Like the Man said.
My interest for African history dates back to the middle of the ’80s, when I was about 10, 11 years old. It was ignited by 3 factors.
Les Deux Princes
The 1rst one was a comic book series titled “Les Deux Princes” (in English: “The 2 princes”). It was published in Calao, a magazine quite popular among francophone West African schoolchildren of the time. “Les Deux Princes” was inspired by the true story of Ali Kolen and Selman Nar, the sons of the king of Gao who freed their kingdom from the domination of Mali, thus inaugurating the rise of the Songhai Empire in the XIVth century. This story motivated me to do some research, mostly out of curiosity, to know how true to the historical facts the plot was.
The 2nd factor was the magazine Afrique Histoire, which provided me the first answers. Afrique Histoire, published in Dakar, Senegal, introduced me to the great African historians from all over the continent. By the time I bought my first issue the magazine was not in print anymore, but in these waning days of the first reign of the Chameleon, Benin was like frozen in time. It was not unusual to find years-old books and magazines in our poorly stocked bookshops. This was especially true for us living inland, hundreds of kilometers away from Cotonou, the economic capital.
The 3rd factor was the General History of Africa.
Our small municipal library – my second home – owned all the volume released at the time. The General History of Africa was a project initiated in the late ‘60s by newly independent African states, with technical assistance from UNESCO. Encompassing the continent as a whole, this was an ambitious attempt at decolonizing the writing of African history. It was groundbreaking in many ways.
First and foremost, a majority of the historians involved were Africans (2/3 of the contributors). The credit list includes all the big names of the African historiography: Ali Mazrui, Amadou Mahtar M’Bow, Cheikh Anta Diop, Djibril Tamsir Niane, Elikia Mbokolo, Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Théophile Obenga, Amadou Hampaté Bâ, Walter Rodney and many others …
Second, the General History of Africa was, to the best of my knowledge, the first work of this scope to propose a global history of our continent, including the Diaspora, North Africa and Madagascar. It shed light on the interactions within the continent and its relations with other parts of the world (the Middle East, Asia and Europe) throughout time.
The General History of Africa counts 8 volumes published from 1979 to 1999:
Volume I : Methodology and African Prehistory
Volume II : Ancient Civilizations of Africa
Volume III : Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century
Volume IV : Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century
Volume V : Africa from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century
Volume VI : Africa in the Nineteenth Century until the 1880s
Volume VII : Africa under Colonial Domination 1880-1935
Volume VIII : Africa since 1935
And the best part? The whole collection is available online in several languages and can be downloaded for free as PDF files from the site of the UNESCO.
So, what are you waiting for? Download The General History of Africa. NOW.