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Justin J. Corfield

“Leo Africanus,” (1488 or 1490–c. 1554), whose proper name is al-Hassan ibn Muhammad al-Wizzaa al-Fasi, is best known for his book on Africa, which was published in 1550 and which gave a great insight in early modern Europe into the world view of Africans. It remained, for many years, one of the major published sources on west-central Africa, and brought the city of Timbuktu to the attention of Europeans. His work also led to great tales being told of Timbuktu, a place of wealth but more importantly of remoteness, in a similar manner to Shangri La, which represented remoteness and spirituality, and El Dorado, a place of unimaginable wealth.

Leo Africanus was born in the kingdom of Granada, but his wealthy family had to leave the city when it was conquered by the armies of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492 They moved to Fez ...

Article

Jamie Bruce-Lockhart

British Royal Navy commander, who played a significant role in the opening of relations between Europe and the interior of west Africa in the 1820s through his participation in two expeditions sponsored by the British government to investigate countries of the central Sudan (Arabic, bilad as-Sudan land of the blacks and the final course of the River Niger He made important diplomatic contacts with leading states of the region and while he ultimately failed to clarify where the river entered the sea his accounts shed light on regions of Africa then unknown to Western science He was the first to chart every degree of latitude from the Mediterranean to the Guinea coast His extensive reports introduced Europeans to the character and riches of long established civilizations of the African interior and his investigations reliant as in part they were upon indigenous sources and aid paved the way for ...

Article

Born in Annan, Scotland, Hugh Clapperton went to sea at the age of thirteen and later became a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. In 1821 the British Colonial Office sent him, along with explorers Walter Oudney and Dixon Denham, on the Bornu Mission to trace the true course of the Niger River in Africa. They crossed the Sahara from Tripoli, in present-day Libya, and became the first Europeans to see Lake Chad, which Denham set off to explore on his own. From there, Clapperton and Oudney headed west into present-day Nigeria toward Kano, but Oudney died along the way and Clapperton reached it alone. He then traveled on to Sokoto but, detained by local rulers, was unable to find a guide to take him the 240 km (150 mi) to the Niger. He returned briefly to England before coming back to West Africa in 1825 With British ...

Article

Trevor Hall

and his elder son, Diego Columbus (1479?–1526), governor of Hispaniola during the first recorded revolt by enslaved Africans in the Americas, both had significant connections to Africa. The elder Columbus, known as Cristoforo Colombo in Italian and Cristóbal Colón in Spanish, remains a mysterious historic figure, even though, in the twentieth century alone, more than 250 scholarly articles and books were written on his origins (Sale, The Conquest of Paradise). Over a dozen birthdates have been claimed for him as well as at least twenty-five nationalities (Catz, p.83). Most biographers agree, though, that he was born in the Italian port of Genoa, the eldest son of Domenico Colombo, a wool worker and merchant, and Susanna Fontanarossa.

The sources also agree that, from about 1477 to 1485 Columbus and his brother Bartolemeu were mariners in Portugal involved in trade with West Africa Very little has been written ...

Article

William E. Burns

interpreter, was probably born in the sixteenth century in the region of West Africa under Portuguese influence. What is known of his career comes from legal cases and documents carried out in the Dutch Republic and France from 1607 to 1619. Da Costa's African Portuguese origin can be surmised from his Portuguese name, and the fact that a community of interpreters, some of African descent and some of mixed African and Portuguese descent, had formed in West Africa in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. That Da Costa appeared to his European contemporaries as black can be shown from the use of the word naigre to refer to him. However, his particular point of origin is not certain, nor is the way in which Da Costa's skills as an interpreter transferred from the African coast to that of North America.

Da Costa first appears in the historical record in 1607 ...

Article

Peter Hudson

The history of black people in Canada can be dated from the early seventeenth-century expeditions of French explorer Pierre du Gua sieur de Monts Traveling with du Gua was an African man Mathieu da Costa who worked as an interpreter between the French and the indigenous Mic Mac people ...

Article

Chouki El Hamel

Moroccan scholar, diplomat, and traveler, was born al-Hasan b. Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Wazzan al-Fasi al-Gharnati (hereafter, al-Wazzan) in Granada, Spain, to a wealthy family (some sources place the date of his birth between 1488 and 1496). In 1492, Granada fell into the hands of the Spanish Castilians, after which Iberian Muslims were forced to migrate to North Africa. In this context, the al-Wazzan family moved to Morocco and settled in the city of Fez. They were able to preserve their socioeconomic status and participated in diplomatic and commercial activities. In his book Description of Africa al Wazzan mentions that after his family settled in the region of Fez he used to accompany his father on business trips to the Rif region and the Middle Atlas mountains to collect taxes on behalf of the Wattasi sultan He also accompanied his uncle on a diplomatic mission to Timbuktu at age ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

The son of a wealthy family, Leo Africanus was born in Spain but moved to Fès, Morocco, as a child. There he was educated and later employed by his uncle as a clerk. Africanus’s first trip to the western Sudan, around 1512, was part of a diplomatic and commercial mission to the Songhai Empire led by his uncle on behalf of the rulers of Fès. During this trip Africanus traveled extensively throughout the region and visited its major trading cities, including Tombouctou, Djenné, Gao, and Sijilmasa. He recorded his observations on all of the region’s major states: the Songhai and Mali empires, the Hausa States and Bornu, as well as the Bulala state occupying the former Kanem empire. This trip provided much of the research for his later publications.

Between 1516 and 1518 Africanus made several trips to Egypt and possibly a trip to Constantinople. In 1518 during ...

Article

Roy Bridges

whose parentage and date of birth are unknown, was a freed slave of Yao origin who produced a remarkable record of the African initiative to return David Livingstone’s body to the coast in 1873. Until recently, Wainwright’s achievement has been overlooked and his character unfairly condemned.

Taken from near Lake Malawi to the coast for transport perhaps to Arabia, Wainwright was rescued by the British Navy’s anti–slave trade patrol in 1866. British policy was to transfer freed slaves to Christian missionaries, and Wainwright came into the care of the Anglican Church Missionary Society at Sharanpur School at Nasik, near Mumbai in India. Converted to Christianity and given a new name and an elementary education, he was soon able to write and speak clear, coherent English.

In 1871 increasing worries about the fate of Scottish explorer and missionary David Livingstone 1813 1873 led the Royal Geographical Society to ...