Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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AFRICA, one of the five divisions of the globe. Africa would be a continent were it not for the isthmus of Suez which connects it with Asia. At all other points it is bathed by the sea: on the north by the Mediterranean; on the northeast by the Red sea; on the east by the Indian ocean; and on the west by the Atlantic. Its entire area is estimated at 11,556,600 square miles. Its population, of which not even an approximate census has ever been taken, is estimated to be from 60,000,000 to 200,000,000, mostly of the black race. The truth here, as in most cases, is likely to be found between the two extremes.


—Politically, Africa is divided into independent states and peoples, dependent states, and European colonies. I. The independent states and peoples are: In the north, 1, the empire of Morocco, with about 216,000 square miles and a population variously estimated at from 2,500,000 to 8,000,000; 2, Tunis, claimed by Turkey as a vassal province, but whose bey exercises sovereign power (in 1871 the bey recognized anew the suzerainty of the porte), with a population of 2,100,000, and an area of about 42,000 English square miles.


—On the west is the republic of Liberia, founded by free black immigrants from America. It has an area of 14,465 square miles; and a population of about 720,000.


—In the east, the island of Madagascar.


—In the south, in the interior, 1, the republic of Orange, established by the Boers, independent Dutch colonists, and 2, the republic of the Transvaal.


—In the northeast, Abyssinia, situated on the lofty plateau between the upper Nile and the Red sea.


—In the interior of Africa, and on certain parts of the coast, native tribes form a multitude of little nations, independent of all foreign power. Some of these are isolated; others are grouped into confederations, or formed into states subject to chiefs, whose dominions assume the titles and extent of kingdoms and empires, the limits of which vary according to the fortunes of war, and are more easily recognized by the people within them than by the territory they enclose. Without pretending to make a complete enumeration of these kingdoms, we may mention the following: in the great desert, the Touraegs and the Tibbous; in Senegambia, the Moorish and Berber tribes, and the Yolof, Bambaras and Mandingoes states (the Cayor Fouta-Djialon, Djiolof, Bambouk, Kharta, Kasso); in central Soudan or Takrour, Segou, Macina, the empire of the Fellatahs formed of a dozen vassal kingdoms, and besides Bornu, Baghirmi, Adamana, Waday, Darfour, etc.; in upper Guinea, the kingdoms of Ashantee and Dahomey. As to the inhabitants of central Africa, unknown to Europeans, those of southern Africa (Hottentots and Kaffres), and those of eastern Africa (Gallas and Somahs), they do not appear to have emerged from the condition of savage and patriarchal tribes, so as to form the body of a nation.


—II. The dependent states are: Egypt proper, an hereditary vice-royalty under the sovereignty of the porte, with an entire area of 175,130 English square miles, and a population of about 5,517,627; Tunis (see above); Tripoli, governed despotically by a pasha named by the sultan; Zanzibar, dependent on the iman of Mascate. To these may be added the coast between Abyssinia and the sea, on which Massouah is situated, administered financially by the porte, and Madagascar, over which France claims sovereign rights of long standing.


—III. The European nations which possess trading posts and colonies on the coast and in the seas of Africa are France, England, Portugal, Spain and Holland. About twenty years ago, Denmark sold her establishments on the Gold coast to England.


—Africa, owing to its Mediterranean coast, has always played a considerable part in the world's history. To mention Egypt and Carthage is to recall the glory and wisdom of antiquity, and the immortal struggles against Rome. In the middle ages the Mussulman sovereigns of Magbreb extended their dominions over Spain, and the regency of Algiers in the hands of the Barbarossas and their successors defied the threats of the Christian world during three centuries. In our own day the cutting of the isthmus of Suez promises a brilliant future to Egypt, situated as it is between Asia and Africa, the Mediterranean and a gulf of the Indian ocean. At all other points Africa has only commercial connections with the rest of the world.


—The economical and commercial position of Africa is a result of its geographical situation.


—Traversed by the equator and both tropics it is within the torrid zone, most of whose vegetable and mineral products are found within its borders, but extending 35° to the north and south. It extends 12° into the northern temperate and 12° into the southern temperate zone, whose southern character is not unlike that of the Mediterranean coast. Two topographical peculiarities greatly modify the effects of its geographical situation. The first is the great deserts which, under the name of the Great Sahara in the north, and the Kalahari in the south, strike with almost absolute sterility immense tracts of land, and oppose almost insurmountable barriers to communication. The second are the high mountains, of which there are five systems: the Atlas in the north, the Abyssinian mountains in the east, the Kong range in the west, the mountains of the Moon in the centre, and the South African range. These mountains attain a height of from 6,000 to 18,000 feet, and temper the heat of the region by reason of their altitude. Communication with the world outside has been facilitated by the waters which surround Africa. Two great basins, the Mediterranean and the Red sea, were in antiquity the great water highways of the ancient world. Since the discovery of the cape of Good Hope all the rest of the coast has been visited by ships in great numbers, and has witnessed the rise of commercial houses, factories, dépôts, villages and colonies. In spite of the distance it was possible to establish relations between China and Africa in early times, owing to the monsoons which, in the Indian ocean, blow regularly during six months from the northwest, and six months in the opposite direction. Commercial enterprise, however, has rarely penetrated into the immense interior of Africa, on account of the small number of large rivers there, suitable for navigation. There are in Africa three rivers of the first magnitude: the Nile, the Niger, and the Zambeze; and four of the second magnitude: the Senegal, the Gambia, the Zaïre or Congo, and the Orange river. This paucity of rivers on such a vast surface indicates either the absence of rain in the interior, which seems to be the real cause of the deserts, or the rapidity of evaporation, a natural result of the heat, or, finally, a depression in the central region attended by the formation of lakes, where the rivers are lost. The existence of this last cause, scarcely suspected in former times, has been confirmed in recent years by the discoveries of travelers.


—All these peculiarities taken together explain the general character and local variations of African commerce and economy. The hottest climate on earth puts its powerful and glowing imprint on the flora and fauna of the country; while the climate grows milder at the north and south, and on the highest points of land, until we reach the temperature of temperate countries, with a sub-tropical tint. It follows from this that the products of southern Europe and central Asia must be found growing together in the north and south as well as in the islands with those of regions characteristically African.


—The vast natural wealth of this continent is in the hands of the black race, who, with a thousand varieties of color, form and aptitudes, inhabit almost the whole of Africa, since they have not been subjected to foreign influence except on some narrow strips of coast-land. In the north, however, all the region of the Atlantic with the Sahara is divided between three principal varieties of the white race: the Aryans of Europe, masters of Algeria and settled somewhat numerously in the commercial towns; the Arabs, who invaded and conquered the country; and the Berbers, inhabitants of the land from time immemorial, and who are so ancient that they may be considered autochthonous. The black race begins on the southern rim of the Sahara and occupies all the rest of Africa from east to west, save a few spots on the eastern coast inhabited by Arabs, by Malay Hovas in Madagascar, by whites in different European colonies, and by the Turks in Egypt. The black race, according to a widely received opinion, inferior to the white in intellectual faculties, has been so enslaved by the latter at every point at which they have come in contact, that by an odious violation of human rights they were for centuries the principal article of export from Africa to Asia and America; but this is something which we can merely refer to here. (See SLAVERY, NEGROES.)


—Still relegated to a lower scale in social life, the black race gains but meagre benefit from the gifts of nature. Their culture, their industry, their commerce, are but rudimentary. The ground is tilled by hand, rarely with the plow. Commerce is carried on by land on the backs of camels and by caravans, and by water. But these people, no matter how low they be, are susceptible of education. The most advanced among them are those who have been most under European influence. This influence operates on their manners as well as their industry, and at length progress manifests itself everywhere in their commerce which has already attained the sum of about $240,000,000. If we consider that France alone does five times as much business as all Africa, we shall see how much the latter is behind Europe, and what inexhaustible resources she offers to the intelligent use of capital, brain and muscle.


—BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ritter, Allgemeine vergleichende Geographie, Berlin, 1822; MacQueen, A Geographical Survey of Africa, London, 1840; Murray, Historical Account of Discoveries and Travels in Africa, 3rd ed., Edinburg, 1840; Cooley, The Negrolands of the Arabs, London, 1841; and Inner Africa Laid Open, by same author; Bruce, Travels to Discover the Sources of the Nile, Edinburg, 1805-7; Speke, Journal of the Discovery of the Sources of the Nile, Edinb. 1863; Stanley's Through the Dark Continent.


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