‘Born in Blackness’: Howard French on Africa, Africans and the Modern World

Detail from the Catalan Atlas, a medieval map produced in the 1370s, depicting Mansa Musa of the Mali Empire (Bibliotheque Nationale de France, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).
Detail from the Catalan Atlas, a medieval map produced in the 1370s, depicting Mansa Musa of the Mali Empire (Bibliotheque Nationale de France, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).

The history of Europe’s Age of Exploration and Empire usually follows a familiar narrative. Starting in the late 15th century, European explorers set out to find maritime trade routes to the lucrative spice and textile markets of Asia. Happening by chance upon the “New World” of the Americas, they quickly established colonies whose wealth, mainly in the form of gold and silver, combined with advances in military technology, propelled what would become known as the West to centuries of global dominance that has only begun to wane today. In this narrative, Africa and Africans are all but invisible, except as […]

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