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Africa's Discovery of Europe

Third Edition

David Northrup

Publication Date - 26 March 2013

ISBN: 9780199941216

224 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

The first book to look at European-African interactions from an African perspective


This groundbreaking book examines the full range of African-European encounters from an African perspective rather than from the customary European one. By featuring vivid life stories of individual Africans and drawing upon their many recorded sentiments, author David Northrup presents African perspectives that persuasively challenge stereotypes about African-European relations as they unfolded in Africa, Europe, and the Atlantic world between 1450 and 1850.

Africa's Discovery of Europe features thematically organized chapters that explore first impressions, religion and politics, commerce and culture, imported goods and technology, the Middle Passage, and Africans in Europe. In addition, Northrup offers a thoughtful examination of Africans' relations--intellectual, commercial, cultural, and sexual--with Europeans, tracing how the patterns of behavior that emerged from these encounters shaped pre-colonial Africa. The book concludes with an examination of the roles of race, class, and culture in early modern times, pointing out which themes in Africa's continuing discovery of Europe after 1850 were similar to earlier patterns, and why other themes were different. Brief, inexpensive, and accessible, the third edition of Africa's Discovery of Europe offers an insightful look at the tumultuous and enduring relations between these two continents.

New to this Edition

  • * New "Voices" feature in each chapter brings to light the primary source writings of Africans, from queens to former slaves
  • * Revised and updated references and suggested readings reflect the most current scholarly sources

About the Author(s)

David Northrup is Professor Emeritus of History at Boston College. He is the co-author of The Diary of Antera Duke: An Eighteenth-Century African Slave Trader (OUP, 2010) and author of How English Became the Global Language (2013), The Atlantic Slave Trade, Third Edition (2011), and Crosscurrents in the Black Atlantic, 1770-1965 (2007). He is also a contributor to the Oxford Handbook on the Atlantic World, c. 1450-1820 (OUP, 2009), Oxford Bibliographies Online, the Oxford History of the British Empire (OUP, 1999), and its companion series, Black Experience and the Empire (OUP, 2004).

Previous Publication Date(s)

July 2008
April 2002


"Africa's Discovery of Europe is one of the rare accounts of the era of the Atlantic Slave Trade that places African perceptions and interactions with Europe at the center of its analysis. The book deftly covers a wide variety of geographical locations and societies in order for us to gain a better understanding of how African elites and societies grappled with the economic, political and cultural transformations brought about as a result of the growth in Atlantic commerce."--Hilary Jones, University of Maryland, College Park

"This book provides an important reinterpretation of the position of the African continent in global history, clearly introducing complex historical topics to the students of African and world history. The comparative approach to the study of Africa's influence in Europe illustrates the neglected theme that many history textbooks fail to highlight."--Ibrahim Hamza, Virginia Commonwealth University

"Northrup's writing is clear and engaging and students respond well to the insights into the many sophisticated aspects of African culture and society they may not be exposed to otherwise. The book does an excellent job demonstrating that Africans were not simple victims of slavery but took an active role in shaping their world."--Matthew Hassett, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Coastal Carolina University

"The book is chock full of the sort of information that students won't find in the standard survey texts. The snapshots of the lives of Africans are the most appealing and invaluable contributions the book makes. The fact that Africa's Discovery stresses the agency, rather than the victimization, of many Africans (including some of those enslaved) adds a much-needed level of complexity to the standard presentation of the era of the Atlantic Slave Trade."--Jonathan T. Reynolds, Northern Kentucky University

"Northrup's book is a well-written, accessible, and valuable overview of how Africans interacted with Europeans during the era of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Two characteristics that distinguish it from other books are its emphasis on African agency and its focus on African relations with Europe rather than with America. In focusing on mostly free Africans in Africa and Europe rather than enslaved Africans in America, Northrup counters the tendency-at least within the U.S.-to regard Africa primarily as an extension of the African-American experience rather than as a continent with its own unique history."--Stephen Volz, Kenyon College

Table of Contents

    Elite Africans in Europe to 1650
    Enslaved Africans in Europe
    Discovering Europeans in Africa
    Southeast Africa, 1589–1635
    Kongo Cosmology

    The Meanings of Religious Conversion
    Benin and Warri
    The Kingdom of Kongo
    Swahili and Mutapa

    African Trading Strategies
    The Eighteenth Century
    Language, Trade, and Culture
    Sexual Encounters

    Evaluating Inland Trade
    Textiles and Metals
    Tobacco and Distilled Spirits
    Guns and Politics
    Economic and Social Consequences

    5. AFRICANS IN EUROPE, 1650-1850
    African Delegates and Students
    Servants High and Low in Continental Europe
    Scholars and Churchmen

    Capture in Africa
    The Middle Passage
    New Identities

    Epilogue: Trends after 1850

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