western sahara bound

The history of West Africa has been divided into its prehistory, the Iron Age in Africa, the major polities flourishing, the colonial period, and finally the post-independence era, in which the current nations were formed. West Africa is west of an imagined north-south axis lying close to 10° east longitude, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Sahara Desert. Colonial boundaries are reflected in the modern boundaries between contemporary West African states, cutting across ethnic and cultural lines, often dividing single ethnic groups between two or more states.
Acheulean tool-using archaic humans may have dwelled throughout West Africa since at least between 780,000 BP and 126,000 BP (Middle Pleistocene). During the Pleistocene, Middle Stone Age peoples (e.g., Iwo Eleru people, possibly Aterians), who dwelled throughout West Africa between MIS 4 and MIS 2, were gradually replaced by incoming Late Stone Age peoples, who migrated into West Africa as an increase in humid conditions resulted in the subsequent expansion of the West African forest. West African hunter-gatherers occupied western Central Africa (e.g., Shum Laka) earlier than 32,000 BP, dwelled throughout coastal West Africa by 12,000 BP, migrated northward between 12,000 BP and 8000 BP as far as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania, and persisted as late as 1000 BP or some period of time after 1500 CE. During the Holocene, sedentary farming developed in West Africa among the ancestors of modern West Africans. The Iron industry, in both smelting and forging for tools and weapons, appeared in Sub-Saharan Africa by 1200 BCE, and by 400 BCE, contact had been made with the Mediterranean civilizations, and a regular trade included exporting gold, cotton, metal, and leather in exchange for copper, horses, salt, textiles, and beads. The Tichitt culture developed in 2200 BCE and lasted until around 200 BCE. The Nok culture developed in 1500 BCE and vanished under unknown circumstances around 500 CE. Serer people constructed the Senegambian stone circles between 3rd century BCE and 16th century CE. The Sahelian kingdoms were a series of kingdoms or empires that were built on the Sahel, the area of grasslands south of the Sahara. They controlled the trade routes across the desert, and were also quite decentralised, with member cities having a great deal of autonomy. The Ghana Empire may have been established as early as the 7th century CE. It was succeeded by the Sosso in 1230, the Mali Empire in the 13th century CE, and later by the Songhai and Sokoto Caliphate. There were also a number of forest empires and states in this time period.
Following the collapse of the Songhai Empire, a number of smaller states arose across West Africa, including the Bambara Empire of Ségou, the lesser Bambara kingdom of Kaarta, the Fula/Malinké kingdom of Khasso (in present-day Mali's Kayes Region), and the Kénédougou Empire of Sikasso. European traders first became a force in the region in the 15th century. The transatlantic African slave trade resumed, with the Portuguese taking hundreds of captives back to their country for use as slaves; however, it would not begin on a grand scale until Christopher Columbus's voyage to the Americas and the subsequent demand for cheap colonial labour. As the demand for slaves increased, some African rulers sought to supply the demand by constant war against their neighbours, resulting in fresh captives. European, American and Haitian governments passed legislation prohibiting the Atlantic slave trade in the 19th century, though the last country to abolish the institution was Brazil in 1888.
In 1725, the cattle-herding Fulanis of Fouta Djallon launched the first major reformist jihad of the region, overthrowing the local animist, Mande-speaking elites and attempting to somewhat democratize their society. At the same time, the Europeans started to travel into the interior of Africa to trade and explore. Mungo Park (1771–1806) made the first serious expedition into the region's interior, tracing the Niger River as far as Timbuktu. French armies followed not long after. In the Scramble for Africa in the 1880s the Europeans started to colonise the inland of West Africa, they had previously mostly controlled trading ports along the coasts and rivers. Following World War II, campaigns for independence sprung up across West Africa, most notably in Ghana under the Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah (1909–1972). After a decade of protests, riots and clashes, French West Africa voted for autonomy in a 1958 referendum, dividing into the states of today; most of the British colonies gained autonomy the following decade. Since independence, West Africa has suffered from the same problems as much of the African continent, particularly dictatorships, political corruption and military coups; it has also seen bloody civil wars. The development of oil and mineral wealth has seen the steady modernization of some countries since the early 2000s, though inequality persists.

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