Introduction Africa is the second largest continent in the world with a vast number of historical cultures and societies. While there are great variances in the social, political, and economic features of these different societies, a commonality is that they were greatly affected by the trade networks they were part of, and the human interactions that those networks facilitated. These trade networks were in turn affected by the political geography of ancient African societies. This commonality leads us to propose the following thesis: While trade networks facilitated the spread of culture in the African city-states and kingdoms, their ability to do so was strictly controlled by their geographical location. As an aid to answering this thesis, we use our chapter theme questions:Cross-cultural interaction – How might trade influence the spread of culture?Geography – How might the cultures and traditions of people be influenced by the geographical area in which they live?Because so many societies and civilizations have existed throughout the history of Africa, a question of how to analyse this may come up. To make a thorough analysis, we decided to not only choose some major civilizations to prove our thesis, (SHOW ON BOARD)but also to set a framework to further elaborate on, by looking at the ideas of different specialized historians, like Elizabeth Isichei.Historian – Elizabeth Isichei Elizabeth Isichei is not only a professor and historian specializing in the history of Africa, she is also the author of multiple books. An example, and the book that we used to find information on our topic, is called A History of African Societies. In this book, Isichei expresses that “No single model does justice to the complexity of a multidimensional past….” meaning that history of different societies are so incredibly complex with endlessly many aspects involved, that they cannot be compared perfectly. She then continues with, “Perhaps the most important is ecology, the interaction between African communities and their very different environments.” This is almost a direct reflection of our thesis, which states that the geographical location and trade are connected and have huge importance in the development and process of history. By “ecology” and different “environments”, she is referring to some of the aspects of geography as well as the relations between humans and their environment, and how it affects them as a society. And when talking about “interaction between African communities,” one can infer that she is referring to trade – not only as in trade goods, but also the aspects of cultures and ideologies that were shared. Historian – John IliffeJohn Iliffe is an author and a historian who wrote Africans – the history of a continent, and with his idea as a guideline, we will develop our own interpretation and analysis. On page 4 of his book, Iliffe states that after climatic change created desert conditions in the Sahara, sub-saharan Africa occupied a unique position of partial isolation, which is indeed true. In regards to this, he says that, “It developed unique cultures unaffected by the iron-using technology, domestic animals, disease patterns, trading relationships, religions, and alphabetic literacy that sub-saharan Africa partially shared with the Eurasian core.” He is essentially claiming that when a region is isolated, their culture is very independent and unique, due to the lack of influence from other cultures. Taking that, you can look at our societies and understand how much trade changed and contributed to the culture of the Swahili coast, Kush, and Mali. Without commercial connections or trade from their trade networks, they would doubtlessly have had completely different outcomes. They would be much more unique and local, rather than the many international aspects they have today, including language, religion, and ideologies.From Iliffe’s statement, one can also identify two key geographical/politically geographical factors that affected and shaped the societies within Africa, more specifically, sub-saharan Africa. The first one is topography and climate. Because the Sahara is a desert that occupies more than one fourth of the continent, travelling across it was not ideal at the time, though it was done. Additionally, the climate in many areas of Africa did not have suitable living conditions, resulting in a low population density, which is the second factor, and what leads me on to one of Ancient Africa’s characteristics, which I will be discussing at a further point. (SWITCH SLIDE)KushKush was one of the first civilizations to settle in the Nile River Valley, emerging in 1800 BCE in the Nubia region, just south of the Egypt. With the Nile River running through the middle, as well as Egypt up North, and finally the Red Sea close by to the east, the Kushites had easy access to many trading opportunities. Up until 710 BCE, when Kush conquered Upper Egypt, it was highly practical for Kush to trade with Egypt, due to their close proximity to each other. Kush was a flourishing, peaceful kingdom, rich and vibrant in commercial connections and trade. As opposed to fighting against its neighbouring Kingdom of Egypt, they grew rich off of each other through trade, resulting in great wealth and internal and external peace for Kush. Though there were of course minor differences, the social class structures of the two societies were also similar, with Pharaohs as leaders followed by nobles/governors, artisans, farmers, laborers, and finally slaves. Kushite, also known as Meroitic, was the language spoken during the Kush kingdom, and as most of you will notice from the written alphabet here, it was heavily influenced by Egyptian writing and hieroglyphs, as a result of cultural exchange. The fact that the confluence of the White Nile and the Blue Nile was located within the kingdom also gave them access to a bountiful number of trade routes, of which they took advantage and used as a tool to build up their prosperity. With the Red Sea close by and with the arrival of Greek merchants throughout the region, they could expand from their dependency on local trade, and move on to international trade. They exported goods to the Mediterranean world and Greek trading colonies as well as imported from the Red Sea to barges on the Nile.Through this, they developed a commercially supported economy. Architecture found today in the Kush region, are results of historical ideological trade. Pyramids were built by rulers of both Kush and Egyptians. They both used stone carvings to commemorate important buildings and events. (SWITCH SLIDE)MaliMali was one of the most successful, wealthy, and most well-known African empires, and reached its peak during the 1300’s under the rule of Mansa Musa. Mali is known as one of the world’s largest producers of gold until the 1500’s, producing up to two thirds of the world’s supply. Gold was a natural resource of theirs, on which there was a high demand, resulting in a large gold trading industry for them. It was situated in the West, near the edge of the Niger river, which allowed Mali to participate in the river’s trade network in West Africa. However, it was also on the eastern edge of the desert, which made its city Taghaza a major Saharan desert trading post. They also controlled the trans-saharan gold and salt trade, to which traders from all over the continent would come for commercial businesses, on which Mali’s wealth and control depended. Because many Arabs and muslim traders participated in the trans-saharan trade, some started moving to Mali, bringing their religion of Islam, along with the Arabic language through the Quran. This was one of the earliest introductions of written language that could be seen in trading cities in Mali and along the Niger river, and was a receipt of the trade network that reached to the arabian peninsula. Timbuktu was the most well-known Mali city. Due to the acts of the powerful leader Mansa Musa, it became a center for Islamic study with a University and a thorough and large library collection, in which up to 700 manuscripts have been found. These serve as a primary source and proof that a highly developed civilization took place in West Africa during the Middle Ages.(SWITCH SLIDE)SwahiliContinuing to our last example society, we will be discussing the Swahili coast. The part of the coast that we are referring to is located on the coast of modern day Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique, as well as nearby islands like Zanzibar. We will primarily be focusing on the time period of 800’s to the 1500’s which is when commercial exchanges were highly active in the region. It can be seen that trade was active from the ninth century, from travellers that wrote about their travels, such as Arab explorers Ibn Battuta, Buzurg b. Shahriyâr, and Sindbâd the Sailor.The key factor that we believe shaped East Africa’s Swahili coast civilization was the Indian Ocean Trade, which was a series of paths and routes along the Indian Ocean that was used for international trade. This was one of the biggest and most important trade networks in the world, at least before the 16th century, and included areas from all over southern Asia and Africa such as China, India, Southeast Asia, Arabia, as well as East Africa. This was obviously due to their geographical locations in correlation to each other. These areas have the majority of the biggest coasts that border the Indian Ocean, as one can see here. The Indian Ocean Trade introduced East Africa to new cultures from as early as the second century, and then grew dramatically from the 9th century onwards. This type of international interaction had never been seen before on such a large scale. The first settlements on the coast were not consciously made for the practicality of or with the intention of possible international trade. It started out with farmers, fishermen, and iron workers, as opposed to merchants. However, because of the East coast’s geographical location, the trade as well as the discovery of monsoon winds triggered market towns to develop along the coast and they naturally came to participate in the on-going indian ocean trade network. They were not only in close proximity to the raw materials in inland East Africa, but also had access to foreign goods because of their location on the coast.It was perhaps their most efficient way to travel and connect with different cultures at the time, which is where we see a big difference from for example Kush, and Mali, who traded with their neighbouring communities and/or across the Sahara. Travel within the continent was sometimes quite difficult and time consuming due to the topography and lack of good in-land routes. The rivers that led to the center of the continent were often rather unnavigable compared to in West Africa, and traveling across the Indian Ocean with a boat only took ? of the time it takes to cross the Saharan desert by camel. Finally, the consistent monsoon winds was a geographical factor that added reliability to the source of transportation; in November-February the winds blew northeast, while in April-September they blew southwest. Thus, ocean trade routes were far more effective for the Swahili coast than their inland counterparts. Due to the clear route down along the east coast, the arabs had ease travelling from the Arabian peninsula down to the Swahili coastal city-states. Therefore, the Arabs were the most frequent traders with the swahili coast, resulting in a major cultural exchange. With the settlements of Arabs on the coast, a tradition developed, where the Arab or Persian founder of a city-state married a local woman, representing a clear mixture of cultures. With urban and agricultural communities coming together, it created and set a rich Swahili culture.The primary goods that were exported from the coast included ivory, iron, and gold from Zimbabwe. Of course goods were imported, such as weapons, spices from India, and porcelain and silk from China, all of which can still be seen today. There are even things like bananas, and the way xylophones are designed and tuned, which you can see in Africa today but are native to Asia.The coast was of course not the only part of East Africa that traded. In fact, rather than travelling for trade as merchants, many Swahili people were brokers. Because of the practical location, they became a major trading center. They became the “middlemen” between the continental Africa and other Asian traders. As an example, the demand for gold was high and wanted by foreign merchants. But rather than them travelling to Zimbabwe, where gold was mined and produced, they could get gold from the Swahili coastal brokers, which would’ve already traded for it with Zimbabwe, with the use of camels.However a much larger exchange, some could argue, was made through trade. The Swahili language is a great example of something that came from the arabs and is still used today. During the 800’s, when foreign merchant families and adventurers moved to the coast and surrounding islands to make money, many Arab and Persian foreigners were living together with the locals. With the mixture of cultures, the lingua franca Swahili developed. Today, Swahili is spoken as a first language over hundreds of miles of coast. It’s is a mixture between a local African Bantu language with heavy arabic influences and Arabic and Persian loan words. In fact the world Swahili is an arabic word which means “the coast.” Additionally, the number system used in the Swahili region, as well as the religion of Islam, was brought by the Arabs and adapted by the Swahili locals.(SWITCH SLIDE)Social Structures – Karl MarxThough little is known about the Swahili government, there was definitely an apparent social class structure. The broad and general primary structure started with local nobility ruling the city-states, followed by aristocrats. Next were the common citizens, which included merchants, farmers, fishermen, and foreigners that resided there. The lowest class consisted of slaves. Slave trade was definitely apparent on the Swahili coast, but the slaves were supposedly only exported to foreign traders, rather than used within the local society. There were also different positions within the government. As stated in the Chronicle of the Kilwa city-state, the highest point was of course the sultan, also known as a muslim king or ruler, which is evidence for the immense influence that arabs had on the Swahili culture. This was followed by the military leader, prime minister, police chief, cheif justice, and functionaries such as governors and tax collectors. This is an indicator than the government and political system was highly developed on the Swahili coast. Within the social classes, the nobility and aristocracy controlled capital in the society, while the lower classes, being common folk and slaves, had to do as they were told and had little chance of gaining wealth. This relates to the historian Karl Marx’s idea that society can be seen as consisting of class structures with groups either controlling capital and labour, or producing capital and labour. In other words, the oppressors versus the oppressed, which in this case is the nobles and aristocrats versus the common citizens and slaves. (SWITCH SLIDE)Characteristics:From the things that we have just gone through, one can interpret the main characteristics of the society were. The first main one is of course:City-statesA major characteristic that influenced African cultures was smaller states such as city-states, which was a result of their low population density. The low population density is what molded the political systems of Africa and led to city-states being formed. This is because lower population density meant that there was less wealth to gain through taxation of the population, which meant that large parts of the land outside of the capital were less valuable to rulers than for instance in Europe, which had a much higher population density. That meant that political leaders didn’t have strong incentives to take control over large portions of the land outside the capital. This is why the most common type of political unit in ancient African civilizations was city-states, which can be defined as a city that with its surrounding territory forms an independent state and, though kingdoms and empires did exist, these were far more common. On the East Swahili coast, city-states were the predominant political system, while empires such as Mali was an exception. International trade is the next major characteristic of ancient African societiesThe reliance on commercial relations, or international trade, is something that molded the societies of ancient Africa. Because of the practical positioning in relation to certain trade networks, the ability to trade and interact with other markets and cultures was facilitated. Trade was such a large and significant part of the development of the societies because it is a major factor for their diversity. This caused the societies to adapt many cultural norms. Mali and the east coastal city-states are an example of this, as they were heavily influenced by the arab culture, due to the spread of Islam through large trade networks. (SWITCH SLIDE)Significant eventA significant event that occured due to the success of the Indian ocean trade network was in 1498, when Vasco da Gama arrived in the Swahili city-state Mombasa. The Europeans had taken interest in the Eastern markets and they, specifically the Portuguese, immediately wanted to take part, due to the lack of natural resources their geographical location had to offer. The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was the first to arrive at the coast, while on a journey around Africa. Very few things that the Portuguese or Europe in general offered to trade or export was needed by other countries and regions involved, but still wanting to participate, the Portuguese took action to enter as pirates with cannons and firearms, and extremely advanced boats. Seeking monopoly over the trade network, they plundered ships and local producers of their trade goods. They took over many ports and cities and were especially against muslims, as they viewed them as enemies. Unfortunately, many cities on the East African Swahili coast were bombarded and declined as a result of the Portuguese attack. Vasco da Gama first obtained an alliance with the Swahili city of Malindi. Another powerful act from the Portuguese was when they took control over and built a fort in the city-state Mombasa in 1593. At the time, it was the most powerful and dominant one on the Swahili coast, which essentially lead to them gaining control over many of the rest of the big city-states. From then on, many Portuguese trade settlements as well as colonies were formed along the coast, which signified the end of an era for the Swahili coast. The arrival of Vasco da Gama was the first step and the start of the destruction of many city-states such as Zanzibar, Kilwa, and Mombasa, that had been built up for so long. Though the Portuguese attacked the civilizations, they, also, made an impact on the culture of the Swahili society in the following ways, much like the arabs and persians had done. Some things like certain Swahili words and bullfighting, are examples of concepts and traditions brought through the Portuguese.(SWITCH SLIDE)Ibn BattutaIbn Battuta was a Moroccan Muslim scholar and an explorer who travelled through Africa during the early 1400’s and wrote a memoir about his travels 20 years later, which many historians have found useful as evidence. The name of the memoir is shortly known as The Travels of Ibn Battuta and through his works, we get insight of different societies through his eyes as a visitor, that is to say unbiased. The fact that he had the ability and motivation to travel and document his journeys proves that there was a genuine interest to explore and learn about different societies and cultures. He travelled through many parts of Africa, including Mali and many of the major city/states in East Africa. When visiting the Swahili city-state of Kilwa in 1331, he described it as, “one of the most beautiful and well constructed towns in the world.” This was after both trade and Islam had become characteristics of the society, suggesting the importance of their roles in the flourishment of the society.(SWITCH SLIDE)Primary Source – Paul WheatleyAn archaeological site located in Shanga in the Lamu archipelago on Pate island of the East coast of Africa is a primary source to this period because it has remains from ancient Africa. Mosques, roughly aligned with Mecca, muslim coinage, pottery, glass and beads are among some of the findings. The mosque was originally the first mosque to be found on the coast, which was rebuilt nine times, each time gradually more advanced and substantial. Though it is unknown whether it was built by locals or foreigners, this is evidence for an influence as well as the importance of Islam in the society. Similarly, the muslim coinage, pottery, glass, and beads, suggest trade with the muslim world as well as potentially Asian traders and the use of coins. Paul Wheatley theorized that the origin of al urban communities is not commercial but their ceremonial complex. While this site shows that religion, an example of ceremony, was of out most importance to Swahili culture, it was not the origin for the city. Rather, these communities began as trade hubs.(SWITCH SLIDE)ConclusionTo conclude our analysis: By looking at the Ancient civilizations on the Swahili coast, in Kush, and in Mali, one can see how strongly trade had an effect on their development and flourishment. Their geographical placement allowed them to take part in important trade networks within the continent and between Europe and Asia, which would lead them to prosper. This shaped the societies and is the reason for some of their still existing cultural traits such as the arabic language, Islamic religion, and socioeconomic structures. The ancient African history also shows how trade affected them not only in cultural and practical exchanges, but also on a larger scale such as the invasion of the Portuguese, which was in relation to trade, though not directly. Therefore, geographical location is important in a society’s development, as it affects the trade routes in which a society is located, and from there on molds the society.