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The sources of African history

The sources from which the African historian obtains his information for the reconstruction of African history can be divided into two broad categories. These are documentary and non-documentary sources. The various types from the two sources shall be discussed below.

Written documents
One very important source of African history is written documents. These documents capture events as they happened in the communities. They are captured in newspapers, personal diaries, missionary reports, magazines, and records of court proceedings, accounts written down by travelers, colonial official reports and correspondence.

Oral traditions
Another important source of African history is referred to as oral traditions. These are traditions handed down from one generation to another generation. These oral sources are embedded in myths, taboos, customs, folklore, folktales etc. By their very name, they are not written down, they are carried by word of mouth, told and retold over the years. The historian is able to find information from this source to write his history.

Findings of archeologists
Archeological findings also constitute another source of African history. The field involves the study of excavated objects from particular areas to be able to have an insight into how that particular society may have lived in the past. With the study of the objects excavated from the area, the historian is able to reconstruct the past of that community.

The study of languages
The study of languages also helps the historian in his or her writing of the history of Africa. It is a field that is technically called linguistics. A detailed study is made of the language of the people, including the history of the language and its relationship with other languages. The information so obtained helps the historian in writing the history of Africa.

The use of Numismatics
This is another important source of studying African history. It involves the study of coins and other mediums of exchange employed by the people in the exchange of goods and services. This study affords the historian a clear view of the African past that formed the basis of writing African history.

Last, but not least, is the study of social institutions of present-day people. This is a field called ethnography. The experts study the evolution of crafts and skills of the people over the years to reconstruct the history of their early days.

1. What are the sources of materials for the writing of African history?

2. What sources are available for the writing of African history?

3. Highlight six sources of African history.

4. Outline the main sources of information for the writing of history.

5. How reliable are the sources available for the writing African history.

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