Asia and sub-Saharan Africa
Islam influenced sub-Saharan African culture without incorporating African states into a Middle Eastern core. During much of the classical period, links between sub-Saharan Africa and the civilized cores were limited. Between 800 C.E. and 1500 C.E., contacts between Africa and other civilizations intensified. One of the most important of the cultural influences was the conversion of some African states to Islam. Islamization connected Africa more closely to a Eurasian system of trade and exposed the emerging states of Africa to new concepts of religion, commerce, and political organization. State-building in Africa differed from region to region, with rough similarities to other regions of the world. The arrival of Europeans in the 15th century further shaped the relationship of Africa to a wider world. African political society and culture varied enormously from one region to another. Although universal religions--Christianity and Islam--did penetrate Africa, religious and political diversity remained the common denominators of African history. Some African societies were organized around kinship groups without the institutions associated with state formation. Stateless societies lacked formal bureaucracies, individual rulers and councils, tax systems, and armies. In West Africa, secret societies cut across kinship lines to limit the feuding that was customary in groups organized according to kinship. Such secret societies served as alternatives to state authority. Stateless societies were in a constant process of fragmentation and reformation, but they were vulnerable to external pressures and unable to organize for large-scale military or commercial ventures.There were some similarities among many African societies. The migration of the Bantu-speaking peoples provided a common linguistic base. Animistic religion and witchcraft characterized many African societies. African peoples tended to believe in a creator deity who operated...
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