Friday, October 14, 2016

AFRICA: A BIOGRAPHY OF THE CONTINENT BY JOHN READER

I. The book begins with the topic “Founding Factors” which describes the initial geological formation of the African continent.
A.    The book, Africa: a Biography of the Continent was written by John Reader, a white Anglo-Saxon male who is a journalist by profession and son of a London Taxi driver.
B.     The book is divided into eight parts and contains fifty-five chapters dispersed over seven hundred pages.
C.     The first chapter deals with the prehistory, geological formations, and fauna and flora of the continent.
D.    The author borrows leaf from Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species published in 1859 to highlight the closeness of humans to chimpanzees in terms of DNA.
      II. Chapter seven begins with the discovery of Lucy who belongs to the taxon
      Australopithecus afarensis and discovered in the Afar region of Ethiopia.
A.    He explores the archaeological works of Mary Leakey and the discovery of footprints at Laetoli in Tanzania fossilized beneath showers of volcanic ash.
B.     He makes a comparison of the archaeological discoveries made in East Turkana in Kenya, those found in the sub-Saharan basin east of the Congo basin, and across the savanna woodlands of Central Africa to the arid southern borders of the Kalahari.
C.     In defining human quest for water, the author notes “the water content of a healthy 65 kg human is nearly 50 liters-enough to fill 150 Coca-Cola cans.”
D.    In 1984, German anthropologist Günter Brauer, in his publication “Afro-European sapiens hypothesis”, noted that anatomically modern humans from Africa were ancestral to all non-African populations and their modern descendants.
      III. Part III of the book explains how modern humans first migrated from Africa, about
           100,000 years ago.
A.    Researchers studying the ecology and behavior of the Mbuti pygmies of the Ituri rainforest in Eastern Zaire stumbled upon striking similarities in food gathering and social behavior among the Mbuti bands and groups of chimpanzees in the Gombe forest. 
B.     Population limitations have been defining factors among human and animal populations since time immemorial.
C.     Climate played a major role and a significant factor in the history of the human species though not a primary causative factor in the evolution of new species.
D.    The earliest-known centrally organized food production system was established along the Nile 15,000 years ago-long before the Pharaohs.
      IV. Part IV deals with the history of African civilizations beginning with the hierarchies
            of Egyptian Pharaohs and their influence and exploitation of sub-Saharan
            Africa.
A.    The Periplus of the Erythraen Sea is a mariner’s handbook that dates from the first century AD with the author devoting only four paragraphs or 450 words to the vast regions that lay beyond the Horn of Africa.
B.     The rise of the Aksumite kingdom in the fourth and the fifth centuries in the Horn of Africa and the development of Africa’s only indigenous written Ge’ez script give thrust for the development of a literate civilization that traded with Egypt, the eastern Mediterranean, and Arabia.
C.     “Cities without Citadels” is in reference to the historical civilizations that thrived in the Niger delta.
D.    The stone walls of Zimbabwe, built by indigenous peoples between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries AD, are stone-walled enclosures that number 300 scattered all over Zimbabwe though the oldest and the largest, Great Zimbabwe, derived from the Shona language dzimba dzemabwe meaning “houses of stone”, is given greater historical preference by historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists alike. 
      V. Part V of the book unleashes a wide-ranging historical view of European influence of
           Africa, slavery and slave trade, and the “Scramble for Africa”.
A.    According to the book, the Portuguese were the first to infiltrate Africa in search of slaves though they were preceded by the Arabs and the Chinese.
B.     The pioneering voyage of Vasco da Gama opened a path for Portuguese consolidation of Africa.
C.     Without thinking the wider implications and long-term consequences, African slave traders sold their brothers, their cousins and their neighbors making them prosperous entrepreneurs instantly.
D.    The craving for firearms by African chiefs created a torturous litany of devastation upon the African continent.
     
VI. King Leopold II of Belgium was the architect of the “Scramble for Africa” in 1884.
A.    European imperial ambition of Africa progressed with David Livingstone’s discovery of Lake Victoria and his criss-crossing of Africa in 1841 and 1873 respectively and the dispatching of Henry Morton Stanley by the New York Herald to search for the missing Livingstone.
B.      In the Berlin Conference of 1884, no African was invited as a participant or as observer.
C.     This conference divided Africa along ethnic, cultural, and social units.
D.    The Berlin Conference created bitter resistance and rebellion by Africans to European colonialism and imperial rule.
VII. The creation of educational institutions by the colonialists saw the emergence of African
        elites who fought for the self-determination of their people.
A.    The Second World II signaled the end of colonialism thus becoming the forerunner for African independence.
B.     The October 1960 United Nations General Assembly resolution declared that “unpreparedness should not be a pretext for delaying independence” for Africa.
C.     By 1965 the number of independent states in Africa had risen to thirty-eight with another seven added in the ten years to 1975.
D.    The winds of history have seen Africa undergo disastrous civil wars and harrowing experiences that continue to afflict the continent to this day.


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