List of kingdoms in pre-colonial Africa

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Pre-colonial states

There have been a number of historical African states of varying size and influence:


Vansina (1962) discusses the classification of Sub-Saharan African kingdoms, mostly of Central, South and East Africa, with some additional data on West African (Sahelian) kingdoms distinguishing five types, by decreasing centralization of power:

  1. despotic kingdoms: kingdoms where the king controls the internal and external affairs directly. Examples are Ruanda, Nkore, Soga and Kongo in the 16th century
  2. regal kingdoms: kingdoms where the king controls the external affairs directly, and the internal affairs via a system of overseers. The king and his chiefs belong to the same religion or group.
  3. incorporative kingdoms: kingdoms where the king only controls the external affairs with no permanent administrative links between him and the chiefs of the provinces. The hereditary chiefdoms of the provinces were left undisturbed after conquest. Examples are the Bamileke, Lunda, Luba, Lozi.
  4. aristocratic kingdoms: the only link between central authority and the provinces is payment of tribute. These kingdoms are morphologically intermediate between regal kingdoms and federations. This type is rather common in Africa, examples including the Kongo of the 17th century, the Cazembe, Luapula, Kuba, Ngonde, Mlanje, Ha, Zinza and Chagga states of the 18th century.
  5. federations such as the Ashanti Union. Kingdoms where the external affairs are regulated by a council of elders headed by the king, who is simply primus inter pares.

The Islamic empires of North and Northeast Africa do not fall into this categorization and should be discussed as part of the Muslim world.

History periods[edit]

Ancient history (3600 BCE – 500 CE)

Main article: Ancient history

Ancient history refers to the time period beginning with the first records in writing, approximately 3600 BCE. It ends with the fall of several significant empires, such as the Western Roman Empire in the Mediterranean, the Han Dynasty in China, and the Gupta Empire in India, collectively around 500 CE.

Postclassical Era (500 – 1500 CE)

Main article: Postclassical Era

The Postclassical Era, also referred to as the Medieval period or, for Europe, the Middle Ages, begins around 500 CE after the fall of major civilizations, covering the advent of Islam. The period ends around 1450–1500, with events like the rise of moveable-type printing in Europe, the voyages of Christopher Columbus, and the Ottoman Empire's conquest of Constantinople.

Modern history (1500 – present CE)

Main article: Modern history

The Modern Period covers human history from the creation of a more global network (i.e. the discovery of the Americas by Europeans) to present day.

List of African kingdoms[edit]

Non-exhaustive list of known pre-colonial kingdoms and empires with their capital cities on the African continent.

North Africa[edit]

Further information: History of North Africa


Ancient Carthage and its dependencies in 264 BC.

Post Classical[edit]


East Africa[edit]

Domains of the Aksumite Empire and the Adal Sultanate.
Further information: History of East Africa


Post Classical[edit]


West Africa[edit]

Further information: History of West Africa


Post Classical[edit]


Central Africa[edit]

UN Macroregion of Central Africa


Post Classical[edit]


Southern Africa[edit]

Further information: History of Southern Africa

Post Classical[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chrétien, Jean-Pierre; Scott Strauss (October 2006). The Great Lakes of Africa: Two Thousand Years of History. MIT Press. 


  • Hunwick, John O. (2003). Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire: Al-Sa’di’s Ta’rikh Al-sudan Down to 1613 and other Contemporary Documents. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers. pp. 488 Pages. ISBN 90-04-12822-0. 
  • J. Vansina, A Comparison of African Kingdoms, Africa: Journal of the International African Institute (1962), pp. 324–335.
  • Turchin, Peter and Jonathan M. Adams and Thomas D. Hall: "East-West Orientation of Historical Empires and Modern States", Journal of World-Systems Research, Vol. XII, No. II, 2006

External links[edit]