I came across the following passage in Desmond Morris' 1969 book The Human Zoo. In it the author is arguing that sub-saharan Africa contained advanced civilizations prior to the commencement of the cross-atlantic slave trade. Which specific cities (civilizations) and which visitors from the 13th and 14th century may he be referring to?
Let us take just one glimpse at an ancient Negro city in West Africa, as it was seen over three and a half centuries ago by an early Dutch traveller. He wrote:
"The town seemeth to be very great; when you enter into it, you go into a great broad street … seven or eight times broader than Warmes street in Amsterdam … you see many streets on the sides thereof, which also go right forth … The houses in the town stand in good order one close and even with the other, as the houses in Holland stand .. The King’s Court is very great, within it having many great four-square plains, which round about them have galleries … I was so far within the court that I passed over four such great plain, and wherever I looked, still I saw gates upon gates to go into other places …"
Hardly a crude mud-hut village. Nor could the inhabitants of these ancient West African civilisations be described as ferocious, spear-waving savages. As early as the middle of the fourteenth century a sophisticated visitor remarked on the ease of travel and the reliable availability of food and good lodgings for the night. He commented:
"There is complete security in their country. Neither traveller nor inhabitant in it has anything to fear from robbers or men of violence."