Cover

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Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xi

This book is the result of years of intellectual and spiritual exploration at Xavier University, where I have made my academic home since 1997. Students in my African history survey pushed me to answer the question “Why should a student in Cincinnati, Ohio, study African history?” Their embrace...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-14

This book is based on the belief that our future welfare depends on a deep and informed understanding of the human past. The African proverb above suggests that the way forward is through broad understanding rather than narrow thinking. To paraphrase writer Scott Russell Sanders’s words...

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Part I. The Longue Durée

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pp. 15-18

When a visitor stands amidst the Rocky Mountains, he or she cannot escape the feeling that a single human being is very small indeed. And yet, at the same time, many feel a strong sense of connectedness to such majesty. Ideally, the study of history would create a similar sense...

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1. Humanity’s African Origins

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pp. 19-45

This chapter starts our journey into African history from the most basic starting point of all human history: human evolution, or the beginning of us. The questions of who we are, how we behave, and how we might face our uncertain future are illuminated by a study of humanity’s...

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2. Early Subsistence: Gathering-Hunting and Agriculture

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pp. 46-66

Africa is not only the home of human evolution, but it is also one place where humans have practiced the full continuum of economic subsistence, first developing a gathering-hunting lifestyle and then different forms of agriculture. How societies obtain food is one of the most important...

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3. Early Adaptation: Climate Change and Pastoralism

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pp. 67-84

Although global climate change is much in the news recently, rarely is mention made of the significant ways the changing climate impacted human history in the past. Early African history demonstrates how peoples of the past have responded to drastic climate changes...

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4. New Ideas and Tradition

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pp. 85-100

The blending of new ideas with old ones is an important theme in early African history. Such a declaration might contrast with what many readers have heard about Africa: that it is a continent full of peoples who hold fast to tradition and are not interested in new...

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Part II. African Institutions in the Middle Time Frame

In the west, and the United States in particular, we tend to think of culture as something good if it is mixed and if we celebrate it, so we have Black History Month, St. Patrick’s Day, and a host of local cultural celebrations, as well as a strong movement within academia toward...

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5. Forms of Political Authority: Heterarchy

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pp. 103-120

Democracy is one of the most common forms of political systems in the world today, largely because it enables mass participation in political decisions. Yet, there is often some distance between the concept and its practice, as power tends to accumulate in the hands of few. One of the complaints...

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6. Forms of Social Organization: Matriliny

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pp. 121-136

Throughout history, individuals have had specific ideas about their families, marriage, and property. Societies typically define these relationships as a form of kinship. The most basic human relationships of kinship shape work roles, children’s identities and caretaking, and...

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7. Forms of Economic Thought: Wealth in People and the Entrustment Economy

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pp. 137-154

As historian John Iliffe wrote, among the Africans’ chief contributions to world history is their ability to survive and thrive in a very challenging landscape. As in all preindustrial societies, Africans had to use their bodies to work for a living and to ensure the health of the next generation...

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Part III. Recent History and Politics

Africa has been a significant player in the increasingly globalized world of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this period, Africans became part of nation-states as well as national economies. At the same time, their national economies were tied to a much broader...

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8. African Views on Colonialism and Development Assistance

With Heidi Frontani

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pp. 157-181

The gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of a country’s goods and services, in Tanzania is again growing rapidly. Between 2000 and 2008, growth was 7 percent per year, and between 2009 and 2011, it was 6 percent per year. At the same time, Tanzania is ranked as one of the poorest...

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9. African Contributions: Economics, Politics, and Society

with Heidi Frontani

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pp. 182-203

As globalizing forces encourage homogenization and integration into limited and powerful institutions, societies are losing myriad ways of thinking about economics, politics, and society. This chapter highlights the ways Africans have constructed and thought about their societies...

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10. An African Success Story: Somaliland

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pp. 204-219

To many both in the academy and outside of it, one of the challenges people face globally is achieving meaningful participation in the political process. African peoples can play an important role in helping to question dominant ways of thinking about political institutions and imagining different forms...

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Conclusion

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pp. 220-224

Increasingly, Americans and others assume that with advancements in technology, societies will be able to outwit the environment, political leaders, or bad economic decisions and continue to live as they always have regardless of damage to the landscape, its resources, or the needs...

Index

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pp. 225-229