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African History

Take a deep dive into the history of Africa, which is the continent of origin for humanity as well as the location of one of the first great civilizations: the Ancient Egyptian Civilization (2675–332 BCE). Other important early empires include several notable empires in West Africa (the Songhai Empire between the sixth and sixteenth centuries CE, the Mali and Benin empires starting in the thirteenth century CE, and the Ashanti Empire starting in the seventeenth century) and the various Islamic caliphates that ruled northern Africa (known as the Maghreb) after Arabs invaded in the seventh century CE.

Starting in the fifteenth century, Africa came increasingly under the influence of European explorers and traders, particularly the Portuguese, Dutch, British, and French. The slave trade was a major draw for Europeans, who negotiated with representatives from African kingdoms, such as the Oyo and Dahomey, to take millions of enslaved Africans overseas to work on plantations and in the mines of the New World.

Even after the slave trade was abolished in the early nineteenth century, European desire to exploit the natural resources and economic markets available in Africa fueled even more ambitious colonial efforts. At the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885, European powers met to determine how to divide Africa between themselves, during a period known as the “Scramble for Africa.” By 1914, all but two African countries were under European control.

World War II (1939–1945) weakened Europe’s hold on Africa, and the latter half of the twentieth century saw most indigenous people throw off foreign overlords and establish African nations ruled by Africans. Many of these revolutions were bloody conflicts, and the postcolonial period was often marked by bloodshed as competing factions struggled to attain power. Civil wars, such as the one fought in Nigeria between 1967 and 1970, were widespread, and military rulers often held power via ruthless dictatorships.

Other conflicts pitted minority white rulers against the majority Black population, as was the case in Rhodesia and South Africa. The system of apartheid formalized segregation and discrimination against South Africa’s Black population until mass protests, international condemnation, and the anti-apartheid and human rights activism of leaders, such as Nelson Mandela, finally forced it to end in the 1990s.

In the twenty-first century, continued agitation against oppressive governments throughout the continent often met with success, as occurred during the events of the Arab Spring, starting in 2010, which led to the ousting of leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Yet despite some political success, Africa as a whole continued to struggle with the lack of economic development as well as the effects of AIDS, bearing the highest infection rate in the world.

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African History Resources

Gale provides scholarly resources, including databasesprimary source archives, and eBooks, to advance researchers' studies.


Gale databases offer researchers access to credible, historical articles, including main content of full-text articles covering many history topics, from newspapers, articles, African history journals, and more, aligned with lesson plans for teaching and guides for additional research.

Primary Source Archives

Gale Primary Sources contains full-text archives and digitized literature that provide researchers with firsthand articles from African history primary sources and African primary sources to drive research at your university.

Gale eBooks

Gale offers a variety of eBooks covering a wide range of African studies topics, including history, security issues, and more. Users can add Gale eBooks to a customized collection and cross-search to pinpoint relevant content. Workflow tools help users easily share, save, and download articles.

  • 50 Events That Shaped African American History: An Encyclopedia of the American Mosaic, 1st Edition

    50 Events That Shaped African American History: An Encyclopedia of the American Mosaic, 1st Edition

    Greenwood Publishing Group  |  2019  |  ISBN-13: 9781440837876

    This encyclopedia offers a unique look at the African American experience, from the arrival of the first 20 Africans at Jamestown through the launch of the Black Lives Matter movement and the Ferguson protests. It illustrates subjects such as the Jim Crow period, the Brown v. Board of Education case that overturned segregation, Jackie Robinson’s landmark integration of major league baseball, the challenging of stereotypes with the release of The Cosby Show, and Barack Obama’s election as president of the United States. Drawing from events spanning almost 400 years of U.S. history, the work documents the African American experience and Black history in America and showcases Black people’s impact on every aspect of American life. Primary documents range from excerpts of speeches given by Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, and Malcolm X to programs from the March on Washington in 1963, a published newspaper article about the Emancipation Proclamation, and tweets from the first Black Lives Matter protest.

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  • Contemporary Security Issues in Africa, 1st Edition

    Contemporary Security Issues in Africa, 1st Edition

    Praeger  |  2019  |  ISBN-13: 9781440851919

    Presenting both general overviews and specific case studies, this book provides an excellent introduction to contemporary security issues in Africa, home to more than 30 of the 50 most fragile nations in the world. It covers the last three decades of conflict on the continent, focusing on such topics as weak and failing states, ethnic and racial conflict and civil wars, natural resources and environmental security, political violence and terrorism, piracy and maritime security, food security and poverty, international responses, and future prospects. The core of the book comprises detailed analysis of the nexus between culture, politics, and security in Africa, while the volume as a whole examines key regional and transnational security issues affecting Africa and their implications at the state, regional, and international levels. The book explores the dynamic role that African nations play in influencing international security and investigates and articulates factors heightening the importance of Africa’s role in international affairs.

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  • Continents: Africa, 1st Edition

    Continents: Africa, 1st Edition

    Cody Koala  |  2019  |  ISBN-13: 9781532162756

    This eBook introduces readers to the climate, landforms, plants, animals, and people of Africa. Vivid photographs and easy-to-read text aid comprehension for early readers. Features include a table of contents, an infographic, fun facts, Making Connections questions, a glossary, and an index. QR codes in the book give readers access to book-specific resources to further their learning. Aligned to Common Core Standards and correlated to state standards. Cody Koala is an imprint of Pop!, a division of ABDO.

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Resources to Boost Your Research

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