Global History of Africa



Historically and considering its early integration into oceanic networks, the geographic position of Sub-Saharan Africa between the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans is, to date, still not reflected as it should be. The objective of this programme is to rethink exchanges between the African continent and the rest of the World, a history which, for too long, has been reduced to the slave trade in the 18th century and European colonisation in the 19th century, two relatively recent phenomena, marking a largely traumatic integration imposed from outside. It is only recently that the history of the Atlantic and that of the Indian Ocean, two histories which made it possible to greatly renew historiography during the last decades – to the point of constituting the two privileged paradigms of large scale history, i.e. political model circulation on the one hand and economic trade networks on the other – managed to give way to the African continent, when they did not reduce it to a passive and peripheral role with the acceleration of intercontinental trade. Yet, contrary to the belief inherited from colonial history, links between Africa and the rest of the world existed well before the arrival of Europeans, at a time when the continent, South of the Sahara, was marked by isolation. Thanks to inputs from historical archaeology, today we know that the Sahelian and East-African zones were permeable, facilitating the wide circulation of objects and representations. Therefore this programme intends to rethink the degree of integration of the African continent into the rest of the world between the 11th and 17th centuries. To this end, we will focus on relations between Oceanic and Saharan interfaces on the one hand, and political and social configurations of inner Africa on the other. In the end, we will need to go beyond the commercial service exchange model, and propose a typology of interaction forms between Africa and other continents. By adding the political and cultural dimensions to the study of these material connections, our intention is also to contribute to answering so-called “classic” questions on African history, such as demographic dynamics, the constitution of political formations or increasing social complexity

ANR and USR Afrique