Ambassadors, Explorers, and Allies: A Study of African-European Diplomatic Relationships, 1400-1600
By Andrea Felber Seligman
CUREJ – College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal (2007)
Abstract: The thesis, “Ambassadors, Explorers, and Allies: a Study of African-European Diplomatic Relationships, 1400-1600,” examines the often overlooked close ties between parts of Africa and Europe in this era. While many in and outside the field of African history, associate early African-European contact with the beginnings of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, exploitation and early colonialism, in fact, initial relations were more complicated and often based on alliances and cooperation, not opposition. Using published collections of Portuguese documents and archival resources from Lisbon, Portugal, this thesis argues that the development of close elite African-European ties was initially beneficial to the kingdoms of the Fante, Benin, Kongo, and Ethiopia. Early relationships adhered to African protocols for trade and diplomatic exchanges. Tracing the development these ties, examining the dynamic of elite African visitors traveling to Portugal and Rome, and finally situating these interactions in the greater context of the era through an analysis of other African-European contacts, this thesis highlights the unique and overlooked aspects of fifteenth through seventeenth-century African-European relationships.