The history of Africa begins with the prehistory of Africa and the emergence of Homo sapiens in East Africa, continuing into the present as a patchwork of diverse and politically developing nation states. Agriculture began about 10,000 BCE and metallurgy in about 4000 BCE. The historyof early civilization arose in Egypt and later in the Maghreb and the Horn of Africa. During the Middle Ages, Islam spread through the regions. Crossing the Maghreb and the Sahel, a major centre of Muslim culture was at Timbuktu. States and polities subsequently formed throughout the continent.
From the late 15th century, Europeans and Arabs took slaves from West, Central and Southeast Africa overseas in the African slave trade. European colonization of Africa developed rapidly in the Scramble for Africa of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Following independence and struggles in many parts of the continent, decolonization took place after the Second World War.
Africa’s history has been a challenge for researchers in the field of African studies because of the scarcity of written sources in large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Scholarly techniques such as the recording of oral history, historical linguistics, archaeology and genetics have been crucial.