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The Kongo Kingdom
The Origins, Dynamics and Cosmopolitan Culture of an African Polity


Koen Bostoen, Inge Brinkman, John K. Thornton, Wyatt MacGaffey, Gilles-Maurice de Schryver, Igor Matonda, Cécile Fromont, Els Cranshof, Nicolas Nikis, Pierre de Maret, Bernard Clist, Jelmer Vos, Linda Heywood
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  • Date Published: November 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108474184

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About the Authors
  • The Kongo kingdom, which arose in the Atlantic Coast region of West-Central Africa, is a famous emblem of Africa's past yet little is still known of its origins and early history. This book sheds new light on that all important period and goes on to explain the significance of its cosmopolitan culture in the wider world. Bringing together different new strands of historical evidence as well as scholars from disciplines as diverse as anthropology, archaeology, art history, history and linguistics, it is the first book to approach the history of this famous Central African kingdom from a cross-disciplinary perspective. All chapters are written by distinguished and/or upcoming experts of Kongo history with a focus on political space, taking us through processes of centralisation and decentralisation, the historical politics of extraversion and internal dynamics, and the geographical distribution of aspects of material and immaterial Kongo culture.

    • Maintains a strong regional and thematic focus
    • Deals exclusively with the Kongo kingdom, allowing readers to reconstruct the history of a pre-colonial African polity
    • Uses new bodies of evidence in conjunction with traditional sources for African history, such as linguistic data and archaeological finds
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'An interdisciplinary look at the history and culture of the Kingdom of Kongo, which flourished around the lower reaches of the Congo River, from c. 1250 through c. 1600, for a time having ties to the Vatican as well other western powers. … A very good work, this is primarily for the specialist in African history.' The NYMAS Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108474184
    • length: 334 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 155 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.67kg
    • contains: 29 b/w illus. 9 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: cross-disciplinary approaches to Kongo history Koen Bostoen and Inge Brinkman
    Part I. The Origins and Dynamics of the Kongo Kingdom:
    1. The origins of Kongo: a revised vision John K. Thornton
    2. A central African kingdom: Kongo in 1480 Wyatt MacGaffey
    3. Seventeenth-century Kikongo is not the ancestor of present-day Kikongo Koen Bostoen and Gilles-Maurice de Schryver
    4. Soyo and Kongo: the undoing of the Kingdom's centralisation John K. Thornton
    5. The Eastern Border of the Kongo kingdom: on relocating the Hydronym Barbela Igor Matonda
    Part II. Kongo's Cosmopolitan Culture and the Wider World:
    6. From image to grave and back: multidisciplinary inquiries into Kongo Christian visual culture Cécile Fromont
    7. Ceramics decorated with woven motifs: an archaeological Kongo kingdom identifier? Els Cranshof, Nicolas Nikis and Pierre de Maret
    8. From America to Africa: how Kongo nobility made smoking pipes their own Bernard Clist
    9. 'To make book': a conceptual historical approach to Kongo book cultures (sixteenth–nineteenth c.) Inge Brinkman and Koen Bostoen
    10. Kongo cosmopolitans in the nineteenth century Jelmer Vos
    11. The making of Kongo identity in the American diaspora: a case study from Brazil Linda Heywood.

  • Editors

    Koen Bostoen, Universiteit Gent, Belgium
    Koen Bostoen is Professor of African Linguistics and Swahili at Ghent University. His research focuses on the study of Bantu languages and interdisciplinary approaches to the African past. He obtained an ERC Starting Grant for the KongoKing project (2012–16) and an ERC Consolidator's Grant for the BantuFirst project (2018–22). He is author of Des mots et des pots en bantou: une approche linguistique de l'histoire de la céramique en Afrique (2005) and co-editor of Une archéologie des provinces septentrionales du royaume Kongo (2018) and The Bantu Languages (2nd edition, 2018).

    Inge Brinkman, Universiteit Gent, Belgium
    Inge Brinkman is Professor of African Studies at Universiteit Gent, Belgium. Her research crosscuts the fields of African literature, popular culture and history with a focus on Kenya and Angola. For her Ph.D. dissertation at Leiden University, she examined literature, identity and gender in Central Kenya. During a post-doctoral project at Cologne University, she studied violence and exile through fieldwork with refugees from South-East Angola. At the Leiden African Studies Centre, she carried out historical research on communication technologies, mobility and social relations in Africa. She has published several books and contributed articles to various renowned journals of African studies.


    Koen Bostoen, Inge Brinkman, John K. Thornton, Wyatt MacGaffey, Gilles-Maurice de Schryver, Igor Matonda, Cécile Fromont, Els Cranshof, Nicolas Nikis, Pierre de Maret, Bernard Clist, Jelmer Vos, Linda Heywood

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