Africa's Past, Our Future

Africa's Past, Our Future

Africa's Past, Our Future

Africa's Past, Our Future


Africa's Past, Our Future engages the history of the African continent through the perspective of global issues such as political instability, economic development, and climate change. Since the past may offer alternative models for thinking about our collective future, this book promotes an appreciation for African social, economic, and political systems that have endured over the long-term and that offer different ways of thinking about a sustainable future. Introducing readers to the wide variety of sources from which African history is constructed, the book's ten chapters cover human evolution, the domestication of plants and animals, climate change, social organization, the slave trade and colonization, development, and contemporary economics and politics.


In the past it has not mattered greatly what people believed about themselves
and their societies, since nothing that followed from these beliefs could have
endangered the species. Man is now rapidly approaching the point—and it
will come in the lifetimes of his children—when, unless he takes survival
consciously into his own hands, he may not survive as a species. This requires a
revolution in thinking as serious as the Copernican revolution.

Robin Fox, Encounter with Anthropology

In fact, in ecological terms, the current situation is an extreme deviation from
any of the durable, more “normal,” states of the world over the span of human
history, indeed over the span of earth history. If we lived 700 or 7,000 years,
we would understand this on the basis of experience or memory alone. But for
creatures who live a mere 70 years or so, the study of the past, distant and re
cent, is required to know what the range of possibilities includes, and to know
what might endure.

John McNeill, Something New under the Sun

Our largest stories are those of cosmology. Whatever tales we tell about the
origin and flow of the universe, and about our place in the scheme of things,
will shape our sense of how we should behave.

Scott Russell Sanders, A Conservationist Manifesto

In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams.

Nigerian proverb

THIS BOOK IS based on the belief that our future welfare depends on a deep and informed understanding of the human past. The African proverb above suggests that the way forward is through broad understanding rather than narrow thinking. To paraphrase writer Scott Russell Sanders’s words, this book tells a new story about our civilization’s place in the scheme of things, using African history. Africans, our earliest human ancestors, offer us the longest perspective on history of any people on the planet, and they challenge some fundamental modern (and sometimes Western) assumptions about how human beings have lived together for millennia.

In the first epigraph, anthropologist Robin Fox argues that the stories humans tell about the past are more critical than ever. In the new era, the Anthropocene . . .

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