Letter: A wealth of words on Africa's ancient past

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The Independent Online
Sir: While many historians of Africa would agree with the general thrust of the second paragraph of David Keys' review of The Archaeology of Africa (5 July), there is in fact a large and often excellent literature on pre-colonial African civilisations and empires, even if many historians of Africa would be much happier if there was more. Mr Keys should do his homework more thoroughly; a starting point might be a brief search in the library catalogue at the School of Oriental and African Studies, which can be conducted at any networked library terminal.

Were he to look at the bibliographies of Asante, Benin, Bornu, Buganda, Dahomey, Ethiopia, Funj, Ife, Kongo, Lunda, Mali, Mbundu, Oyo, Shona and Tukolor, to cite only a sample of the possibilities, he might modify his wild and thoroughly inaccurate claim that only the Swahili enjoy a printed early history. There is a wealth of accessible writing on pre-colonial Africa, much of which the inter-library loan scheme makes available to any 'interested member of the general public'.

Yours faithfully,

RICHARD RATHBONE

Dean of Postgraduate Studies

School of Oriental and African Studies

University of London

London, WC1

6 July

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