ch14 - Chapter 14 African Civilization and the Spread of...

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Chapter 14 African Civilization and the Spread of Islam CHAPTER SUMMARY. Africa below the Sahara for long periods had only limited contact with the civilizations of the Mediterranean and Asia. Between 800 and 1500 C.E. the frequency and intensity of contacts increased. Social, religious, and technological changes influenced African life. The spread of Islam in Africa linked its regions to the outside world through trade, religion, and politics. State building in Africa was influenced both by indigenous and Islamic inspiration. States like Mali and Songhay built upon military power and dynastic alliances. City-states in western and eastern Africa were tied to larger trading networks. African civilizations built less clearly on prior precedent than other postclassical societies. Older themes, such as Bantu migration, persisted. Parts of Africa south of the Sahara entered into the expanding world network; many others remained in isolation. African Societies: Diversity and Similarities. Although Africans shared aspects of language and belief, their large continent’s vast size and cultural diversity made diversity inevitable. Political forms varied from hierarchical states to "stateless" societies organized on kinship principles and lacking concentration of power and authority. Both centralized and decentralized forms existed side by side, and both were of varying size. Christianity and Islam sometimes influenced political and cultural development. Stateless Societies. Stateless peoples were controlled by lineages or age sets. They lacked concentrated authority structures, but at times incorporated more peoples than their more organized neighbors. In the West African forest secret societies were important in social life and could limit rulers' authority. The main weakness of stateless societies was their delayed ability to respond to outside pressures, mobilize for war, undertake large building projects, or create stability for long distance trade. Common Elements in African Societies. There were many similarities among African diversity. The migration of Bantu speakers gave a common linguistic base for much of Africa. Animistic religion, a belief in natural forces personified as gods, was common, with well-developed concepts of good and evil. Priests guided religious practices for community benefit. African religions provided a cosmology and a guide to ethical behavior. Many Africans believed in a creator deity whose power was expressed through lesser spirits and ancestors. Families, lineages, and clans had an important role in dealing with gods. Deceased ancestors were a link to the spiritual world; they retained importance after world religions appeared. African economies were extremely diversified.
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ch14 - Chapter 14 African Civilization and the Spread of...

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