Unit Two: Studying Africa through the Social Studies
Module 7A: Early African History, Until 16th Century CE
Activity One: How Do We Know Africa Has a History?-- Engage
It is important to ask the question of how we know about history. Obviously, we cannot go back in time to observe and ask questions about the lives of people who are no longer alive. Yet people have left clues and records behind that historians can use to learn about what the past might have been like. This module will examine some of the tools that historians use to find and interpret these clues about and records of the past. It is important to remember that historians are always finding more clues and records, and each historian will have his/her own unique interpretation of the past. This creates a dynamic dialogue amongst historians as to what really happened in history, which is always being revised and reinterpreted. Yet there are some basic tools that can be used in this investigation to lead them along the way in understanding changes that have occurred over time for a particular place or people.
It is important to note that each historian has his/her own perspective and biases that will be brought to his/her analysis of history. As you continue with this exercise, you will be asked to think about how your own perspective differs, not only from other students in the room, but also from people in another time or another culture.
Imagine you are being sent to particular region in Africa to learn about its history. Let's take Jos, Nigeria as an example. Today, Jos is a large city in Nigeria, located in the center of the country (see map below). Upon arriving in Jos, how would you start to learn about its history? What historical tools and strategies might you use to learn about the past? Take a few minutes to list as many as you can think of in your Student Journal, then share your ideas with the rest of the class in a brief discussion led by your teacher.
Click here to compare your ideas with our suggestions.