Module Seven (A) Overview


This module takes a look at what history is and what history tells us about Africa prior to the 16th century CE. History is commonly defined as a record or analysis of change for a given society, nation-state, region, etc. Until recently, Africa has frequently been portrayed in the West as cultures and societies sedimented in time and space before the arrival of Europeans on the continent in the 15th century CE. African peoples were also portrayed as homogeneous, and the tremendous diversity amongst people who live and have lived on the African continent was neglected. As historians have more recently gone back to reanalyze African history, they have better represented the fact that Africa has changed over time, and that it has been a place of diverse groups of people throughout a long and rich history. Unfortunately, African history has often focused on a few great civilizations and excluded the study of other regions and social organizations. In this module, we will look at five of the great civilizations in early African history as well as discuss the history of other regions of Africa contemporary to these great civilizations. As you move through this module, you should grasp a sense of the rich, diverse, and dynamic history of Africa, as well as, the tools that historians use to be able to tell us this history.

This module is divided up into five activities. The first activity will examine the tools historians use to tell us about African history. The second will look at the ancient Egyptian civilization in the Nile valley between approximately 3100 and 332 BCE. In addition, there will be a discussion of what was happening in other parts of Africa at the same time. The third activity will examine the Ghana, Mali, and Songhay kingdoms-three important great kingdoms of West Africa. As in activity two, this activity will include a discussion of the history of other parts of Africa at the same time. The fourth activity will look at the kingdom of Great Zimbabwe from approximately the 12th to the 15th century CE, as well as, glimpses of other regions of Africa at the same time. Finally, the fifth activity will be a review for bringing together the information learned in this module.

Activities 1-5

  1. How do we know Africa has a history? (Engage)
  2. History of Africa during the time of the great Egyptian civilization (Explore)
  3. History of Africa during the time of the great West African kingdoms (Expand)
  4. History of Africa during the time of the kingdom of Great Zimbabwe(Expand)
  5. Bringing it all Together (Evaluate)

Module Worksheets

Printable Resources

Suggested Readings and Historical Sources

Begin Module 7A with Activity One.