(H) ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL LIFE -- AFRICA
African Economy. African Trade. African Agriculture. War in Africa. Religion.
In the central forest regions of Africa, wherever communications with the coast-land have been opened up, hunting the elephant for its tusks to barter with the traders appears to be the characteristic occupation, if any, beyond that of mere attention to the daily wants of life, is engaged in; and here the population may be considered as a settled one, living in villages in the more open spaces of the woods. A rudely agricultural state seem to mark the outer belt of Negro land on each side of the equatorial zone, where the population is also more or less stationary. The arid regions of the Sahara and the Kalahari beyond have, on the other hand, a thinly scattered nomadic population, though here also the fertile wadys form lines of more permanent habitation, and contain permanent towns and villages. Excepting in the immediate neighbourhood of the Mediterranean in Abyssinia, on a narrow margin of the coasts of the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, and in those parts which have been colonized by Europeans, or which came directly under their influence, society has remained in a barbarian state, and there remain great areas the inhabitants of which have as yet no knowledge of the outer world.
Agriculture is conducted with little art. The natural fertility of the soil in the well-watered districts supersedes the need of skill, while the production of the simplest manufactures is alone requisite where the range of personal wants embraces few objects, and those of the humblest class.
Wars, cruel and incessant, waged not for the sake of territory, but for the capture of slaves, form one of the most marked and deplorable features in the social condition of the Africa races. This practice, though not of foreign introduction, has been largely promoted by the cupidity of the Europeans and Transatlantic nations; and unhappily, the efforts of private philanthropy, and the political arrangements of various governments, have not yet availed to terminate the hideous traffic in mankind, or abate the suffering entailed upon its victims.
In religion, Christianity is professed in Abyssinia, and in Egypt by the Copts, but its doctrines and precept are little understood and obeyed. Mohammedanism prevails in all Northern Africa, excepting Abyssinia, as far as a line passing through the Soudan, from the Gambia on the west to the confluence of the Quorra and Benue, and thence eastward, generally following the 10th parallel of N. lat. To the Nile below the junction of the Ghazal; thence south-east, leaving the coast-land in the Mohammedan region, to Cape Delgado. In Marocco, Algeria, and Egypt, there is an admixture of Jews. Heathen Negroes and Caffre tribes extend southward over the continent from the line described above to the colonies in the southern extremity of the continent; and over this vast area the native mind is surrendered to superstitions of infinite number and character. In the Cape Colony Protestantism again prevails, but with a strong intermixture of heathenism. The labours of Christian missionaries have, however, done much, especially in South Africa, towards turning the benighted Africans from idols to the living God.
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Africa - Table of Contents