The Negroland Revisited. Discovery and Invention of the Sudanese Middle Ages, by Pekka Masonen
THE NEGROLAND REVISITED. DISCOVERY AND INVENTION OF THE SUDANESE MIDDLE AGES by Pekka Masonen
While there are many works describing the European encounter and exploration of sub-Saharan Africa, a comprehensive history of African historiography is still lacking. This volume is offered as a contribution to that fied of study. This volume examines the development of African historiography in Europe with special emphasis on literature describing the ancient West African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhay, during the "Sudanese Middle Ages" as the period of their flourishing (c.600-1600 AD) is often called.
Chronologically this volume begins with the introduction of some relevant medieval writers and proceeds through the chronicles of the fifteenth-century Portuguese discoveries to the age of high imperialism. The subject is approached from three points of view: first, how the historical information concerning the early Sudanese empires has gradually accumulated in European literature in the course of time; secondly, how the availability, and unavailability, of certain primary sources has affected the works of European scholars; thirdly, how certain presumptions, racial and religious, cultural and political, have, whether consciously or unconsciously, influenced the way in which this African historiography has been constructed and interpreted in Europe. It is argued that the full flowering of the modern historiography of Africa in the mid-nineteenth century was closely related to the contemporary development of Orientalism and the advance in European exploration of the continent.
Close attention is also paid to the methdological decline of African historiography after the colonial conquest and especially to the creative use of the oral traditions by colonial historians. Although several important texts and pioneering authors are introduced, the main focus is on the works of Leo Africanus, William Desborough Cooley and Heinrich Barth, who laid the foundation of our knowledge of the ancient Sudanese empires.
Pekka Masonen: The Negroland Revisited. Discovery and Invention of the Sudanese Middle Ages. Helsinki 2000: The Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, Humaniora 309. 599 pp. (soft). ISSN 1239-6982, ISBN: 951-41-0886-8. Price 180 FIM + postage and packing.
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