History of Algeria

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Prehistory of Central North Africa: Early inhabitants of the central Maghrib (also seen as Maghreb; designates North Africa west of Egypt) left behind significant remains including remnants of hominid occupation from ca. 200,000 B.C. found near Saïda. Neolithic civilization (marked by animal domestication and subsistence agriculture) developed in the Saharan and Mediterranean Maghrib between 6000 and 2000 B.C. This type of economy, so richly depicted in the Tassili-n-Ajjer cave paintings in southeastern Algeria, predominated in the Maghrib until the classical period. The amalgam of peoples of North Africa coalesced eventually into a distinct native population that came to be called Berbers. Distinguished primarily by cultural and linguistic attributes, the Berbers lacked a written language and hence tended to be overlooked or marginalized in historical accounts. North Africa During the Classical Period: Phoenician traders arrived on the North African coast around 900 B.C. and established Carthage (in present-day Tunisia) around 800 B.C. During the classical period, Berber civilization was already at a stage in which agriculture, manufacturing, trade, and political organization supported several states. Trade links between Carthage and the Berbers in the interior grew, but territorial expansion also brought about the enslavement or military recruitment of some Berbers and the extraction of tribute from others. The Carthaginian state declined because of successive defeats by the Romans in the Punic Wars, and in 146 B.C. the city of Carthage was destroyed. As Carthaginian power waned, the influence of Berber leaders in the hinterland grew. By the second century B.C., several large but loosely administered Berber kingdoms had emerged. Berber territory was annexed to the Roman Empire in A.D. 24. Increases in urbanization and in the area under cultivation during Roman rule caused wholesale dislocations of Berber society, and Berber opposition to the Roman presence was nearly constant. The prosperity of most towns depended on agriculture, and the region was known as the "granary of the empire." Christianity arrived in the second century. By the end of the fourth century, the settled areas had become Christianized, and some Berber tribes had converted en masse. Islam and the Arabs: The first Arab military expeditions into the Maghrib, between 642 and 669, resulted in the spread of Islam. The Umayyads (a Muslim dynasty based in Damascus from 661 to 750) recognized that the strategic necessity of dominating the Mediterranean dictated a concerted military effort on the North African front. By 711 Umayyad forces, helped by Berber converts to Islam, had conquered all of North Africa. In 750 the Abbasids succeeded the Umayyads as Muslim rulers and moved the caliphate to Baghdad. Under the Abbasids, the Rustumid imamate (761–909) actually ruled most of the central Maghrib from Tahirt, southwest of Algiers. The imams gained a reputation for honesty, piety, and justice, and the court of Tahirt was noted for its support of scholarship. The Rustumid imams failed, however, to organize a reliable standing army, which opened the way for Tahirt's demise under the assault of the Fatimid dynasty. With their interest focused primarily on Egypt and Muslim lands beyond, the Fatimids left the rule of most of Algeria to the Zirids (972–1148), a Berber dynasty that centered significant local power in Algeria for the first time. This period was marked by constant conflict, political instability, and economic decline. Following a large incursion of Arab bedouin from Egypt beginning in the first half of the eleventh century, the use of Arabic spread to the countryside, and sedentary Berbers were gradually Arabized. The Almoravid ("those who have made a religious retreat") movement developed early in the eleventh century among the Sanhaja Berbers of the western Sahara. The movement's initial impetus was religious, an attempt by a tribal leader to impose...
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