I was wondering if anyone might be aware of any good resources on the history and development of African civilizations? I will of course be seeking council from the Most Wise and Great God Google, but if anyone has suggestions they would be greatly appreciated!

  • Are you looking for a particular time period? I see you tagged this early-modern and ancient-history, but what time frame interests you?
    – ihtkwot
    Mar 21, 2012 at 3:25
  • 1
    Great god of google :) +1
    – Russell
    Mar 21, 2012 at 8:50
  • Given my embarrassing lack of knowledge on Africa, any good book or articles on Africa would suffice. However, I am particularly interested in the view of Africa from its inhabitants, so works on pre-colonial civilization or more recent works from African perspectives would be preferred. Mar 21, 2012 at 14:49
  • I appreciate the links to openlibrary.org rather than linking to a sepcific vendor. Also, I am converting this to a community wiki since it really doesn't fit our question guidelines. Since the information is relevant and of interest to the community, I feel the wiki would be a better fit. May 30, 2012 at 14:13

4 Answers 4


Check out Burns and Collins's A History of Sub Saharan Africa, a general overview. It seemed to tell a lot of the same stories as an into to African History course I took.

John Reader's Africa: A Biography of the Continent was a bit more enjoyable, writing-wise. Still glad I read both for the variance in perspective.

I'd be curious to hear what problems you or other readers find in those books. I also wouldn't mind hearing of a good into book written outside of the US/Europe.


I think the Wikipedia article about Africa's history might be as good an entry point for your research as any other. It's mainly an overview which just shortly mentions the most important kingdoms and civilizations, but it has lots of links presumably (I didn't check them) leading to more detailed articles.


At home I have a nice dog-eared copy of Colin McEverdy's The Penguin Atlas of African History.

Of course Africa is a big place, and things developed fairly independantly north and south of the Sahara for most of its history. But if you are interested in the development all all African civilizations (From Bushman to Arab), this is the best resource I know of.

  • little confused. Do you mean The Penguin Atlas of North AFRICAN History? Apr 4, 2012 at 20:00
  • @BrotherJack lol. Saw that and fixed it. Reload. Cut-n-paste issue.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 4, 2012 at 20:01
  • BTW - I highly reccomend all of Colin's historical atlases. He has his nits, but I found his method of keeping the map static and advancing linerally through history the best way possible for me to learn history. My only complaint is that the poor guy never made one for India before he shuffled off this mortal coil.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 4, 2012 at 20:03

Helen Tilley spent the better part of a decade investigating development in Africa, especially in relation to British Parliamentary funding of resource projects addressing issues like clean water, mosquitos and flooding. Her most recent book, Africa as a Living Laboratory: Empire, Development, and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge, 1870-1950, is a thoroughly-researched and well-written text.

Especially useful is the lengthy appendix providing primary source data taken from British Parliamentary Papers (take a look here).

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