Africa and Africans

782 Words4 Pages
John Thornton’s book belongs to the still growing field of research on the history of the importance of Africa’s role in the Atlantic world. The continent of Africa, well-known for its resources in oil and diamonds, but infamous for its role in the slave trade, has held great appeal for historians, specifically from the fifteenth century into the present, since it appeared to offer new insight into the history of African culture and economics along with social and political interests. The book under review, as its title might imply, is more than just a local study of the African continent and its complex problems in the Atlantic world. It is an investigation into the transformation of the Atlantic world and the interactions that took place between the New World and Europe between 1400 and 1800. Thornton’s book is divided into two sections: Part I consists of four chapters which discuss the delicate interactions between Africa and Europe and its beginnings; Part II consists of six chapters, which discusses the role of Africans living in new colonial African Atlantic and the acculturation that took place within those societies. The seventh chapter is an expanded addition to the original text and covers the culture, economics and political structure during the eighteenth century. Thornton’s use of primary sources is a great accomplishment, as secondary sources for this time period are sparse, the wealth of primary sources in the form of contemporaneous written documents allow Thornton to meticulously design well-rounded and developed arguments that offer valuable insight into different views of Africa and the Atlantic world. In Part I, Thornton visits several over arching themes, here he discusses three main underlying issues tha... ... middle of paper ... ...ican culture. According to Thornton, the influx of slaves from different lands in and within the Diaspora allowed for a mixture of culture and history and the creation of new identities and communities. The strengths of Thornton’s research lie in two important aspects. First, he investigates the continuities that bridged Africa and the non-African countries of the Atlantic. By relying on primary resources and less on secondary sources, Thornton is able to show that Africa was wealthy and controlled their own economic and trade imports and exports. Second, and in contrast to traditional assumptions about the absence of a civil society in African countries, Thornton argues that while Africa had their own view of wealth and social status, Africa progressed socially, legally and economically before 1400, and continued to do so before the influence of the Europeans.
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