From my notes about John Reader’s Africa, two fascinating and poetic tidbits to go along with my two previous posts Annals of Comparative Advantage and Africa: Reproductive Strategies and the Value of Gold.

  1. Vasco da Gama, famous Portuguese explorer, would never have finished his voyage were it not for the helpful intercession of Ahmad Ibn-Madjid, “the most famous Arab pilot of his day”. However, Da Gama’s “arrival inaugurated an age of European maritime power in the [Indian Ocean] region…fellow-countrymen and co-religionists [of Ibn-Madjid] cursed his memory; and in his old age, Ibn-Madjid himself bitterly regretted what he had done.” (359)
  2. An earlier Portuguese voyage led by Bartolomeu Dias brought along six previously-captured African slaves to be dropped along the coastline as scouts for the location of raw materials. However, “the fate of the Africans who had been set ashore, dressed in European fashion, and bearing samples of gold, silver, and spices, is not known.” (347)