Story of Farming 


Development of Farming



European (middle ages)







Development of Cities















































Africa City  Development

This page is raw research notes organized by location in Africa.  The development of African Cites is covered.  

"A popular misconception about Africa is that blacks did not build towns and that they lacked the political sophistication and organization to do so. Most Europeans viewed Africans as living in isolated, unstructured bush communities with little or no understanding of architectural design or appreciation of esthetics in town organization." (pg. XII) (6C)

"It cannot be denied that most sub-Saharan Africans lived, and indeed continue to live, in small villages and hamlets. Yet magnificent towns and cities flourished as well. And only a minority of Africans were completely unaffected by them." (pg. XIII) (6C)

Majority of African towns were agricultural based. Over 70% of the men in the town would commute to fields on a daily basis. (6C)

Mbanza Kongo, capital of Kingdom of Kongo had 30,000 people living there when the Europeans arrived in 1500’s. (6C)

Great Zimbabwe had around 100-150 towns around it which survived off of commerce with the capital city. (6C)

Extensive urbanization occurred along the east coast of Africa in the country of Swahili due to Ivory trade with Asia. (6C)

"Iron technology greatly accelerated the growth of village and town life. Metal tools could be used to fell trees in the humid timberlands. And large human groupings were required for cooperative deforestation. Settlement patterns became more stable with the development of plant domestication and cultivation. The more efficient iron axe, spear, and hoe, together with food plants of higher nutritional value, triggered in certain areas an agricultural revolution which stimulated explosive demographic growth." (pg. 1) (6C)

Many towns and cities grew out of religious or spiritual centers. (6C)

"The prevailing urban ethic in spiritual cities like Great Zimbabwe, Daura, and Ife was based not on the expedient mores of the market place but on the ritual codes defined by the spiritual leader. Cities of moral order were enduring, though they were often surpassed in size and prosperity by cities governed under a commercial and or political ethic." (pg. 6) (6C)

Many cities developed along key trade routes like Katunga which was between the Niger River and the forest. Another,  Old Oyo which was between the Atlantic Coast on the route to Nupe. (6C)

Towns, also like other regions, developed where major political figures made their dwellings. (6C)

"Commerce and hence town development was further complicated in East Africa by seasonal water shortages and the tsetse fly, which attacked animals and rendered them unreliable as conveyors of goods. Consequently, nearly everything had to be carried atop human heads." (pg. 9) (6C)

Cities that were able to survive for a long time were deeply rooted in commerce. Many cities were developed and continued to flourish under charismatic leadership but dwindled after the leader left or died. Other cities like Timbuktu and Djenne survived even after the collapse of the Mali empire and were able to serve as centers for commerce under the next empire. (6C)

"Ironically, war and slave trading also accelerated the tendency toward urbanization in some societies. By the eighteenth century a series of defensive settlements had appeared for the Gambia to Liberia. Mende new-towns in central Sierra Leone were laid out defensively, surrounded by wooden stockades and stake filled ditches." (pg. 18) (6C)

Some villages in Africa were very short lived. Some Zulu villages which were established for political, and military purposes frequently did not outlast their founders. (6C)

"Walling was vitally important consideration in the development of African urban life. Walls gave definition to settlement and prevented uncontrollable urban sprawl. Walls also provided psyche and physical security. . . In northern Nigeria in the early sixteenth century, queen Amina of Zaria constructed a high mud wall extending more than a hundred miles." (pg. 33)(6C)

In most cities there was a second wall which separated the king or town leader from the rest of the town. Between the inter wall and outer defense wall were secondary walls. These secondary walls denied kinship groups and allowed for privacy for extended family groups. (6C)

"From at least the fourteenth century, defense-minded residents of Great Zimbabwe created thirty two foot high elliptical walls of carefully cut stone. . . The outer wall of the Great Enclosure contains some 182,000 cubic feet of stonework and is over eight hundred feet long. The great Enclosure is by far the largest single prehistoric structure in sub-Saharan Africa." (pg. 36)(6C)

Some African towns were oriented in a circle with all the main paths leading to the central area of either a market place or a provincial seat. (6C)

"African society remained essentially agrarian, and the urbanites never completely lost their roots in the earth. Thus, even in town there was a sense of the country. Animals wandered at will, there was an abundance of space, buildings seldom soared more than a story high and ornamental trees often shaded the main streets, avenues, and plazas." (pg. 42)(6C)

Sub-Saharan African towns had at times very high dwellings. The Grassland dwellings of the South African had much lower circular types of dwellings. Most dwellings were made of twigs interwoven with mud for support.

"Rectangular forms had begun to penetrate towns and cites of West African Sudan at a rely period, long before the European conquest." (pg. 61)(6C)

"Private dwelling were often situated according to relationships created by clannic affiliations. And the very design of buildings mirrored not only family and tribal structures but religious, political, economic institutions." (pg. 74) (6C)

"African urban life in general tended to accentuate differences in sociopolitical status. One’s standing in the community was often reflected in house style, building materials, and in come cases the dwelling’s proximity to the royal compound." (pg. 86)(6C)

"Preliterate urban centers had a very limited formal educational apparatus. Most urbanites acquired learning through direct, face-to-face contacts. Youths learned from family members in their compound or from firsthand experience in the streets, marketplace or at work. Public information was diffused by troubadours, street-singers, dancers, actors, or story-tellers. Often each quarter would contain a guild of town criers who transmitted official news from the central administration to their own people." (pg. 109)(6C)

After the influx of the Islamic religion many towns became centers for studies of the religions. For example Timbuktu became an important center of study in their mosque. (6C)

"That so little monumental architecture exists in sub-Saharan Africa is probably a reflection of the difficulty in accumulating the necessary wealth and labor, particularly in societies with underdeveloped monetary systems." (pg. 112)(6C)

"Because most peasants lived in non-centralized, politically segmented societies, most of their dwellings were refreshingly practical, serenely modest, and unobtrusive. They were simple enough to allow every African family, even the poorest and most lowly, a home of its own. The structures were usually simple enough to be built by the cooperative efforts of the extended family." (pg. 112) (6C)

"Kimbi-Saleh, capital of the Ghanian empire, was described in about 1067 as a city abounding in wells of sweet water , which were used to cultivate lush green vegetable gardens. Today the city lies in ruins in a semi-desert waste. Some ecologist believe that overgrazing and famine brought on the southward march of the Sahara were important factors in the city’s demise" (pg. 114)(6C)

"Swahili city states sprang from trade between Arabia, Persia, India and the East and Central African hinterland; in like manner towns and cities of the West African forest flourished as conduits for goods flowing between the southern savanna and the forest and the Atlantic coast." (pg. 121) (6C)