Discover more from African History Extra
a brief note on the African exploration of the Old world
plus: the African discovery of north-western Europe.
Africans have been travelling and exploring the world beyond their continent since antiquity. Documentation of the African presence outside the continent begun as soon as the kingdom of Kush expanded into western Asia in the 7th century BC, and would continue into the early centuries of the common era when Kushite envoys were a regular presence in eastern Rome.
In the suceeding period, African travelers from across many parts of the continent reached the Arabian penisula, explored the Indian subcontinent, and travelled to as far as China. The rulers of Aksum and Ethiopia sent their embassies and merchants across the western Indian ocean, the city-states of the Swahili coast established contacts with India and China, and West African royals and scholars created disporic communities in Arabia and Jerusalem.
While the African presence in Asia is better documented, African journeys into Europe also occurred fairly regulary since the early 1st millennium. African royals, students and pilgrims from the kingdoms of Nubia and Ethiopia explored the capitals and pilgrimage sites of Eastern and Southern Europe. West African scholars and mercenaries visited Islamic Spain, and a few joined their North-African peers to create an African kingdom in southern Italy. After the fall of the Byzantines, African embassies and scholars from as far as Mali to Bornu and Chad begun making an appearance at the Ottoman capital Istanbul. By the early modern era, the presence of African travelers in southern Europe was far from a novelty.
Gradually, the journeys of African travelers took them beyond the more familiar regions of southern Europe and into the lesser known societies of north-western Europe. Travelling across the Alps and the northern Atlantic, Africans of varying statuses, including envoys, scholars and students, arrived in the capitals of north-western European kingdoms of Britain, France, the Holy Roman Empire and the low countries.
The history of African exploration and discovery of North-western Europe is the subject of my latest Patreon article;
Read about it here:
Detail of a Westminster Tournament Roll from 1511, showing an African trumpeter named John Blanke, who was active at the court of King Henry VIII in Tudor England.
Thanks for reading African History Extra! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.