one of the four principal divisions of the globe, and the third in magnitude. The origin of its name is uncertain. Its general form is triangular, the northern part being the base, and the southern extremity the vertex. Its length may be reckoned about 70 degrees of latitude, or 4990 miles; and its greatest breadth something more than 4090 miles. Until the late researches of Livingstone and Barth, its interior was almost unknown.
Only very rough estimates can be made of the population of Africa. They vary from 60,000,000 to 200,000,000 and more. Most of the recent discoveries indicate, however, the existence of a dense population in the interior of Africa, and favor the highest estimates of the aggregate population. The natives are partly negroes, comprising the negroes proper, the Caffres, Betchuanas, Foolahs, Fellatas, Hottentots, Bushmen, etc.; partly Caucasians, among whom belong the Copts, Moors, Barbarians, Arabs, Abyssinians, Nubians, etc. Malays are to be found in Madagascar, and numerous Europeans have settled in the European colonies.
Until the beginning of the present century a very large portion of Africa was yet entirely unknown to the civilized world. The Arabs, who had extended their rule in Africa in the 7th century, conquered the whole of the northern coast, and became acquainted with the western coast as far as the Senegal, and the eastern coast nearly as far as the Cape of Good Hope. For a better knowledge of the western coast we are indebted to the Portuguese, who, after the expulsion of the Moors from their country, pursued them to Africa, and gradually advanced southward on the western coast. Steadily pushing forward, they circumnavigated, in 1497, under Vasco de Gama, the Cape of Good Hope, and soon after explored the south-eastern shore. The Portuguese were soon followed by English travelers (since 1550), who considerably contributed to a better knowledge of the entire coast. But the interior still remained an unknown land; and even the bold travelers who were sent out by the African Society of London (established in 1788) could not overcome the immense obstacles, and many of them, as Ledyard, Lucas, Houghton, Mungo Park, Hornemann, and Rontgen, lost their lives.
Since the beginning of the present century the explorations into the interior of Africa have grown rapidly in number and in importance. The progress of the French rule in Algeria and in Senegambia, the increased prosperity of the English colonies, the success of the numerous missionary societies, many of whose missionaries, as Livingstone, Moffat, Knoblecher, Krapf, and Isenberg, belong among the chief explorers of the interior, the construction of the Suez Canal, and the efforts made by European governments and the Geographical Societies of London, Paris, Berlin, etc., have given a wonderful impulse to the exploration of the interior. Important discoveries have quickly succeeded each other; and quite recently (1862) even the great problem of many centuries, the discovery of the sources of the Nile, has been successfully solved by Captains Grant and Speke. All these discoveries and explorations have an important bearing upon the prospects of Christianity, for they give us a better knowledge of the religious views of the natives, of their habits and their languages, and thus teach the missionaries and the missionary societies what they have to overcome.
The political divisions of Africa are much more numerous than those of any other of the grand divisions of the earth's surface. On the north we have the empire of Morocco, the French province of Algeria, the pashaliks of Tunis, Tripoli, and Barca, and the oasis of Fezzan, dependencies of the Turkish empire; Egypt, a vice-royalty of the Turkish empire, though in a state of quasi independency. On the east, Nubia and Kordofan, dependencies of Egypt; the empire of Abyssinia, which has been recently enlarged by the subjection of a number of savage tribes; the countries bordering on the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, and stretching south- westward for more than 1000 miles. The names of the principal countries are Adel, Ajan, Berbera, Zanguebar, and Mozambique, the coast of which is held by the Portuguese. East of Mozambique is the populous island of Madagascar. In South Africa Great Britain has several important colonies. Cape Colony is the oldest of these, and occupies the southern portion of the continent; above it, on the south-east, are Caffraria, Natal, and the Zulu country; west of these, and separated from them by the Kalamba Mountains, are the Orange River and Transvaal republics, composed mostly of Dutch settlers. and their Hottentot or Bechuana dependants. On the west coast, north of the Orange River, and extending about 300 miles into the interior, is the Hottentot country; and lying between this and the Transvaal republics is the land of the Bechuanas. North of the Hottentot country is Lower Guinea, a country composed of numerous chieftaincies and some Portuguese colonies. Among the best known of these chieftaincies are Angola, Congo, and Loango. Between this and the eastern coast lies a vast tract, varying in width from ten to twenty-eight degrees of longitude, and extending from nearly ten degrees above to sixteen degrees below the equator, almost wholly unexplored by Europeans. Upper Guinea, long known as the slave coast, is occupied by several native states, the largest being the kingdom of Dahomey. North of these is that region known formerly as Soudan and Nigritia, composed of numerous and constantly changing states (Bornou, Timbuctoo, etc.), part of them Mohammedan, and part pagan. Turning again northward, we find the republic of Liberia and the British colony of Sierra Leone, both settled in great part by free negroes. Lying between this and the Great Desert is the country of Senegambia; the larger portion has already become a dependency of France. England has a settlement, Bathurst, at the mouth of the Gambia. The Great Desert, which extends eastward from this country to the confines of Egypt and Nubia, is inhabited by tribes of Arab, or half Arab origin.
I. Biblical Notices. — Africa was peopled principally by Ham, or his descendants; hence it is called the "land of Ham" in several of the Psalms. SEE HAM. Mizraim peopled Egypt (Ge 10:6,13-14), and the Pathrusim, the Naphtuhim, the Casluhim, and the Ludim, peopled other parts; but the situations they occupied are not now known distinctly. It is thought that many of the Canaanites, when expelled by Joshua, retired into Africa; and the Mohammedans believe that the Amalekites, who dwelt in ancient times in the neighborhood of Mecca, were forced from thence by the kings descended from Zioram. — Pococke, Spec. Hist. Arab. SEE CANAANITE.
The necessary information relative to those places in Africa which are spoken of in Scripture will be found under their respective names, SEE ABYSSINIA, SEE ALEXANDRIA, SEE EGYPT, SEE ETHIOPIA, SEE LIBYA, SEE CYRENE, etc.
II. Early Christian Church in Africa. — The continent of Africa, in the ancient Church, contained:
1. The Exarchate of Africa Proper. This contained, in Africa Proconsularis, fourteen dioceses; in Numidia, fifteen; in Mauritania, eighteen; in Tripoli, five. A list of these is given, from the Notitia of Leo, by Bingham (Orig. Eccles. bk. 9, ch. 7; see also ch. 11, § 5).
2. The Patriarchate of Alexandria, called also the Egyptian Patriarchate. It comprehended Libya, Pentapolis, Egypt, from Tripolis to the Red Sea, and Abyssinia, and contained more than a hundred Episcopal sees. Thus the whole of the north of Africa was, in the early ages, Christian. In the fifth century the Vandals, who were Arians, founded an empire there. The worst enemies, however, of the Church in Africa were the Saracens, or Oriental Arabs, who, in the seventh and eighth centuries, overran the country, and almost entirely extinguished the light of Christianity. The ancient sees which still remain are filled by Coptic prelates, SEE COPTS, the chief of whom is the patriarch of Alexandria, and dependent upon him is the abuna, or patriarch of the Abyssinians. Of the ancient sees, although the names are known to us, the situation is entirely lost, owing to the change wrought in the names of places by the Arabs. Little, then, can be said of the geography, and as little of the chronology, of these bishoprics; for, as to the former, all that we know is the provinces in which they were situated; as to the latter, we have no proofs of the most ancient before the third century, and of very few later than the seventh. — Bingham, Orig. Eccl. 9, 7. SEE ABYSSINIA; SEE ALEXANDRIA; SEE ETHIOPIA; SEE CARTHAGE.
III. The Roman Catholic Church. — The circumnavigation of Africa in the fifteenth century led to conquests of the Portuguese and Spaniards, and, in connection with them, to the establishment of Roman Catholic missions. In Western Africa the population of several entire kingdoms, SEE ANGOLA; SEE CONGO, and of a large number of islands, became, at least nominally, connected with the Roman Church. In Eastern Africa, Mozambique and the islands Bourbon and Mauritius were the principal missionary fields. In Northern Africa several bishoprics were established in the Spanish possessions. The establishment of the French dominion in several parts of Western and Northern Africa, especially in Algeria, likewise enlarged greatly the territory of the Roman Catholic Church and improved its prospects. Also in the English possessions a considerable Roman Catholic population gradually gathered, especially among the Irish immigrants. Great efforts were also made by the Roman missionaries to effect a union of the Copts and Abyssinians with their Church, but without much permanent success. SEE COPTS; SEE ABYSSINIA. Repeatedly Roman missionaries penetrated farther into the interior, but no great results have as yet been obtained. In 1859 there was, outside of the possessions of Christian nations and of Tunis, Tripolis, and Egypt, only one vicariate apostolic for the Gallas.
IV. The Protestant Missions. — Protestantism got a firm footing in Africa after the beginning of the seventeenth century, in the possessions of the Dutch, English, and Danes. The foundation of another Protestant state was laid in 1823 by the establishment of the negro republic Liberia, whose growth and prospective influence is entirely under the control of Protestant Christianity. SEE LIBERIA. Missionary operations among the natives were commenced in South Africa, in 1737, by the Moravians. Their early operations, however, were greatly embarrassed by the Dutch colonial government, and, for fifty years (1744 to 1792), entirely interrupted. During all this time nothing was done for the conversion of the pagans. The London Missionary Society established its first mission in 179f the Wesleyan Missionary Society in 1814. In 182 a mission was established by the Glasgow Missionary Society, a union of members of the Established Church of Scotland and Dissenters. In 1838 this union w dissolved, the members of the Established Church retaining the old name, and the Dissenters taking the name of the Glasgow African Missionary Society. After the division in the Church of Scotland in 1843, the Glasgow Missionary Society became merged in foreign mission scheme of the Free Church of Scotland. The Glasgow African Missionary Society transferred its operations, in 1847, to the care of the United Presbyterian Church. The first missionaries of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society came to Africa in 1822, and commenced, in 1830, their present mission among the Bechuanas. The American Board resolved in 1834 on a mission among the Zulus, which was commenced in 1835. The Rhenish Missionary Society sent to Africa, in 1829, four graduates of their Mission Seminary at Barmen. Most of the flourishing stations founded by it are within the limits of the territory of the Dutch Boers. The operations of the Berlin Society commenced in 1833; those of the Norwegian Missionary Society, near Port Natal, in 1853. In West Africa the first efforts to introduce the Gospel were singularly disastrous. Attempts made by the Moravians in 1736, and by several English societies since 1795, had soon to be relinquished as hopeless. A permanent settlement was effected by the Church Missionary Society in 1804, which has been very successful, and is still extending its operations on every side. A bishop for Sierra Leone was consecrated in 1852. The English Baptist Missionary Society established in 1841 a flourishing mission at the island of Fernando Po, but it was almost entirely suppressed in 1858 by a new Spanish governor. The missions of the Wesleyan Missionary Society of England commenced as early as 1796, but until 1811 there was only one missionary. They have since become the most flourishing among all the Protestant missions in West Africa. The missions of the American Baptist Missionary Union, in Liberia and among the Bassas, commenced in 1821; those of the (American Presbyterian Board, in Liberia, in 1832; of the American Board, at Cape Palmas, in 1834; of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in Liberia, in 1833; of the Southern Baptist Convention of America, in Liberia and Yoruba, in 1853; of the American Missionary Association in the Sherbro country, in 1842; of the Basle Missionary Society, at the Gold Coast, in 1828; of the Protestant Episcopal Church of America, at Cape Palmas, in 1836. A new interest in the missions of Western Africa was awakened in England by the return of Dr. Livingstone, and an enlargement of the missionary operations resolved upon. In Eastern Africa, the island of Madagascar was visited in 1818 by missionaries of the London Missionary Society, and a large number of the natives were converted to Christianity. But the premature death of King Radama in 1828 put a stop to the progress of Christianity, and, in 1836, the mission schools were closed, and the missionaries driven from the island. The persecution lasted until the death of Radama's widow, Ranavalona, and the accession to the throne of Radama II in 1861, under whom Christianity was again tolerated, and began to make new progress. The assassination of Radama in 1863 had no influence on the legal condition of the Christians, who, in 1864, were supposed to number about 7000. SEE MADAGASCAR. In Abyssinia, German missionaries of the Basle society have labored in behalf of Protestantism since 1830, without, however, achieving any permanent result. SEE ABYSSINIA. Egypt has some flourishing churches, schools, and benevolent institutions for the Protestant residents of foreign countries, and the United Presbyterians of America sustain there a prosperous mission. SEE EGYPT.
V. Ecclesiastical Statistics. — The entire population of the Cape Verde, St. Thomas, and Prince's Islands (Portuguese), of the Spanish Presidios and Guinea Islands, and of the French island of Bourbon, belong to the Roman Catholic Church. The same is the case with a majority of the population of the English island of Mauritius and of the European population in Algeria. In Angola and Benguela the Portuguese claim dominion over 657,000, in Mozambique, over 300,000 subjects; but with the decline of the Portuguese power also, the connection of the natives with the Roman Church has to a great extent ceased. Angola had, in 1857, only 6 priests, Mozambique only 3. See also EGYPT and ABYSSINIA. The Roman Church had, in 1859, 5 bishoprics in the Portuguese possessions, 2 in the French, 1 in the English, 2 in the Spanish; and 12 vicariates apostolic, viz., 2 in Egypt (1 Latin and 1 Copt), 1 in Tunis, 1 in Abyssinia, 1 for the country of the Gallas, 2 for the Cape of Good Hope, 1 for the two Guineas, I for Sierra Leone, 1 for Madagascar, 1 for Natal. See ALGERIA.
The African missions of the Roman Church are mostly supported by the General Missionary Society for the Propagation of Faith. There are, besides special missionary societies for Africa in France and Austria. The Church of England had, in 1885, the following dioceses: Capetown, Grahamstown, Sierra Leone, St. Helena, Natal, Bloomfoorteen, Kaffraria, Central Africa, Zululand, Niger, some of which are outside of the British dominions. These bishoprics constitute the "Ecclesiastical Province of South Africa," with the Bishop of Capetown as metropolitan. The Wesleyan Methodists, in 1888, had 6 missionary districts (Cape of Good Hope, Grahamstown, Natal, Sierra Leone, Gambia, and the Gold Coast), 66 circuits, 204 chapels, 366 other preaching places, 95 missionaries and assistant missionaries, 17,955 members, 18,059 scholars in schools, and 76,485 attendants on public worship. The missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Western Africa are organized into an Annual Conference, which, in 1886, had 19 travelling preachers, 2,641 members, 160 probationers, 60 local preachers, 40 schools, 2,342 scholars, and 38 churches.
Other Christian denominations are found only in Egypt and Abyssinia (q.v.). Jews are numerous in all Northern Africa, especially in Morocco, where, before the persecution in 1859, they counted over 300,000 souls. Mohammedanism prevails in Egypt, Tunis, Tripoli, Algeria, Morocco, Fez, and also throughout Soudan. Dieterici estimated this part of the population at about 100 million souls. The rest are pagans.
VI. Literature. — On the religious aspects: Sanchez, Hist. Eccles. Africanoe (Madrid, 1784); Morcelli, Africa Christiana (Bresc. 1816; Gott. 1820); Munter, Primordia Eccles. Africana (Hafn. 1829); Loscher, De Patrum Africanor. Meritis (Rochlitz, 1712); Kellner, Nord-Africa's Relig. in the Deutsches Magaz. v. 256 sq.; Von Gerlach, Gesch. d. Ausbreit. d. Christenth. in Sud-Afrika (Berl. 1832). Geographical information: Livingstone's Travels in S. Africa (Lond. 1857; N. Y. 1858); Zambesi (London and N. Y. 1865); Barth's Travels in N. and Cent. Africa (London and N. Y. 1857-1859); Krapf's Trav. and Missions in Eastern Africa (Lond. and N. Y. 1860); Burton, Lake Regions of Cent. Africa (London and N. Y. 1860); Andersson, Lake Ngami (London and N.Y. 1856); Baldwin, South Africa (London and N. Y. 1863); Cumming, Hunter's Life in Africa (London and N. Y. 1850); Wilson, Western Africa (N. Y. 1856); Du Chaillu, Equatorial Africa (N. Y. 1861); Moffat, Adventures in South Africa (Lond. and N. Y. 1865); Stanley, Through the Dark Continent (N. Y. 1875).