Africa’s History

Sabratha Most people have heard of the ancient Egyptians, rulers of the Nile and architects of the famous Giza Pyramids. But have you ever heard of the African country called Rhodesia, the Sahelian kingdom of Mali, or Zanzibar? How about the ancient trade cities of Carthage, Tripoli, or Timbuktu? Or the Berbers, Bantu, Nubians, or people of the Zulu nation?


Throughout history, many civilizations have commingled on the African continent. Africa played a prominent role in the Greek and Roman empires, the Crusades, the Age of Exploration and colonization, and the slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries. Geographers look into the past to discover explanations for the present, and Africa’s unique and tumultuous history can shed light on the major issues that occur there today.

Photograph of a restored theater at the ancient Roman city of Sabratha, in today’s Libya, by Robert Sisson/National Geographic Image Collection.

Test Your Africa IQ with our interactive quiz on Google Earth.


General Information

  • The Story of Africa (BBC)
  • African History and Culture (Smithsonian)
  • Mapping Africa: Africa and the Diaspora Movement (The Kennedy Center)
  • World History: Africa (HistoryWiz)
  • Early African History for Kids (Kidipede)

    Interactive Features

  • African Voices (Smithsonian)
  • Hopes on the Horizon: Africa in the 1990s (PBS)
  • Wonders of the African World (PBS)
  • At the Tomb of Tutankhamun (National Geographic)
  • Explore the Pyramids (National Geographic)
  • Africa History Challenge (PBS)

    In Google Earth

  • National Geographic Magazine
    Explore Africa—its history, cultures, and wildlife—through a wealth of georeferenced articles, photos, and Sights and Sounds multimedia from National Geographic magazine. To view, open Google Earth (get it free here) and click the box next to “National Geographic Magazine” in the Featured Content folder. Then zoom into the African continent, click on the yellow icons, and explore!

    From National Geographic Magazine:

  • Abydos: Life and Death at the Dawn of Egyptian Civilization
  • Bushmen: Last Stand for Southern Africa’s First People
  • Death on the Nile
  • Djénné: West Africa’s Eternal City
  • Egypt’s Forgotten Treasures
  • Johannesburg: City of Hope, City of Fear
  • Keepers of the Faith: The Living Legacy of Aksum
  • King Tut Revealed
  • Libya: An End to Isolation?
  • Pharoahs of the Sun
  • The Pyramid Builders
  • Shattered Sudan
  • Somalia: A Failed State?
  • Swahili Coast: East Africa’s Ancient Crossroads
  • World of Terror
  • Zimbabwe: A Land Possessed

    Current Events

  • BBC News: Africa
  • CNN: Africa
  • World Bank: Africa
  • Worldpress: Africa
  • WN Network: Africa


    From National Geographic Xpeditions

  • Grades 3-5: Ancient Worlds Workshop: Egypt
  • Grades 6-8: What’s Happening in Darfur?
  • Grades 9-12: Darfur and the Janjaweed

    From the National Endowment for the Humanities/EDSITEment

  • Grades 3-5: Egypt’s Pyramids: Monuments With a Message
  • Grades 3-5: The Royal Art of Benin
  • Grades 6-8: Trekking to Timbuktu
  • Grades 9-12: Women in Africa: Tradition and Change

    From the Smithsonian Institution

  • Grades 3-8: What Is Currency? Lessons From Historic Africa

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