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Afro-Pessimism: A Study of Pre-Colonia Africa
From the early 15th century, when Henry the Navigator first set foot in Sub-Saharan
Africa, there have been many misconceptions about Africa. For example, according to Sir Bartle
Frere, “in Africa… you will find nothing but… tribal wars and an absence of anything that forms
a stable government… and never emerging from a state of Barbarism” (Frere). However, African
civilization had many social, economic, and geographic advancements, making it a highly
advanced civilization for its time. First of all, African civilization was very advanced socially.
According to Leo Africanus, the kingdom of West Africa had “many doctors, judges, priests, and
other learned men that are well maintained at the King’s cost” (Africanus 5). This quote shows
that Africa had a very complex civilization that valued the fine arts and intellectuals, contrary to
the perceptions of some European historians. Furthermore, African civilization had many
economic achievements. According to an Egyptian Official, Mansa Musa, the King of Mali
“spread upon Cairo the wealth of generosity, there was no person… who did not receive a sum of
gold from him” (Doc 4). In this quote, the author illustrates the wealth of Mansa Musa, this also
shows that Africans empires had lots of wealth, so much so, that they could hand it away on the
streets. Finally, some African Kingdoms were very connected to other empires. According to a
map made by Iban Battuta, illustrating the Kingdoms of Kilwa’s trade routes, it is clear that
Kilwa dominated valuable East Asian trade routes. This geographic achievement showed how
advanced African civilization was, because they could not only have valuable trade routes with
Asian countries, but also make money taxing Arabic traders. In all, pre-colonial Africa was far
from the barren wasteland that Europeans perceived it to be, and African civilizations had many
advancements socially, economically, and politically.
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