36

Many times in my life, I have heard phrases such as "in darkest Africa...", seemingly to refer to somewhere in Africa. It is never explained, and appears to be considered so obvious as to not require an explanation... except it does, for me.

Why "darkest Africa"? Are they referring to the skin colour of the people? Are there areas where the Sun rays don't really reach much, such as an untamed jungle, and this is what they refer to? Literally "darkest Africa" as in a tribe living in the darkish jungle rather than out in the open, where it would be sunny?

Or is this metaphorical, such as "darkest" referring to the remote areas where the humans are or have at one point been cannibals, which would be seen as "dark" or "evil"?

10
  • 13
    Ask Joseph Conrad. Heart of Darkness
    – Phil Sweet
    Nov 28, 2022 at 17:13
  • 4
    A dark horse: a person who keeps their interests and ideas secret, especially someone who has a surprising ability or skill. There is nothing negative about that. Nov 28, 2022 at 18:51
  • 25
    Who voted to close this as a matter of opinion? It is a fixed expression with a long history, although little used today because of the exploration and then subsequent urbanization of Africa. But its meaning was clear to the readers of the numerous books in which it occurred up to the middle of the last century.
    – David
    Nov 28, 2022 at 19:02
  • 3
    The "darkest" did not refer to any actual darkness or to dark colors, but to the idea that the terrain is unknown and that travelers there are out of communication.
    – Chaim
    Nov 29, 2022 at 19:33
  • 7
    Another popular use of darkest in this sense, is that Paddington Bear is from darkest Peru.
    – BruceWayne
    Nov 29, 2022 at 21:20

7 Answers 7

52

In a general sense, “darkest” is used to refer to places which are hard to reach and about which little is known:

Darkest Africa/South America etc.

(old-fashioned) the parts of Africa etc about which we know very little – this use is now often considered offensive.

(Longman Dictionary)

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  • 18
    Cambridge has it as "most secret or hidden". I'm not sure why it should be considered offensive; it's a fixed phrase, "deepest, darkest Africa".
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 28, 2022 at 14:26
  • 53
    Obviously only hard to reach for Europeans, not for the people who actually live there and who presumably don't find it any darker than a Londoner might find London.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 28, 2022 at 14:28
  • 18
    Today, darkest Africa would be viewed as very unacceptable, dated and racist.
    – Lambie
    Nov 28, 2022 at 20:14
  • 7
    @Chaim I think StuartF's point is that African people have known Africa for a lot longer than the Europeans. Also, the Chinese were the first to map the continent
    – mcalex
    Nov 29, 2022 at 3:35
  • 20
    @David "In my youth (mid 20th century) it would conjure up exploration in an earlier era" I actually think this is a large part of why it could be considered 'offensive'. It's an exotification of the place. and speaking about the continent in the terms of explorers who are often viewed as imperialist in a modern lens. Nov 29, 2022 at 13:53
23

The meaning of "dark" is generally "unilluminated" either intentionally, as per 11a below, or by misfortune, as per 13 below:

OED:

11.a. Hidden from view or knowledge; concealed; kept secret. Frequently in to keep (something) dark: to keep (something) concealed; to keep secret.

1608 W. Shakespeare King Lear i. 37 We will express our darker purposes..know we have divided In three, our kingdom.

2018 Goop Fall 30 (heading) There is a place so quiet, so protected, so guarded, that we trust it with our darkest secrets... This place, dear reader, is the back of our underwear drawer.

Hence unknown as it is

13. Designating a place considered remote, inaccessible, and uncivilized. Frequently in the Dark Continent: (a name given to) Africa (now sometimes offensive). Later chiefly in superlative, originally as an epithet for Africa, and hence applied to other places (humorous or ironic in later use).

1826 Eng. Gentleman 3 Dec. 388/3 Has it civilized Africa—suppressed the slave trade—tended to spread the blessings of Christianity, in any part of that dark Continent? Alas! no!

1890 H. M. Stanley (title) Through Darkest Africa.

2017 Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Nexis) 11 May (National ed.) 51 When I was younger, maybe 17 or 18, I found myself working with a demolition crew in deepest, darkest Rochdale.

7
  • In the Rochdale example the phrase is used ironically, isn't it?
    – gerrit
    Nov 29, 2022 at 7:46
  • 1
    @gerrit - Yes - although it depends on what you think of Rochdale! :)
    – Greybeard
    Nov 29, 2022 at 9:34
  • 1
    I would understand quicker, if someone referred to "darkest Liverpool" ... 'course I'm a uncouth 'merican.
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 29, 2022 at 10:53
  • 1
    @CGCampbell But that would be like referring to "darkest New York". :) Liverpool is a major city, well connected and well visited. Rochdale is a medium-sized town, in a relatively isolated area of hills and valleys, which has generally suffered from post-industrial depression and a lack of inward investment. If you want a US equivalent, think Scranton, PA.
    – Graham
    Nov 29, 2022 at 13:58
  • 1
    I've been to Rochdale, many a time - it's a fair description ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 29, 2022 at 17:44
11

In academic metaphorical use, "dark" generally means "unknown" or "hidden." The dark ages are called that because of the lack of written records during that time:

Francesco Petrarca (known as Petrarch) was the first person to coin the term ‘Dark Ages’. He was an Italian scholar of the 14th century. He called it the ‘Dark Ages’ as he was dismayed at the lack of good literature at that time.

The dark side of the moon is frequently well lit, but since we couldn't see it (until recently) we knew little about it. Dark matter and dark energy are named for the difficulty of observing them directly. Similarly, "darkest Africa" referred to the parts that Europeans had explored least. (The phrase is Eurocentric, of course...I'm willing to guess that it was little-used by Africans.)

3
  • Although this answer is likely correct, it needs some supporting information (references) so that it's independently verifiable. Please show your sources when answering on EL&U. Thanks! Nov 30, 2022 at 9:10
  • A closely-related metaphor: to shed light on, meaning to increase understanding or knowledge.
    – gidds
    Nov 30, 2022 at 10:50
  • Dark matter's name does come from the fact that it doesn't emit light the way stars do, or interact with light like gas clouds / nebulae do. In simple terms, simulations/models show that there seems to be mass which astronomers can't see. So it's not purely metaphorical in that case. But yes, it does fit better thanks to the metaphorical meaning. Nov 30, 2022 at 22:16
2

'Dark is a complicated word. It is associated with colours that reflect less or little light:

dark blue, green, brown ..., etc. The skin colour of the indigenous people europeans found Africa has always been dark, retained, of course, because it protected people from the intense sunlight. As such, darkness of skin applies to people of sub-Saharan Africa, as opposed to Mediterranean Africa, where people are much fairer skinned.

Dark refers to the absence of light. "It's too dark for me to read the sign." Sub-Saharan Africa was certainly not short of light, being, in much of its vast size, hot and bright all year round. But the extensive jungle is relatively speaking dark, or at least shady. So it is possible, though personally I think it unlikely, that the jungle regions of Africa could be described as 'dark'. But I find it difficult to believe that.

Darkness can be used to refer to dishonesty or ruthless evil designing. Satan has often been referred to as the 'prince of darkness'.

Darkness can also been used as the opposite of 'enlightenment: lack of education or literacy; ignorance; possibly too absence of what we would have recognised as governance and law.

That is, I think the most likely meaning, and probably the areas explored by the famous Stanley, who writes of "The Dark Continent." He was finding societies that were not urban or literate, and, of course, not christian or of any of the monotheistic religions of Europe and the Middle East. It would have been easy, with the prejudices of the time to think of these people as 'benighted', though now we have, all too late, learned how shallow this perception was.

The expression "darkest Africa" was then at best condescending and is now offensive. Historically, though, we can have a psychological understanding of what was going through the minds of Stanley and others in those days when we had not learned better.

4
  • 5
    Darkest Africa, from the European perspective (compared to Asian) might also refer to the fact that until recently (i.e. within a century or two) a lot of Africa, on maps, was simply gray, unknown, uncharted, "here be dragons." The same was true for a lot of the Arctic and Antarctic, before Peary et al.
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 29, 2022 at 10:56
  • 5
    Nobody refers to the darkest Arctic or Antarctic, though, even though those regions are literally very dark much of the time during winter.
    – tell
    Nov 29, 2022 at 13:44
  • 2
    “In those days when we had not learned better” Curious construction, but unequivocally condescending.
    – David
    Nov 29, 2022 at 16:50
  • It was not just prejudice. As João de Barras said, "God has placed a striking angel with a flaming sword of deadly fevers, who prevents us from penetrating into the interior to the springs of this garden". Early European visitors to Africa tended to be struck down swiftly by tropical fevers when they went inland, so they did their business with middlemen from coastal areas, leaving the "unexplored" interior to the locals (who had some useful immunity). Nov 30, 2022 at 9:36
0

The phrase "darkest Africa" appears in print at least as early as 1852. From "Thoughts on Man in His Relations to God and to External Nature" (1852):

No cries are heard of anger and despair; / But one deep, calm, long-pealing hymn of joy, / From earth to heaven ascending;—peace and love / Wrapp'd as an atmosphere around the globe; / Mankind as a brotherhood. Truth reigns, and now / Dark places dark no more, no more are filled / With horrid cruelty. Now,—purest light / Pour'd forth profuse on India's populous plains, / And darkest Africa,—no beat of drums / Announces death of immolated slave,— / But the sweet, solemn sound, at eve or morn, / Of bells inviting to the house of prayer, / Is heard instead o'er all the Niger's plain.

In this poem, the darkness of "darkest Africa" seems to refer to the darkness of being "filled with horrid cruelty"—presumably owing to the related darkness of lacking knowledge of Christianity.

A somewhat different notion seems to infuse the phrases "the darkest spots in Africa" and "the darkest places of Africa," in "West Africa," in The Fifty-Ninth Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society (1863):

Some letters received from Mr. Zimmerman refer to the success of Missionary operations, while conveying information as to the work of translation. Amidst many causes of sadness, joy is inspired, because Word of God prospers in its course even in the darkest spots of Africa. The increased desire for the knowledge of Divine Truth is the best recompense your Committee can receive, for providing the Scriptures on behalf of the oppressed tribes of Africa.

...

'So, everywhere the Word of God is advancing to the darkest places of Africa. The dead bones begin to move. May the Lord soon send His Spirit from above, to give them life!'

Here, the "darkest" locales in Africa seem to be the regions that are most remote from the missionaries—not necessarily the ones that are most lawless or profane.

Henry Stanley may not aware of the 1852 poem. In any event, his use of "darkest Africa" to signify the least explored (by Europeans) areas of the African continent—in his hugely successful book In Darkest Africa: or, The Quest, Rescue, and Retreat of Emin Governor of Equatoria (1890)—seems to have led directly to popularization of the phrase. A Google Books search turns up dozens of references to Stanley's book and to "darkest Africa" as a descriptive term in publications within just a few years of 1890—most notably in missionary periodicals, where, again, darkness neatly conflates geographical obscurity and spiritual unenlightenment. Such was the fame of Stanley's book that publishers soon turned out such copycat (or parodic) titles as A New Light Thrown Across the Keep It Quite Darkest Africa (1890), In Darkest England, and the Way Out (1890), and Darkest India (1891). The latter two books, written by William Booth and by Frederick Booth-Tucker of the Salvation Army, refer explicitly to spiritual darkness.


'The Dark Continent' as a possible antecedent to 'darkest Africa'

Stanley's formulation of "darkest Africa" may have been a play on his earlier use of "the Dark Continent" in Through the Dark Continent; or, The Sources of the Nile, Around the Great Lakes of Equatorial Africa, and Down the Livingstone River to the Atlantic Ocean (1878).

The term "Dark Continent" in reference to Africa was already in use long before that date, however. For example, from "The Heart of Africa" in The Month and Catholic Review (July 1874):

The dark ages, according to the well known saying, were so called, because they were dark to us: and Africa might well have been called the Dark Continent for a similar reason. The maps used to represent it as slightly inhabited—so far as it was to be supposed that where there were names of towns and ports there must be human habitations—along parts of its coasts, though here there were large gaps, in the valley of the Nile, Nubia, at its southern tip. occupied by the Cape Colony, and few other comparatively small regions besides. It had its two famous rivers [presumably the Nile and the Niger], the sources of which were unknown, but which might as well have been supposed to be contiguous to each other in the "Mountains of the Moon." Something was known of a few of the kingdoms of the interior. But the greater part of the continent was supposed to be desert, or something like desert, roamed over by wild animals. If inhabited by men at all, they were men practically of another world, of whom—except to use them as slaves—the inhabitants of Europe, Asia, or America, knew or cared little.

In fact, "dark continent" appears in publications at least as early as 1828. From "Africa," in The African Repository, and Colonial Journal (1828):

Africa, notwithstanding, is pronounced by common consent, the birthplace and cradle of civilization, as well as of the arts and sciences. In one corner of that dark continent was kindled the light, which was destined to blaze so conspicuously in Greece and Rome, and which was to attain, under the auspices of Christianity, in Europe and America, the full splendor of its meridian brightness.

From Archibald Alexander, "Introductory Discourse," in A Memoir of the Rev. Joseph W. Barr: Late Missionary Under the Direction of the Western Foreign Missionary Society (1833):

God seems to have raised up this colony [Liberia], as the first step toward the civilization and Christianization of benighted Africa. ... However injurious the slave-trade has been, to a large portion of this country; and however unjust to the oppressed Africans—of both which every impartial man must be deeply convinced—yet he who takes a comprehensive view of the whole subject, must be satisfied, that ultimate good will be the result of bringing the African race to America. Already, multitudes have received the blessings of the gospel, who, if they had remained, or been born in Africa, must have perished in their idolatry. And if, by the agency of the colonization society, that dark continent should become illumined with the rays of gospel light, how grand will be the result?

From "Summary of Religious Intelligence," in Evangelical Magazine (September 1833):

It is a fact that one language, (the Betjouana,) prevails over a very great part of South Africa.—Another language, (the Berbee,) stretches along the whole northern coast. This will greatly facilitate the introduction of the Bible to those people. Thus, as time advances, more missions will be established, and a line of light-houses, as it were, will be strung around on the borders of that dark continent. The work seems to be well commenced. At Egypt, Abyssinia, Madagascar, over the whole Southern extreme, at Liberia and Sierra Leone, are found the heralds of the cross. The light will soon penetrate the interior.

From John Breckenridge, "Young Men's Colonization Society" (October 15, 1835) in Hazard's Register of Pennsylvania (October 31, 1835):

The principles upon which the [Bassa Cove, Liberia] colony was founded are such as were best adapted to promote alike the highest interests of the emigrants and of the dark continent to which they were sent: being those of temperance, peace and christian order.

From John Breckenridge, "An Address Delivered July 15, 1835, Before the Eucleian and Philomathean Societies of the University of the City of New-York" (1836):

But of all nations, we have most injured Africa ; and of all nations we possess the most extraordinary resources to civilize, and evangelize that dark continent. Our facilities are exceeded only by our obligations.

From Frederick Freeman, Yaradee: A Plea for Africa, Being Familiar Conversations on the Subject of Slavery and Colonization (1836):

The treatment which they ["the Africans"] have received, it is said, had caused them to identify Christianity with perfidy and cruelty, until recent efforts were made to colonize Africa with free men, and to civilize and christianize that dark continent by means of colonization.

...

The object [of African colonization] is thought to have powerful claims to our best and warmest wishes, and untiring efforts, whether we consult the best interests of the free blacks, the slaves, the whites, or the many millions scattered over the dark continent of Africa.

From Stephen Kay's "travels and researches," quoted in James Paulding, Slavery in the United States (1836):

Every page of African history renders it abundantly evident, that misery and destruction are in all the ways of fallen man, and that to him the way of peace is altogether unknown. As in the western, so also in the southern division of this dark continent, its numerous tribes and clans are continually feeding the vengeful flame.

From "The Twenty-First Annual Report of the American Society for the Colonizing the Free People of Color of the United States, with the Proceedings of the Annual Meeting, December 13, 1837" (1838):

The mighty work has begun—the Wesleyan Missionaries have kindled a fire upon the Southern coast, and have pressed the cup[ of salvation sccessfully to the parched lips of the Hottentots, and the Christians of the United States have struck a light upon the Western coast, by means of the Colonization Societies—and at no distant day, shall those kindled fires commingle and extend their radiation into the interior of that dark continent ; and Africa, emancipated and disenthralled, shall stand forth a monument, alike of the wisdom of the Colonization enterprise, and of the benevolence and efficiency of Christian Missionary labor.

From Joseph Eisdell, A Treatise on the Industry of Nations; or, The Principles of National Economy, and Taxation, volume 1 (1839):

The boundaries of the "republic of letters" have already been extended from Europe to America, and a new continent has thus been acquired for it. Asia and Africa, with the ancient seats of learning and refinement, remain to be subdued or reclaimed and added to its dominions. Civilization has commenced her onward march ; she is no longer quiet. India lies open and prostrate before her. Africa, the strong-hold of barbarism, is no longer inaccessible. At the two extremities, and against the centre, of that dark continent, civilization, under the wings of the two most polished nations of the earth, has planted her foot, and began to diffuse her light ; can we doubt of her progress?

And from M.B. Hope, "Address to the Clergy of all denominations in the State of Pennsylvania" (June 15, 1839), reprinted in The Colonization Herald and General Register (June 1839):

The cause of colonization [of Liberia] is linked in with more important objects, and bears upon more important interests, than any other which claims the attention of the benevolent. It has for its object to elevate and bless the free colored population of our country—to ransom from perpetual slavery (hundreds of individuals and families) those who otherwise must descend in bondage to the grave,—to harmonize the conflicting interests of the North and the South, and quiet the agitations which convulse our land, by removing the evils which gave them birth,—to banish from the earth the iniquitous and accursed slave trade, and to diffuse the blessings of civilization and christianity throughout the dark continent of Africa.


Emergence of 'The Dark Continent' as a quasi-proper name

Significantly, of the ten instances of "dark continent" from the period 1828–1839 cited above in reference to Africa, only Breckenridge's 1835 announcement, Freeman's 1836 book, and Hope's 1839 article use the formulation "the dark continent [of Africa]"; the other seven refer rather to "that dark continent" or (in one case) "this dark continent." Moreover, none of the cited instances refers to "the Dark Continent" as a sobriquet or quasi-proper name.

Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, the phrase "the dark continent of Africa" appears with some frequency. And by 1862 "the dark Continent" had begun to appear in texts in quotation marks, albeit not as a full-fledged proper name. From a letter dated January 14, 1862, and posted from the Camaroons Mountains, from British consul Richard Burton to Earl Russell, reprinted in Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons, volume 71 (1863):

And besides being an adit to trade, the Niger is destined to become the highroad of Central African exploration, and the means, if there be any, of diffusing light throughout the interior of the "dark Continent."

Richard Burton, Abeouta and the Camaroons Mountains: An Exploration, volume 1 (1863) similarly puts "the dark continent" in quotation marks—without initial-capping the (entire) phrase:

A writer in the 'Times' has lately given to my last African explorations in Harar and the Lake Regions the title of reconnaissances. C'est bien le mot. I accept it as the best description of my scanty contributions towards the extension of geographical knowledge of the 'dark continent,' and accordingly it is prefixed to the Second Part of this work.

...

By a collection from the works of different travellers in the remotest parts of the dark Continent, it would methinks be easy to prove a close connection in ancient times between nations and peoples now ignoring one another's existence.

Nevertheless, the earliest instance I have found of "the Dark Continent" treated as a proper noun is from 1863. From "A F.R.G.S." (presumably short for "Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society"), Wanderings in West Africa from Liverpool to Fernando Po (1863):

The history of the Ashantee wars, which began in 1807, is that of the African coast generally. In these lands there are two great axioms of native policy. The first is never admit strangers to the interior for trade, which it is the interest of maritime tribes to monopolize, and they live in idleness at the expense of the "Bushmen," or people of the interior. For this point, which is first in life to them, they will fight to the last, and hence the main difficulty of opening up the "Dark Continent."

...

The rite [circumcision] is called Keteafo, or shortening. It is practised by both Gá and Adanme tribes, and is in the keep of a certain family, though not directly connected with religion. The boys—not the girls, as some authors represent—are circumcised about 13 years of age. The missionaries believe this to point out a Hebrew or Moslem origin; I think not. They should bear in mind that the Jews derived the rite from Egypt, that is to say Africa, where it had been used for ages immemorial, and that in the very depths of the Dark Continent, where Jew or Arab never penetrated, it is practised under a variety of modifications.


Other dark continents

Notably, one fairly early source applies the phrase "dark continent" indifferently to both Africa and Asia. From "The Second Annual Essay of the Committee on Foreign Missions: Read Before the Society of the Theological Seminary at Princeton, New Jersey, January 1st, 1833" (1833):

Suppose as a test of your views, you had been born and brought up among the idolatrous, degraded, and perishing population, of the dark continent of Asia, or Africa; but by some wonderful change of circumstances you had been brought to a knowledge of Jesus; with your present views, feelings and sympathies, could you ever have dreamed of coming to America to labour for Christ? And now is not your duty to preach to the heathen, just as imperative as though this had been literally the case.A voyage of a few months will place you on those same benighted shores, and amidst that same degraded, dying population.

Another applies it to India. From "Communications from the Missions: India Missions," in The Missionary Chronicle: Containing the Proceedings of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church (December 1839):

I would therefore indulge the hope that through our weak and unworthy instrumentality [as Christian missionaries in Saharunpur, India] some good has been accomplished in the name of the Lord Jesus, that the bread cast on the waters, will be found after many days, that the precious truth which has been dispensed will be carried to different parts of this dark continent, and there, in the quietness of the closet, be read by some to whom the Holy Spirit will make it the wisdom of God, and the power of God to salvation.

A third applies it to Catholic Europe. From "The Library," in The Sunday School Magazine (1846):

The Continental Echo. London: Snow. A monthly periodical, giving a digest of the state and progress of Protestant principles on the dark Continent of European idolatry. We heartily wish this publication could be seen in every Sunday school.

And a fourth to South America. From Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society (1858):

Nor should the fact that the Word of God has been printed, as well as circulated, by your Society in South America, be unnoticed. The partial exploration of that dark continent has revealed the necessity for the distribution of the Scriptures,—a necessity, your Committee feel, not only manifested by the exploration of a dark continent, but of a dark world.

In a somewhat less religious vein, an instance of "the dark Continent of Europe" appears in "The Spanish Revolution," in The London Review (November 1, 1809):

It was not for the soil, or for the cities and forts, that Portugal was valued, but for the human feeling which was there ; for the rights of human nature which might be there conspicuously asserted ; for a triumph over injustice and oppression there to be atchieved, which could neither be concealed nor disguised, and which should penetrate the darkest corner of the dark Continent of Europe by its splendour.

These are not the only nineteenth-century instances where geographical areas other than Africa are identified as "dark continents." However, Africa was, from the outset, the area that most commonly received this appellation.


Conclusions

The sources I have cited in this answer point to two main understandings of "the dark continent" and, subsequently, "darkest Africa." One is a chiefly secular understanding compounded of notions of region that is remote, unexplored, and largely unknown. The "darkness" thus refers to the lack of illumination about the place among Europeans and other Westerners—not to some darkness attributed to the understanding of the people of Africa.

The other is a zealously religious understanding, according to which the peoples of the continent are living and dying in the darkness of heathenism because they have not been enlightened by exposure to the proseletyzers' preferred strain of Christianity. Both understandings received considerable ink through the decades from the 1830s onward—the former primarily from explorers, scientists, and government officials, and the latter mainly from missionary societies. "The Dark Continent" seems to have been a particular favorite of the religious tracts, while "darkest Africa" seems to have had more appeal to explorers. Still, both camps used both terms, at least through the early decades of the twentieth century.

In more recent times, use of "dark continent" or "darkest Africa" to indicate a region of souls in grave peril has dropped off considerably (as, with the emergence of increasingly precise geographical mapping, has its use to indicate a little-known area). Still, the implication that Africa is a benighted region in need of salvation from better-informed Westerners may lurk at the periphery of both terms, and people on the continent might very reasonably take offense at the patronizing attitude that such an implication suggests.

Beyond that, I see no evidence in the sources I consulted that "the Dark Continent" or "darkest Africa" was, in its earliest occurrences, ever explicitly intended as a reference to the skin color of African people. Here again, however, the details of historical usage may not provide a green light for offense-free current usage: just as the question poster expresses uncertainty about whether "darkest Africa" refers "to the skin colour of the people," so others might entertain the same question—or they might suppose that a speaker or writer using the phrase intends it in that way. For these reasons, "the Dark Continent" and "darkest Africa" are probably best consigned to the museum of antiquities, side by side with the spinning wheel, the bronze axe, and the works of Friedrich Engels.

-2

My understanding is that as you venture up the river Congo, you penetrate Africa more and more. Places like the Sahel and the Namib are also hard going, but they are not connoted by "darkest Africa."

-8

It is part of a Eurocentric point of view that everything in Europe is the height of civilisation and everything else is a backward rural mess that should be left in silence. Similar as to how the enlightenment coin the term dark ages as to infer that for 800 years science stood still.

6
  • 2
    Yeah, because there are so many maps that the Africans did themselves to map out Africa before the western explorers.
    – TomTom
    Nov 30, 2022 at 11:09
  • @TomTom - Well, there actually is a Chinese map of Africa that predates most or all European ones. But that point aside, the fact is that mapping benefited greatly from technological advancements that coincided with the age of European colonization, and the notion of mapping out a whole continent instead of nearby regions fit very well into the needs of the colonialist enterprises.
    – Obie 2.0
    Dec 1, 2022 at 12:18
  • Actually, of any enterprise. You want to reach markets, or plan longer travel, you better have a map.
    – TomTom
    Dec 1, 2022 at 12:37
  • @Obie2.0 Nice comment...it would be interesting to see a link to this early Chinese map of Africa. Thank you.
    – DJohnson
    Dec 2, 2022 at 18:55
  • @DJohnson - historyofinformation.com/detail.php?entryid=326
    – Obie 2.0
    Dec 3, 2022 at 15:45

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