Module Seven (B)

Introduction: African History; The Era of Global Encroachment

 Overview: The impact that European involvement has had on Africa since the 15th century CE is essential to understanding Africa's history during this period and contemporary issues in Africa. Historians refer to the period from the 15th century to the present as the era of modern history. Beginning in the 15th century, Europeans became involved in trade and exploration in Africa. This developed into the Atlantic Slave Trade, one of the most horrific and world-altering episodes in African history. European interest in Africa continued even as the Atlantic Slave Trade was coming to an end, leading European nations to carve up the African continent into colonies. The impact of these hundreds of years of European involvement significantly influenced the state of African nations when they finally achieved independence in the 20th century. However, it is important to realize that European involvement in Africa is not the only important factor to look at in Africa's history. African history in the last 500 years is very rich and diverse -a period of immense interaction within the continent and on a global scale. This lesson highlights the impact of Europe on Africa, but bear in mind that while this impact is very significant, it is not the only factor in Africa's more recent history.

PURPOSE: Module 7B: African History; the Era of Global Encroachment will discuss the more recent history of Africa from approximately the 15th century to the present. This period of African history is marked by European involvement in Africa -first through the early trade era (including the Atlantic Slave Trade), then through colonialism, and finally during the era of African independence. This module will look at some of the motivations, methods and impacts of European involvement in Africa.

The focus in this module on interaction between Europe and Africa runs the risk of giving students the impression that there were not other factors and interactions in African history during this time period. Indeed, Africa continued to be in contact with certain regions of Asia and also had significant interactions within the African continent itself. Yet the presence of European powers in Africa from the 15th century to the present was undeniably a factor that significantly altered the course of African history. Economically, culturally, linguistically, politically, environmentally, and artistically, Europe has had a major impact on all regions of Africa. Yet Africans have asserted themselves too to maintain their own ways of life or blend them with the new European influences. In many ways, this history of interaction between Africa and Europe has made Africa what she is today.


  1. Understanding of how the Atlantic Slave Trade began, operated, and came to an end.
  2. Understanding the impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade and how it has affected the world today.
  3. Understanding of European colonialism in Africa and its impact.
  4. Understanding of the post-colonial period in Africa, including independence, new political regimes, and social change.



  1. How did the Atlantic Slave Trade start, how was it maintained, and how did it end?
  2. Who were the participants (willingly and unwillingly) in the Atlantic Slave Trade, and how did it affect their lives?
  3. How and why did European nations colonize Africa?
  4. What consequences and changes did colonialism in Africa bring?
  5. What was the transition like from colonialism to independence in Africa?
  6. What are legacies of the colonial period that Africa still has to deal with?

Begin this module with Activity One or go to one of the other activities

Suggested Readings and Historical Sources

 Teachers Notes