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Africa: A Voyage of Discovery

Year: 1984
Code: AH-AfricaPt1

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A 1984 documentary series hosted by Basil Davidson, describing the history of Africa. The series consists of eight episodes that present African history from prehistoric times to the mid-20th century. From the origins of some of the world‘s greatest civilisations, to colonisation, the rise of nationalism and the emergence of modern Africa - the story is unfolded on location all over this fascinating continent, showing life as it is today, plus archive footage and dramatized reconstructions. 

The New York Times dubbed the series "...a stunning piece of work...a winner, in part, because it's host, Basil Davidson is an enthusiast."

Episode 1 - Different But Equal
Basil Davidson examines the cultures of early Africa. Much of this information is based on art and artifacts from pyramids, caves, and tombs from Egypt and Meroe in ancient Sudan, with an emphasis on Meroe.

Episode 2 - Mastering a Continent
Basil Davidson takes a look at three different African groups, the Nok, the Dogon, and the Pokat. While many regard these societies as primitive, Davidson points out the complexity of their lifestyles.

Episode 3 - Caravans of Gold
This episode traces the roots of the medieval gold trade - which reached from Africa to India, China, and Italy - and examines its influence on the African continent.

Episode 4 - Kings and Cities
Basil Davidson tracks the prospering region of West Africa, burgeoning as a consequence of its wide-ranging trade achievements.

Episode 5 - The Bible and the Gun
One of the more powerful influences on the development of Africa was exerted by the European missionary. This influence is discussed by Basil Davidson as being both good and bad.

Episode 6 - This Magnificent African Cake
After the 1880s, Europeans set about exploiting Africans in every conceivable way, forcing them to pay taxes, plant cash crops instead of food crops grown for survival, and work for low pay.

Episode 7 - The Rise of Nationalism
This episode charts the events that in 1957 resulted in independence for Ghana, the first sub-Saharan colony to achieve independence. And then it highlights similar uprisings against colonial rule.

Episode 8 - The Legacy
Davidson looks at Africa in the aftermath of colonial rule, featuring Lagos as an example of a rapidly growing, postcolonial African city, struggling with crime, traffic, electric supply, and other problems.

Basil Davidson was a radical journalist in the great anti-imperial tradition, and became a distinguished historian of pre-colonial Africa. An energetic and charismatic figure, he was dropped behind enemy lines during the second world war and joined that legendary band of British soldiers who fought with the partisans in Yugoslavia and in Italy. Years later, he was the first reporter to travel with the guerrillas fighting the Portuguese in Angola and Guinea-Bissau, and brought their struggle to the world's attention.

For many years he was at the centre of the campaigns for Africa's liberation from colonialism and apartheid, endlessly addressing meetings and working on committees. Extremely tall and with a shock of white hair, and possessing the old-fashioned courtesy of the ex-army officer that he was – or even of the country gentleman that he eventually became after his move to the West Country – he was an unlikely figure at many of these often incoherent and sometimes sectarian events, usually run by student activists and exiles.

 

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