Africans, Early European Contacts, and the Emergent Diaspora

David Northrup

in The Oxford Handbook of the Atlantic World

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199210879
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Africans, Early European Contacts, and the Emergent Diaspora


Although Atlantic Africa was the last of the continent's shores to establish regular overseas connections, many aspects of its interactions mirrored those of East and North Africa. Ghana's successors in the Western Sudan, the empires of Mali and Songhai, continued to assure safety, stability, and wealth to Arab and Berber traders from the north. Trans-Saharan trade supplied books and paper to the centres of Islamic learning at Timbuktu and elsewhere. In 1591, however, the power, wealth, and expansive policies of the Songhai rulers provoked a retaliatory invasion by the sultan of Morocco. This article explores the first two centuries of contacts in the African Atlantic under three interconnected and somewhat overlapping headings: the establishment of diplomatic relations, the growth of commercial exchanges, and the development of intercultural and cross-cultural relations. In each case it notes the different patterns that developed in Upper Guinea, the Gold Coast, the Niger Delta, and West Central Africa.

Keywords: Atlantic; Africa; Ghana; Sudan; trade; contacts; diplomatic relations; Upper Guinea; commercial exhanges; cross-cultural relations

Article.  8010 words. 

Subjects: History ; African History

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