The roots of Afropessimism: The British invention of the 'dark continent'

Noah R. Bassil*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


This article aims to interrogate the history of British perceptions of black Africa, to come to an understanding of the notions that set black Africans apart from Europeans at the time of the conquest and colonisation in the late-19 th century. It is asserted that it is only during the time of the expansion into black Africa in the late-19 th century that British perceptions of the barbarity, backwardness, idleness and inferiority of black Africans congealed into a discourse that largely subverted positive and ambivalent perceptions that Europeans had long held, dating as far back as the era of the Ancient Greeks. In exhuming the history of Greek and Roman knowledge of black Africa, as well as those of medieval times, it becomes possible to draw a picture of black Africa as the 'other' through an analysis of the way that black Africa's place in the modern world system was shaped by slavery, colonialism and notions of race, and how this has contributed to contemporary views of black Africa as the 'dark continent'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number615141
Pages (from-to)377-396
Number of pages20
JournalCritical Arts
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2011


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