The History of African Cities South of the Sahara: From the Origins to Colonization

Outstanding Academic Book of the Year 2005, CHOICE Magazine

Cities have existed in sub-Saharan Africa since antiquity. But only now are historians and archaeologists rediscovering their rich heritage: the ancient ruins of Great Zimbabwe and Congo, the harbor cities at the Indian Ocean, the capitals of the Bantu Kingdoms, the Atlantic cities from the 16th to the 18th centuries, and the urban revolutions in the 19th century.

Mercantile cities opened Africa to the world, Islamic cities became centers of scholarship and the trans-Saharan trade, Creole cities appeared after the first contact with Europeans, and Bantu cities of the hinterland reacted against them. The author has gone through vast numbers of archival records and conducted independent field research to analyze and describe the rich history of African cities even long before imperial colonization began, and she continues her story until the time of urban reorganization during industrialization. The result is a colorful panorama of urban lifestyles including unique examples of architecture and lasting traditions of ethnic, cultural, religious, and commercial forms of co-existence. This edition is translated by Mary Baker.

Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch (University of Paris and SUNY Binghamton) is the author of six books, including Africa South of the Sahara: Endurance and Change and African Women: A Modern History.