The Fortunes of Africa: A 5000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and Endeavor
Land was another prize. The Romans relied on their colonies in northern Africa for vital grain shipments to feed the population of Rome. Arab invaders followed in their wake, eventually colonizing the entire region. More recently, foreign corporations have acquired huge tracts of land to secure food supplies needed abroad, just as the Romans did.
In this vast and vivid panorama of history, Martin Meredith follows the fortunes of Africa over a period of 5,000 years. With compelling narrative, he traces the rise and fall of ancient kingdoms and empires; the spread of Christianity and Islam; the enduring quest for gold and other riches; the exploits of explorers and missionaries; and the impact of European colonization. He examines, too, the fate of modern African states and concludes with a glimpse of their future.
His cast of characters includes religious leaders, mining magnates, warlords, dictators, and many other legendary figures—among them Mansa Musa, ruler of the medieval Mali empire, said to be the richest man the world has ever known. “I speak of Africa,” Shakespeare wrote, “and of golden joys.” This is history on an epic scale.
base from which European explorers could venture into the vast uncharted territories of the African interior. Its anchorage was crowded with Arab dhows and square-rigged merchantmen, Americans from Salem, Spaniards from Cuba, French slavers from the Mascarene Islands, Indiamen from Bombay. From his palace on the island, the sultan of Zanzibar, an Omani Arab, claimed authority over trade routes stretching far inland, as far as the great lakes of central Africa. ‘When they pipe in Zanzibar,’ it was
and tunnels to reach deep-level diggings. Though the costs of establishing underground operations were high, production and profits soared. The deep-level diggings, moreover, proved to contain even richer diamond deposits. The introduction of underground mining, together with the increasing use of steam engines and other machinery, brought major changes to the organisation of the labour force. Rather than using white overseers, mining companies needed skilled miners. They were recruited from the
muskets and other crude weapons attacked isolated European settlements and plantations, killing several hundred whites and massacring African migrant workers. The uprising was in part the work of nationalist agitators based in neighbouring Congo. But it was also fuelled by strong grievances about the loss of African land and by harsh treatment meted out by Portuguese settlers and traders to the local population. Salazar ordered outright repression, but he also authorised the first major reforms
adorned shops and offices; his birthday became a public holiday. He built around himself a citadel of power, extending his reach to farmers’ organisations, trade unions and the civil service and using emergency powers to imprison critics and opponents. Intending to establish Ghana as a modern industrial state, he commissioned one project after another at reckless speed, ignoring advice to proceed more cautiously. To ensure direct personal control, he transferred more and more functions of state
the most profitable part of their business. In 1444, a Portuguese official, Lançarote de Freitas, backed by a consortium of merchant-adventurers from the Algarve port of Lagos, mounted an expedition of six caravels to islands on the Arguin Bank with the express purpose of capturing slaves. In a ruthless attack, armed mariners seized some 235 men, women and children, most of them from poor Idzagen fishing families, killing those who resisted. The captives were crammed on board the caravels and