Tales of a Colonial Policeman

...The southern tip of Africa was an exception to this, but they were isolated by shear distance. The end result is that Africa was left out of the mainstream of development happening across Europe and Asia...
You forget the southerly migration of central african tribes to encroach on the territories of the Khoi/Bushmen while European settlers were migrating north. The clash of cultures was central to the local wars of the time.
 
Its debatable (or, perhaps, undebatable, in today's social climate).

Significant parts of Africa have now had exposure to the global village, and mentoring by its inhabitants (via colonialism), for ten to fifteen generations.

Prior to European trade/colonies, the east coast of Africa had Indian and Arabic trade and settlement (oh, and slavery) continuously since biblical times.

There is depressingly scant evidence of any resultant social change in African societies, in fact the reverse as post-colonial regression appears to be the norm.
The bulk of the population in Africa lived inland and the coastal regions had unhealthy climates. The rivers that lead out of the interior were in many cases not readily navigable. See the difficulties which European explorers had in just reaching the interiors of the continents for examples of this. As a result Africans had little contact with the outside world until the 19th century.

There was a trade in gold, ivory, and slaves, but the nature of this trade was not such as to bring new ideas with it. It was also on a very small scale until comparatively recently when the demands of the sugar industry temporarily increased the market for slaves. This was not the sort of long term contact which Europe, India, and China experienced with each other.

Compare this with, say, Indian or asian societies that experienced a similar step-change via colonialism.
India and China had civilizations roughly comparable to those of Europe through most of history. Until recently there was very little that could be found in Europe that did not also exist in China and India, and plenty of examples of innovations which came to Europe from those territories. It wasn't until very recent centuries that Europe suddenly experienced a very rapid and self sustaining spurt of development which caused them to pull significantly ahead of China and India and to thus provide them with a military and economic advantage which resulted in colonialism.

China and India were thousands of years ahead of Africa in terms of development. There is really no comparison between them.
 
You forget the southerly migration of central african tribes to encroach on the territories of the Khoi/Bushmen while European settlers were migrating north. The clash of cultures was central to the local wars of the time.
I'm not an expert on African history, but I have read that the Bantu-speaking originating in West Africa migrated east and then south down to what is now South Africa like an African version of the Mongol Horde, smashing up everything in their path and dispossessing the Khoi/San who were the original inhabitants of the southern tip of Africa.

This had a very fundamental influence on European colonial history in southern Africa as it meant the existing tribal structures had been disrupted and so there wasn't a lot in the way of organized resistance to European encroachment.

However, if anything this reinforces my point about the effects that isolation had on development. The Khoi/San of southern Africa were I believe considerably less advanced than the encroaching tribes, no doubt due to their isolation.
 
Not far off. Settlers got there around the time the migration south was in full swing and the Khoisan and bushmen got caught in the middle. Settlers ran into the southbound tribes around the Fish riverwhile exploring towards the northern reaches a few years after they'd set up camp in the Cape colony.
 
I'm not an expert on African history, but I have read that the Bantu-speaking originating in West Africa migrated east and then south down to what is now South Africa like an African version of the Mongol Horde, smashing up everything in their path and dispossessing the Khoi/San who were the original inhabitants of the southern tip of Africa.

This had a very fundamental influence on European colonial history in southern Africa as it meant the existing tribal structures had been disrupted and so there wasn't a lot in the way of organized resistance to European encroachment.

However, if anything this reinforces my point about the effects that isolation had on development. The Khoi/San of southern Africa were I believe considerably less advanced than the encroaching tribes, no doubt due to their isolation.



My bold.. There are interesting & often conflicting suppositions on the origins of the populations of Southern & Central Africa. The Bantu group is on of the leading cases, possibly because of the vast numerical superiority of this group today over all the others, some of whom having disappeared completely.
It is commonly believed that Man as we know them originated in Africa, possibly Ethiopia although some recent finds in Morocco suggests differently snip "Remains from Morocco dated to 315,000 years ago push back our species' origins by 100,000 years — and suggest we didn't evolve only in East Africa. "
The speciation of H. sapiens out of archaic human varieties derived from H. erectus is estimated as having taken place over 350,000 years ago, as the Khoisan split from other populations is dated between 260,000 and 350,000 years ago and West-Central Africans have partial ancestry from an archaic H. sapiens population (termed "Basal Human" in the study) whose divergence predates even Khoisan to a significant extent and didn't share much of genetic drift with other Africans before admixing into them"

Then of course we have the mystery of the stone buildings at Great Zimbabwe & Khami, like nowhere else in sub Sahara Africa, WTF happened there, what appears to have been an Iron Age society existed for a few hundred years from c 11thC - 15thC, in a very small (for Africa) area, that just disappears
The suppositions abound but no one knows for certain apart from the fact that the Europeans found a very primitive groups of often warring tribes..
The Bantu expansion is the name for a postulated millennia-long series of migrations of speakers of the original proto-Bantu language group. The primary evidence for this expansion has been linguistic, namely that the languages spoken in sub-Equatorial Africa are remarkably similar to each other.
It seems likely that the expansion of the Bantu-speaking people from their core region in West Africa began around 1000 BCE. The western branch possibly followed the coast and the major rivers of the Congo system southward, reaching central Angola by around 500 BCE.
Further east, Bantu-speaking communities had reached the great Central African rainforest, and by 500 BCE pioneering groups had emerged into the savannas to the south, in what are now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, and Zambia.
Another stream of migration, moving east by 1000 BCE, was creating a major new population center near the Great Lakes of East Africa. Pioneering groups had reached modern KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa by CE 300 along the coast, and the modern Limpopo Province (formerly Northern Transvaal) by 500 CE.
Before the expansion of farming and pastoralist African peoples, Southern Africa was populated by hunter-gatherers and earlier pastoralists. The Bantu expansion first introduced Bantu peoples to Central, Southern, and Southeast Africa, regions they had previously been absent from. The proto-Bantu migrants in the process assimilated and/or displaced a number of earlier inhabitants.
The relatively powerful Bantu-speaking states on a scale larger than local chiefdoms began to emerge in the regions when the Bantu peoples settled from the 13th century onward. By the 19th century, groups with no previous distinction gained political and economic prominence.
 
(...) Then of course we have the mystery of the stone buildings at Great Zimbabwe & Khami, like nowhere else in sub Sahara Africa, WTF happened there, what appears to have been an Iron Age society existed for a few hundred years from c 11thC - 15thC, in a very small (for Africa) area, that just disappears (...)
Current thought seems to be that they were built as the centres of local empires that arose to control the gold and ivory trade. They seem to have been combination palaces and castles. When the easily accessible gold ran out, the empires collapsed. The gold and ivory were traded down the coast in return for goods from as far away as China.

The remoteness of the location however meant that not much cultural contact came along with it. Gold and ivory went east to the coast, and what I assume were luxury goods came back. This apparently wasn't enough to create a self-sustaining civilization without the profits from the gold.
 
Current thought seems to be that they were built as the centres of local empires that arose to control the gold and ivory trade. They seem to have been combination palaces and castles. When the easily accessible gold ran out, the empires collapsed. The gold and ivory were traded down the coast in return for goods from as far away as China.

The remoteness of the location however meant that not much cultural contact came along with it. Gold and ivory went east to the coast, and what I assume were luxury goods came back. This apparently wasn't enough to create a self-sustaining civilization without the profits from the gold.

One has to wonder if the use of stone as a building material was instigated by those outsiders & when they left, the skill left with them. After all there is no shortage of stone in many areas/countries outside that comparatively small area and there were chiefs who had plenty of manpower to utilise if they wanted to. Perhaps the indigenous people didn't bother to learn or lacked the skills needed.
It is an area of history that I find intriguing.
 
One has to wonder if the use of stone as a building material was instigated by those outsiders & when they left, the skill left with them. After all there is no shortage of stone in many areas/countries outside that comparatively small area and there were chiefs who had plenty of manpower to utilise if they wanted to. Perhaps the indigenous people didn't bother to learn or lacked the skills needed.
It is an area of history that I find intriguing.
As well as the complex known as Great Zimbabwe, there are numerous smaller stone structures in the area. Whatever the origin, it was more than just one set of buildings and so I think was unlikely to be the work of a small group of masons who were there for only a short period of time.

At present nobody seems to know for sure just who built all this, there are a number of different tribes whose ancestors are considered candidates.

If you visit Ireland by the way, there are also numerous early dry-stone forts and monuments there as well. Some of them are believed to be older than the pyramids of Egypt. I can't recall if the oldest are late stone or early bronze age. They are well worth seeing if you get the chance. They show however that even a quite "primitive" (by our standards) civilization is capable of astonishing feats while leaving little trace behind other than their structures.

Whatever exactly happened in southern Africa at that time, there was a civilization which was capable of producing enough economic surplus to free up enough labour to build those structures, and a political organization capable of collecting that economic surplus and directing it towards a large and complex long term task.

Unfortunately so far as we know this was an isolated and illiterate society so we are limited to archaeological evidence. It has been speculated though that the structures together with the gold and ivory is what led to the numerous legends of "lost cities" in Africa.
 
The stone building era in Africa & its demise seems to me to be not dissimilar to what happened in Britain under the Romans. When they left it was almost another 600 years before the art of building with stone was reintroduced by the Normans.
 
The stone building era in Africa & its demise seems to me to be not dissimilar to what happened in Britain under the Romans. When they left it was almost another 600 years before the art of building with stone was reintroduced by the Normans.
Not completely correct. There is a stone built church in Escomb, near Bishop Auckland in County Durham which dates back to the seventh Century and is still in use.
A lot of stone from Hadrians Wall was used in other buildings after the Romans left. However, it is 1600 years since the Romans left. I suspect that most of those buildings have been knocked down/re-recycled as the border was rather turbulent until the 17th Century.
 
The stone building era in Africa & its demise seems to me to be not dissimilar to what happened in Britain under the Romans. When they left it was almost another 600 years before the art of building with stone was reintroduced by the Normans.
Who built Churches like St Martins AD 580, St Peter on the Wall, St Peter's Church AD971 , Hexam Abbey and Ripon Cathedral then? Not to Mention the Anglian Tower in York?

St Peter's church AD971, Anglo Saxon building in Barton on Humber.

 
Who built Churches like St Martins AD 580, St Peter on the Wall, St Peter's Church AD971 , Hexam Abbey and Ripon Cathedral then? Not to Mention the Anglian Tower in York?

St Peter's church AD971, Anglo Saxon building in Barton on Humber.



Perhaps I should have said "widely used" as very few stone buildings were built in the dark ages/Anglo Saxon period to my knowledge. Most of the country reverting back to the timber, wattle & daub type of construction used prior to the Romans and indeed probably used throughout the Roman era by the peasantry.
And I found this snip "The oldest part of St Martin's church was built during the Roman occupation" and this "The so-called Anglian Tower, only excavated in 1969, is a small, square tower, built into the Roman fortress walls, with a simple arched doorway. Its origins are uncertain, and may have been either late Roman or early Anglo-Saxon"
 
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Perhaps I should have said "widely used" as very few stone buildings were built in the dark ages/Anglo Saxon period to my knowledge. Most of the country reverting back to the timber, wattle & daub type of construction used prior to the Romans and indeed probably used throughout the Roman era by the peasantry.
I would agree on that, the stone building at the time being mostly church buildings with the odd defensive tower (often built using stone from Roman sites).
 
I would agree on that, the stone building at the time being mostly church buildings with the odd defensive tower (often built using stone from Roman sites).


Indeed St Albans Cathedral was originally partly built using stone, brick & tile from Roman Verulamium.
 
The stone building era in Africa & its demise seems to me to be not dissimilar to what happened in Britain under the Romans. When they left it was almost another 600 years before the art of building with stone was reintroduced by the Normans.
What likely happened in Britain was that the political and economic fragmentation that occurred after the Romans left meant that the centralized control necessary to concentrate enough resources to build large impressive stone structures no longer existed, except to some degree within the church, which had its own organization and hierarchy. What the Normans reintroduced was a very effective system of civil administration and hierarchical political control.

We don't know with 100% accuracy what happened in southern Africa, but they seem to have had some sort of large scale state or political-religious organization that rose and fell with the gold trade over the course of centuries. It may not have been as simple as the gold paying for the state. It could have been something a lot more complex than that. We really don't know.

If however that state had still been standing when European powers arrived in significant numbers, then the history of southern Africa might have been very different. I think they still would have been taken over by European colonial powers, but the result may have been more similar to what happened in India than what we did see happen in Africa.
 
Ex colonial. I took your advice and started reading No Better Life by John Gornall. Thank you for the recommendation it is very informative and certainly sheds light on a time now past. I have recommended it in turn to some colleagues.
Good as Gornall is, his writing is a different style from yours. I would encourage you to bundle the reminiscences you have put down here into a book. The period you describe will soon be lost from memory (sorry) and the story of colonial policing told primarily by those with an agenda who were never there.
Please think seriously about recording your perspective on a unique time and place and making it available to future scholars.
 
Belgian Congo (now DROC). It was a mixture of US-funded mercs who were Brits, Rhodies, Portugese, Saffers, French, Yanks and Germans - more than a few with 'previous' in the SS. The Belgians were regular paras and went postal on the 'rebels' when they'd seen what they'd done to women and kids, as did the mercs. A nasty business.

What I wasn't aware of was the extent of genocide against the Arabs in Tanganyika and Zanzibar. At least Idi gave the Asians the option of relocating to Leicester. But then again, they didn't quite have the same baggage with the indigenous Africans as did the Zanzibari Arabs - who were essentially there by default of the slave trade - Zanzibar being a slaving hub (until we stamped it out). Arabs were - and still are to some extent - the biggest slave traders.
My late cousin did some family research and discovered that a several times Great Uncle, then serving in the RN, had been killed whilst boarding a slaving dhow operating under the aegis of the Sultan of Zanzibar.
One of the reasons I tend to go a bit ballistic over the perpetual guilt trip the UK is supposed to indulge in over slavery.
 
IIRC the shortest war ever fought by the UK was against Zanzibar, warship shelled Zanzibar. Zanzibar surrendered, UK billed Zanzibar for the 'Ammo expended, job jobbed.
 

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