Essay on African Society

Submitted By doctorwho11
Words: 1127
Pages: 5

African Society: Swahili City-states xxxxxxxxx His 276 xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx

African Society: Swahili City-states In this summary on the Swahili city-states, I will briefly describe the origins of the society, the geographical boundaries, and the time period associated with the society. I will also cover the economic structure of the society. Lastly, I will explain the social structure, political environment, cultural atmosphere as well as the religion of the society. McKay et al. (2011) states that the earliest Swahili (meaning people living on the coast) society developed in the Lamu Islands and the Tana Valley by the indigenous Bantu speaking peoples sometime around the sixth century. Due to the fact that they lived on the coast of the Indian Ocean, the Swahili people were influenced by Indians, Indonesians, as well as Persians. Some of the major Swahili city-states include; Mogadishu, Barawa, Mombasa, Pate, Kilwa, Zanzibar, Sofala as well as others (McKay et al., 2011). Caputo (2001) states that the Swahili city-states flourished between the twelfth and eighteenth centuries.
According to McKay et al. (2011) Swahili civilization was maritime and had a fertile, well-watered, and cultivated stretch of land which extended down the coast and provided rice, grains, cloves, and citrus fruit. However, the region's prosperity rested on trade and commerce. In an Indian Ocean East African economy, that can be described as early capitalism, the Swahili acted as middlemen (McKay et al., 2011). Their main trade goods included ivory, rhinoceros horn, inlaid ebony chairs, tortoise shells, copra (dried coconut meat which provides coconut oil), and slaves in exchange for Arabian and Persian perfumes, ink, paper, and toilet articles, as well as for Indian textiles, beads, and iron tools. The cosmopolitan city-states of Mogadishu, Lamu, Pate, Mombasa, and Kilwa enjoyed a reputation, worldwide, for commercial prosperity and high living standards in the fifteenth century (Caputo, R. 2001). However, the end of the Swahili cities' independence came when Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama arrived in 1498 wanting to build a Portuguese maritime empire in the Indian Ocean (McKay et al., 2011).
The Swahili rulers responded in different ways to the intrusion. For example some, such as the sultan of Malindi, agreed to a trading alliance whereas others, such as the sultan of Mombasa, were tricked into agreements. Others rejected the Portuguese overtures which were subjected to bombardment in response. Rather than accept the commercial restrictions, many deserted their towns and migrated to northern cities. This caused the town economies to crumble. Due to the Swahili people refusing to cooperate, they successfully prevented the Portuguese form gaining control of the local coastal trade. Other than economic decline, the Portuguese had no cultural impact of the Swahili city-states (McKay et al., 2011).
As previously mentioned, the Swahili were predominately Bantu speaking people; however, they incorporated significant aspects of Arabic culture. So much so, that the Arabic alphabet was used for the first written works and Arabic words accounted for about 35% of Swahili words. By the 11th century, the Swahili had accepted Islam as their religion which provided a shared identity and unifying factor for the Swahili people (McKay et al., 2011).
As previously mentioned, the Swahili were predominately Bantu speaking people; however, they incorporated significant aspects of Arabic culture. So much so, that the Arabic alphabet was used for the first written works and Arabic words accounted for about 35% of Swahili words. By the 11th century, the Swahili had accepted Islam as their religion which provided a shared identity and unifying factor for the Swahili people (McKay et al., 2011).
As previously mentioned, the Swahili were predominately Bantu speaking people; however, they incorporated significant aspects of Arabic culture. So much so, that the Arabic…