Download PDF UNESCO General History of Africa, Volume 1: Methodology and African Prehistory

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Historical connections with other continents demonstrate Africa's contribution to the development of human civilization. Each volume is lavishly illustrated and contains a comprehensive bibliography. Oral tradition and its methodology. African archaeology and its techniques including dating History and linguistics and theories on the races and history of Africa. Migrations and ethnic and linguistic differentiations. African linguistic classification and the language map of Africa.

The prehistory of Southern Africa. The prehistory of Central Africa. The prehistory of North Africa. The prehistory of the Sahara. The prehistory of West Africa. The prehistory of the Nile valley The most important results of the meeting was the organization of the collection of sources in Africa which took place between and In relation to this, a task to be carried out by Unesco, the Commission highlighted the following points:.

Due to its practical implications the meeting was considered by its participants as the final meeting of the preliminary phase in the preparation of the GHA Unesco, a, p. In addition to the definition of short-term objectives related to writing the GHA, the Abidjan meeting traced out some long-term questions, relevant for writing the history that the project was intended to produce. The first was the scientific nature of the history conceived for the GHA.

In addition, there can also be noted a concern with emphasizing the essential character that oral traditional had for this, as well as the centrality of inter-disciplinary work, especially the relationship between history, linguistics and archeology. Also defended was the idea that the writing of the GHA should construct a totalizing vision of Africa, concerned with the description of Africa as a related whole.

The practical direction of the Abidjan meeting determined the following steps in the GHA.

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During fieldwork was organized, centers of research and documentation especially of oral tradition created, and inventories and archives complied. After this work at the beginning of the s the publication of the material collected began, with the title Guide to the Historic Sources of the History of Africa. This initial work was essential for writing the GHA. After the Abidjan meeting, other meetings with smaller groups were held to prepare guidelines for researching sources and the organization of institutes, which was carried out by Unesco between and In , for example, an administrative meeting was held in Paris.

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This was important as it was the meeting which led to the second phase of the GHA project, concerned with writing. However, the fundamental decisions for this new path were taken at the following meeting of the Commission for the General History of Africa, held on 22 - 26 June , in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. The Addis Ababa meeting was organized by a new Commission. Kagame Rwanda and J. Franco Cuba. Ajayi and J.

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Devisse held the positions of executive secretary. In this central group three had been at the Abidjan meeting: J. Devisse, M.

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El Fasi and J. Furthermore, another three intellectuals had been present at the two meetings but did not hold any specific positions in Addis Ababa: J. These six intellectuals were fundamental in this initial moment of the GHA, since they were constantly present in the project meetings.

Grottanneli Italy , E. Haberland Germany , I. Hrbek Czechoslovakia , A. Letnev Soviet Union and I. Tshibangu Democratic Republic of Congo. At this meeting Unesco's representatives were Profs. Bammate, R. Uwechue, G.

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  • Provenchere and M. Furthermore, during the meeting, after the analysis of the sources collected by Unesco, the number eight and the essential content of the volumes that would form the GHA were decided. This would essentially be followed in the publications in the s and s. In relation to the first point, the Addis Ababa meeting indicated the parameters that would later be adopted in the institutional functioning of the project. In order to accelerate the work the former had a small number of members and more regular and less expensive meetings.

    EC members were chosen by vote in the Committee and had a two year mandate. It consisted of a president, five vice-presidents and a general secretary. The rules governing the EC were also defined by the Committee, the maximum authority for the project. The Committee had to meet at least once every two years.

    It also had to keep in constant contact with the members of the EC and Unesco's Director General, to keep them informed about the project's progress. Committee members were also elected, in accordance with the indications of Unesco's Director General or of its members. The secretariat of the Committee was also appointed by the Director General. In addition to this more general administrative organization, the Commission indicated some specific points.

    Among these it is worth highlighting those that were created with the clear intention of guaranteeing that the GHA would be a project predominantly coordinated by African researchers. The Commission thus argued that the Committee stipulate in its statutes that the majority of the Committee two thirds and the EC 4 members be African researchers. Furthermore, it was decided that the editors of the volumes, chosen by the Commission, be African researchers. These points were submitted to the Commission as part of the statutes for the Scientific Committee to be created in Paris in There the statutes for the body were to be voted on Unesco, b, p.

    At the same time decisions were made at the about other important points in relation to the division and the content of the GHA.

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    What was most significant was the drafting of a broader and more complete list of the points to be followed in the second phase of the GHA:. The analysis carried out for this paper shows that the Addis Ababa meeting was fundamental for the GHA. First, due to the administrative organization of the project and, second, due to its indication of the basic thematic content which would be followed later. Third, because the meeting consolidated the coordination position of African researchers in carrying out the GHA project, as part of the statutes of the Scientific Committee. These were ratified at its first meeting in Paris Present at this meeting were a majority of those indicated in previous meetings.

    Afterwards the project's first EC was elected. This was responsible for coordinating the GHA work. Ajayi Nigeria and G. Mokhtar Egypt. Devisse France was chosen as executive secretary. Adu Boahen Ghana , J. Fage England , J. Franco Cuba , M. Galaal Somalia , V. Grottanelli Italy , E. Haberland West Germany , E. Boubou Hama Niger , H. Kagame Rwanda , I. Kimambo Tanzania , J. Ki-Zerbo Upper Volta , A. Letnev Soviet Union , D. McCall United States , L. Ngcongco Lesotho , D. Niane Guinea , Ravoajanahary Madagascar , M.

    Shibeika Sudan and J. Vansina Belgium, but based in the United States. The secretariat for this Committee meeting was the responsibility of the following Unesco representatives: R. Hoggart, N.

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    Methodology and African Prehistory

    Bammate, M. It should be noted that African researchers were in the majority among those participating in the meeting and the members of the EC and the Scientific Committee of the GHA. The 16 articles of the statutes established by the Committee stipulated the general outline of the administrative organization established in the preparatory meetings of the GHA, especially in Addis Ababa. Furthermore, the mutual obligations among the principal parties involved in the project were also regulated, in other words, the EC, the Commission, the editors, the authors and Unesco, through the intermediate of its director general and its secretariat.

    In relation to the Commission, the Paris meeting also established the specific norms for its functioning, with a total of 33 articles. In relation to the content of the GHA, the Paris meeting re-established what had been raised in the previous meetings in relation to the general themes and approach of the work. The following points were indicated to define the characteristics of the writing of the GHA:. In many aspects, it will constitute a report of problems which indicate the current state of knowledge and the main current of research, while in these circumstances there should be no hesitation in emphasizing divergences of opinion.

    In this way the path for future work will be prepared.

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    The objective of this position is to show the historic relations between the different parts of the continent, which in the work published until now generally appear subdivided. It will introduce the values of oral tradition, as well as the multiple forms of African art. An erudite work, it is also to a great extent the true reflection of how African authors see their own civilization.

    Although it is being prepared within an international framework and uses current scientific data, the history will also be a capital element for the recognition of African cultural patrimony and place in evidence the factors which have contributed to the unity of the continent. These efforts to examine the facts from within is the singular characteristic of the project and should, alongside its scientific qualities, give it great importance. By showing the true face of Africa, this work can, at a time dominated by economic and technical rivalries, propose a particular concept of human values.

    Here can be seen the intended general characteristics of the work: a a scientific and democratic approach; b perspective of Africa as a totality, including its regional inter-relations; c focus on the history of societies, civilizations and institutions, valorizing the contributions of tradition and African art; d the search for a knowledge of Africa from within itself, from the point of view of African authors about their own history, the recognition of African cultural heritage and the factors which contributed to the unity of the continent.

    Niane; e Volume V: B. Ogot; f Volume VI: J. Also consolidated there was the thematic content of each of these volumes, which would change little later. As this was restricted to a Commission appointed by the Committee for this purpose, the researchers appointed to prepare this basic content are known: Ajayi president , Ki-Zerbo executive secretary , Fage, Vansina, Diop, Kagame, Kimambo, Boahen, Grottanelli, Niane, Shibeika, Haberland and Letnev.

    Another important decision voted on by the Committee in Paris was that, in order to accelerate the GHA and taking into account the researchers participating and the sources collected for the project, the first volumes to be produced and published would be numbers I, II and V Unesco, , p. The fact is that at the Paris meeting, six years after the project had approved by Unesco, the general characteristics of the GHA project were finally delineated, both in relation to administrative and thematic aspects.

    Following this, the writing and publication of the work had to be organized. It can also be noted that, in general terms, the Paris meeting sought to continue the works of the preceding meetings, especially that of Addis Ababa This fact tends to show that it was the intention of the agents to make the project advance, irrespective of occasional divergences.

    It was this intention that Prof. From what can be seen in the primary sources, the organizers were confronted with four primordial difficulties at this stage. The first was the constant absences of African historians who were important for the project, such as Bethwell Ogot and Ali Mazrui. The second was the delay in the writing and editing of the first volumes to be published, I and II, which were supposed to have been completed by but which would only be ready in The third was the lack of participation of many Commission members, who did not reply to EC contacts.

    Finally, there were misunderstandings about the content of chapters between editors and authors. During this period the question of the 'African perspective' related to the history of Africa, which was being adopted for the project, was also quite evident. In this meeting, due to the delays in the writing of the chapters for various reasons, it was noted that the volumes I and II, initially promised for the end of the , would only be sent for translation and review at the end of The progress of the other volumes was also discussed in a detailed manner in this meeting.

    Once again the EC alerted the Committee members to be more helpful when asked to make commented readings or to indicate authors, in order for the work to progress. In relation to this the report clearly stated that "as is obvious only some members of the Committee answered the queries [from the Unesco secretariat through the EC] asking for their points of view. It is difficult to know the exact reason for this problem. On the one hand, these 'organizers,' especially when they were part of the EC, complained of low levels of cooperation from other Committee members.

    On the other hand, when the Committee met, it accused the EC of the excessive centralization of the organizational work of the GHA. The fact is that this quarrel revealed an growing dispute between the EC and the Committee in relation to the project's progress. In part, this dispute was the consequence of a difference of rhythm between the two bodies. By February , the date of the EC meeting mentioned here, it had met five times Cairo, ; Butare, ; Lusaka, ; Addis Ababa, ; Fez, , while the Committee had only held two meetings Paris, ; Lusaka, , resulting in a lack of synchronization between the two bodies, especially in relation to EC decisions, which depended on Committee approval to be ratified.

    The fact is that this timid participation by members of the Committee delayed the hard task of the readings and re-readings which each chapter underwent in accordance with the internal rules and regulations of the project. The preciosity in the discussion of the criticisms made about the hundreds of chapters of the work is impressive.

    This resulted in an enormous quantity of corrections of and additions to the original texts, adding or eliminating photos, words or phrases, maps, glossaries, notes, and bibliographies. It was complex work which could only be done with the participation of dozens of committed intellectuals. However, few organizers were involved. In the s, a crucial period for the production of the work, it is possible that this number was more or less twenty intellectuals, obviously overloaded.

    Among all of the above, the participation of Diop, Devisse and Ajayi especially needs to be noted, as they, in addition to work outside of meetings, were present at all the EC meetings between and Generally speaking, this involved an effort which had two primordial objectives. First, increasing as much as possible the informative and explanatory nature of the texts; second, making them more didactic. Such detailed analysis resulted in considerable delays. This was the case of the first volume. Begun in , it was supposed to have been ready in , but went through a process of rewriting between and and was only finalized in However, it is worth noting that, despite all this preciosity, in the analysis of the minutes of the EC and Committee meetings up to , no criticisms were found of the interpretative perspective of authors.

    What was usually found were general points aimed at the discussion of the content present in the volumes. Between and there were two exceptions to this rule, which deserve to be commented on. Ali Mazrui. This volume merited two days of work at the Cotonou meetings in However, looking at the Cotonou report, it can be seen that most of the debate was about the approach that the editor, Ali Mazrui, had adopted to the theme and not the content.

    This is explained in the EC report: the theme required a perspective involving a "more African point of view" than what had been adopted until then by the editor. In the words of the report: "The EC expects that the Editor of volume should take efforts to deal with the question from a more African point of view, rather than purely post-Colonial. Each chapter should commence with a section looking at, from the continental point of view , the problem being analyzed.

    This general consideration needs to be illustrated with individual case studies. In relation to this, the EC has frequently found cases which are not very representative. Furthermore, the possibility of talking about more than two individual cases or comparison should not be rejected a priori.

    Various proposals have been submitted to the Editor of the volume in Lusaka and on other occasions, and has also been submitted to him by members of the Committee. The EC expects that these proposals will reflect a new list of content.