• Africa;
  • Sahara;
  • archives;
  • book history;
  • religion;
  • Islam


Among most historians of Africa, and others in the humanities concerned with Africa, it has been almost axiomatic that writing and reading arrived in Africa and spread with the coming of European colonialism, especially through the agency of Christian missionaries. Although missionaries did indeed establish schools and introduce various kinds of literacy, there is a much longer history of the book in various parts of the continent. This essay looks at some of the recent work that focuses on the use of the Arabic script in Africa. Although the field of “Islam in Africa” has framed this work, it is necessary to see the uses of this literacy within the frame of the history of the book and related fields. The works discussed are rich in content and analysis and provide the opening for new initiatives on the content of the literacy and the methods of teaching and reading, but also the materiality of the book and the formation of the archive.