from 9 to 16 th centuries was one of transition from early Iron Age to Later Iron Age technology and cultures. Much of the evidence for these developments, like the periods before, is based upon linguistics and archaeology. A key feature of this transition was an expansion of cattle-keeping, often associated with the consolidation of political power and the emergence of state formation by the 15 century. This paved the way for the emergence of small but powerful chiefdoms that based their political power on the authority of sprit mediums and their economic power on the control of cattle ownership. The adoption of coarser “rouletted” ware suggests that Late Iron Age pottery in this part of Africa was probably made by a wider range of less specialized potters. In fact pottery-making had probably become a routine domestic task performed by women while the men were engaged in the higher status of looking after cattle. CHAPTER 9: TRADING TOWNS OF THE EAST AFRICAN COAST TO THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. Discuss the extent of the indigenous African input to the early development of trade along the east African coast. What impact do you think that Indian Ocean trade had upon the African Iron Age societies of the coastal zone? The fishing and trading settlements of the east African coast date back to at least the beginning of the Common Era. The Greeks (100 CE ) referred to eastern Africa as ‘Azania’. Arabic writers some centuries later referred to it as the land of ‘Zenj’. With the expansion of Islam, and the settlement of Muslim merchants and refugees, east Africa became an increasingly important part of the trading networks of the western Indian Ocean. Most of the long distance trade of the western Indian Ocean was carried in Arab sailing ships known as dhows. By the 9 century there were a number of well-established market towns along the coast of the “land of Zenj”. Most were situated on the offshore islands. There several on the Lamu islands off the northern Kenyan coast and others further south on Zanzibar, Kilwa and the Comoro islands. Though clearly involved in overseas trade, they were nevertheless primarily local African towns. The coastal towns of this period were mainly exporters of raw materials and importers of manufactured goods and luxuries, oriental pottery, glassware and Indian silks and cottons. 2. Discuss the nature of the ‘Arab versus African’ debate in east African historiography. Why do you think that the Arab input was given so much prominence for so long? Historians in the past have sometimes tended to overemphasize the Arab input to the early growth of east African coastal trade. This view has placed all the initiative in the hands of the Muslim Arab immigrants. Early research focused upon the Arab contribution to the language and culture of the Kiswahili- speaking peoples. Arabs were portrayed as the prime movers in the developments. It was they who drew coastal Africans into their own trading culture, thereby creating the Afro-Arab combination that founded the Swahili trading towns. Recent research has shown that past emphasis upon Arab input has been misleading. But what previously tended to be overlooked was the extent of the indigenous African input to the early development of coastal trade and the spread of Swahili culture and society. 3. Which was more important to the wealth and political power of the rulers of the Swahili coastal towns: overseas trade or African production? *** Overseas trade was more important to the political power of the rulers of the Swahili coast towns. The sultans charged import and export dues of up to 50 per cent and more on all goods passing through the town. If the merchants were still wealthy despite the heavy taxes than the leaders were definitely in good standing with their wealth. 4. How did the Portuguese gain control of the trade of the western Indian Ocean? How might Swahili resistance have been more effective? What would you see as the main weaknesses of Portuguese control? This evolving trading system was disrupted by the arrival of the Portuguese from 1498. Over the next century the Portuguese used extreme violence to establish their domination of the east African coastal trade, culminating in 1599 with the construction of Fort Jesus at Mombasa, from where the Portuguese dominated east Africa’s coastal trade for the next 100 years. The Swahili resistance might have been more effective if they had all united together against the Portuguese. The sultan of Malindi hoped to avoid confrontation by quickly surrendering which was something the majority of the coastal towns refused to do. EXTRA INFO: Madagascar was peopled by Austronesian and east African immigrants sometime between 100 and 800 CE . Additinal east African Muslim settlements on the north-west coast brought the island into the Swahili trading network by 1000 CE.Further Austronesian immigration may have occurred as late as 1500, and from these various inputs the peoples of Madagascar developed their unique Malagasy language and culture. CHAPTER 10: LATER IRON AGE STATES AND SOCIETIES OF CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA TO 1600 QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. What significant social and economic changes seem to have taken place which prompts historians to use the term ‘Later Iron Age’ to describe the societies of central and southern Africa after about 1000 CE ? In what ways have the findings of archaeology contributed to this knowledge? It appears that in some areas, the development of Later Iron Age practises was gradual and evolved locally. In others, the changes were fairly swift suggesting the arrival of ideas or small numbers of influential people from outside that particular locality. Thethiming oththe transition was equally variable occurring sometime between the 9 and 14 centuries. As people learned to make the most of their local environment, agricultural and fishing techniques were improved and mining and manufacturing skills further developed. In some other areas, particularly southern Africa there was increasing emphasis upon cattle-keeping as people brought the drier grasslands into greater use. Certain communities specialized in mining, metal manufacture, food production or hunting. All of this regional specialization helped promote inter-regional trade. 2. Discuss the relative roles of religion, chieftaincy and trade in the formation of Later Iron Age states in central Africa. With the development of Later Iron Age specialization and population growth, people organized in larger political units and there was a rise in the power and importance of territorial chiefs. The chiefs and kings that rose to power in the savannah woodlands south of the Congo forest could usually trace the origins of their authority to some religious practices. But whatever the material source of secular power, they usually justified their right to rule through their role as mediators in traditional religion or their ancestral links with the spirit world. In th th central Africa south of the Congo basin, the period, 10 to 16 centuries, saw the emergence of first the Luba kingdom around the headwaters of the Lualaba/Congo, and then the Lunda empire, with offshoots, influences and other states stretching as far as the Kingdom of Kongo in the west and the Shire valley in the east. 3. Account for the rise and decline of Great Zimbabwe. Explain in your answer why you think the Great Zimbabwe site was chosen and why it was eventually abandoned. The state of Great Zimbabwe probably started as a prosperous centre for cattle- keeping and farming people, with ownerships of cattle leading to considerable divisions between rich and poor. During the 12 and 13 centuries much of the long-distance trade between western plateau and coast was diverted to pass via the Great Zimbabwe capital. Taxation from this trade was a major source of wealth in addition to the tribute paid by local Shona chiefdoms in ivory, gold and food. With this wealth the rulers of Great Zimbabwe were able to reward their supporters and feed their dependants and so increase their power. Great Zimbabwe itself became a major focus not only of trade but also of craft manufacture. In about 1450, Great Zimbabwe was abandoned. By then, the cultivation, grazing and timber resources of the region were exhausted. Discuss the importance of cattle in the growth of Later Iron Age communities south of the Zambezi. Cattle were important in the growth of Later Iron Age communities south of the Zambezi for several reasons. Cattle were a useful source of food: both milk and meat. They could be traded with neighbouring communities in exchange for other items. Cattle were a major source of wealth and social control. They provided men with their main source of bridewealth. Those with large herds of cattle could pay a dowry for several wives. Wealthy cattle-owners thus gained control over an ever-widening community. CHAPTER 11: NORTH AND NORTH-EAST AFRICA TO THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. “ . . . the wealth of any Egyptian dynasty was always underpinned by the productive capacity of the Egyptian peasantry.” [p167] Discuss with reference to Egypt under the Ayyubid and Mamluk dynasties. Despite the continued migration of Arabian nomads into northern Africa, it was a Maghribian Berber army that conquered Egypt and established the Fatimid dynasty in 969. In the 11 and 12 centuries Fatimid strength was sapped by the intrusion of Christian Crusaders into the Holy Land. Military general Salah al-Din, however, restored Egyptian power and established his Ayyubid dynasty. He returned the government of Egypt to stability and prosperity. He combined military recruitment with a reform in the system of taxation. This was replaced in turn by the military dictatorship of the Mamluk slave army which ruled Egypt for 250 years before being conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1517. Throughout this period the course of Egypt’s wealth and power remained the labour of the over-taxed Egyptian peasantry. The main source of government income was taxation of the peasantry. A fellah (peasant) who failed to pay their taxes was expelled from their land. Taxes were imposed on all crops and even domestic livestock. The peasants were squeezed particularly hard under the Mamluks as there were no restraints on the iqta-holder’s power. 2. Account for the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in the sixteenth century. Discuss the impact of the Ottoman empire in Egypt and the Maghrib during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. With the Ottoman conquest of 1517, Egypt lost its independence and became a province within a western Asian empire. The ruler of Egypt was henceforth a viceroy appointed from and answerable to Istanbul. The ottomans restored and reallocated the iqta system of land-holding, taxation and military service. Egypt’s southern boundary was pushed into Nubia as far as the 3rf cataract in the 1550s. With so much power in the hands of corrupt local nobility, Egypt lacked the unity and strength to fend off serious foreign invasion. Meanwhile, Islam had spread to the south of Egypt where the Funj Sultanate replaced the former Nubian Christian kingdom of Alwa. Ottoman control of the eastern and central Maghrib was confined to coastal towns from where corsair raids preyed on European shipping while trans-Saharan trade remained in the hands of independent Tuareg. The western Maghrib witnessed the rise of the kingdom of Morocco and its conquest of Songhay in 1591. 3. Account for the Oromo migrations into Ethiopia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Oromo were Cushitic-speaking cattle pastoralists who originated in the dry grassland zone to the north-east of Lake Turkana. Despite the speed and relentless pressure of their occupation, the Oromo did not come as single mass-migration. During the early decades of the 16 th century, the cattle herds of the Oromo seem to have undergone a rapid expansion. Each year, the folle (young oromo men) would sought out new pastures further up the moister valleys. The clans that spearheaded the seasonal migration moved ever-further northward as they in turn felt the pressure of other Oromo clans were moving up behind them. Once the movement had been allowed, it was impossible to
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