Good books on Pre-colonial Africa?

Feb 2019
4
New York, NY
#1
Hi all,

I'm currently pursuing my M.A in history at a university which unfortunately doesn't offer Africana courses. I was wondering if you could suggest books on Pre-Colonial Africa so I could survey and then pick a topic?

Thanks!
 
Likes: Futurist

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,594
Benin City, Nigeria
#4
Enough depth to give the topic merits. For example, if the book's focus is on the Malian Empire, then I would hope the research meets academic standards.
A book that was published relatively recently which has substantial depth and high academic standards (and which, incidentally, does discuss the Malian empire at length) is Michael Gomez's 2018 book African Dominion: A New History of Empire in Early and Medieval West Africa.

Gomez's book is a tome though - about 500 pages and it is really about Sahelian west Africa, not other parts of west Africa or other parts of the African continent. And it is very in-depth. Someone without at least some prior knowledge about west African history might find themselves lost in a few parts.

https://www.amazon.com/African-Dominion-History-Empire-Medieval/dp/0691177422

I would also recommend a book called The Golden Rhinoceros: Histories of the African Middle Ages by François-Xavier Fauvelle, that was also published in 2018. Although I don't agree with certain things in Fauvelle's book and the style of the book is a bit "casual" in some places (the book is somewhere between a formal academic work and a popular history book in its style), it is a broad and interesting survey, by a professional historian (so as far as meeting academic standards there isn't really anything to worry about) of select places and incidents in precolonial African history during a time period that corresponds approximately to the Middle Ages in Europe. I think that by reading the sources in there and Fauvelle's commentary/analysis you could get an idea of which area or topic you might want to look into further. It's basically a look at select places and people of interest in different geographical areas of Africa, and their historical significance.

The Golden Rhinoceros
 
Last edited:
Feb 2019
4
New York, NY
#5
A book that was published relatively recently which has substantial depth and high academic standards (and which, incidentally, does discuss the Malian empire at length) is Michael Gomez's 2018 book African Dominion: A New History of Empire in Early and Medieval West Africa.

Gomez's book is a tome though - about 500 pages and it is really about Sahelian west Africa, not other parts of west Africa or other parts of the African continent. And it is very in-depth. Someone without at least some prior knowledge about west African history might find themselves lost in a few parts.

https://www.amazon.com/African-Dominion-History-Empire-Medieval/dp/0691177422

I would also recommend a book called The Golden Rhinoceros: Histories of the African Middle Ages by François-Xavier Fauvelle, that was also published in 2018. Although I don't agree with certain things in Fauvelle's book and the style of the book is a bit "casual" in some places (the book is somewhere between a formal academic work and a popular history book in its style), it is a broad and interesting survey, by a professional historian (so as far as meeting academic standards there isn't really anything to worry about) of select places and incidents in precolonial African history during a time period that corresponds approximately to the Middle Ages in Europe. I think that by reading the sources in there and Fauvelle's commentary/analysis you could get an idea of which area or topic you might want to look into further. It's basically a look at select places and people of interest in different geographical areas of Africa, and their historical significance.

The Golden Rhinoceros
Thank you very much! I did find Gomez's book while searching for something to read, and since he is in New York I might even try to speak with him after reading the book. Thank you very much!
 
Feb 2011
13,609
Perambulating in St James' Park
#7
LINKS AND FURTHER READING




Amira Bennison at the University of Cambridge

Marie Rodet at SOAS

Kevin MacDonald at University College London

West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song – British Library

Sorotomo: A Forgotten Malian Capital?

Mali Empire - Wikipedia

Musa I of Mali - Wikipedia



READING LIST:

R. A. Austen (ed.), In Search of Sunjata: The Mande Oral Epic as History, Literature and Performance (Indiana University Press, 1999)

Stephen Belcher, Epic Traditions of Africa (Indiana University Press, 1999)

David C. Conrad (ed.), Sunjata: A West African Epic of the Mande Peoples (Hackett Publishing Company, 2004)

Ross E. Dunn, The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century (University of California Press, 2004)

Roxanne Euben, Journeys to the Other Shore: Muslim and Western Travelers in Search of Knowledge (Princeton University Press, 2008)

Said Hamdum & Noel King (eds.), Ibn Battuta in Black Africa (first published 1994; Markus Wiener Publishers, 2012)

John Hunwick, West Africa, Islam and the Arab World (Markus Wiener Publishers, 2006)

Nehemia Levtzion & Jay Spaulding, Medieval West Africa: Views from Arab Scholars and Merchants (Markus Wiener Publishers, 2002)

Nehemia Levtzion, Ancient Ghana and Mali (Methuen, 1973)

N. Levtzion & J. Hopkins, Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History (Cambridge University Press, 1981)

D. T. Niane, Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali (first published 1965; Longman, 2006)

Roland Oliver (ed.), The Cambridge History of Africa, Vol.3 (Cambridge University Press, 1977), especially ‘The hegemony of Mali in the Western Sudan’ by N. Levtzion

F. D. Sisoko (trans. J. W. Johnson), Son-Jara: The Mande Epic: Mandekan/English Edition with notes and Commentary (Indiana University Press, 2004)

Bamba Suso & Banna Kanute, Sunjata: Gambian Versions of the Mande Epic (Penguin Classics, 1999)
 
Likes: Son Of RA
Feb 2019
4
New York, NY
#8
LINKS AND FURTHER READING




Amira Bennison at the University of Cambridge

Marie Rodet at SOAS

Kevin MacDonald at University College London

West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song – British Library

Sorotomo: A Forgotten Malian Capital?

Mali Empire - Wikipedia

Musa I of Mali - Wikipedia



READING LIST:

R. A. Austen (ed.), In Search of Sunjata: The Mande Oral Epic as History, Literature and Performance (Indiana University Press, 1999)

Stephen Belcher, Epic Traditions of Africa (Indiana University Press, 1999)

David C. Conrad (ed.), Sunjata: A West African Epic of the Mande Peoples (Hackett Publishing Company, 2004)

Ross E. Dunn, The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century (University of California Press, 2004)

Roxanne Euben, Journeys to the Other Shore: Muslim and Western Travelers in Search of Knowledge (Princeton University Press, 2008)

Said Hamdum & Noel King (eds.), Ibn Battuta in Black Africa (first published 1994; Markus Wiener Publishers, 2012)

John Hunwick, West Africa, Islam and the Arab World (Markus Wiener Publishers, 2006)

Nehemia Levtzion & Jay Spaulding, Medieval West Africa: Views from Arab Scholars and Merchants (Markus Wiener Publishers, 2002)

Nehemia Levtzion, Ancient Ghana and Mali (Methuen, 1973)

N. Levtzion & J. Hopkins, Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History (Cambridge University Press, 1981)

D. T. Niane, Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali (first published 1965; Longman, 2006)

Roland Oliver (ed.), The Cambridge History of Africa, Vol.3 (Cambridge University Press, 1977), especially ‘The hegemony of Mali in the Western Sudan’ by N. Levtzion

F. D. Sisoko (trans. J. W. Johnson), Son-Jara: The Mande Epic: Mandekan/English Edition with notes and Commentary (Indiana University Press, 2004)

Bamba Suso & Banna Kanute, Sunjata: Gambian Versions of the Mande Epic (Penguin Classics, 1999)
Thank you very much for this comprehensive reading list. I'll be sure to browse through it, and use it as a reference if I land on Mandingue. Thanks!
 

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