Lecture by Prof. François-Xavier Fauvelle

We cordially invite you to a lecture by Prof. François-Xavier Fauvelle (Collège de France in Paris). Lecture “Cultural Diversity, Ecological Thresholds, and the African Middle Ages” will take place on April 3, 2023 (Monday), at 17:00 in the Column Hall of the Faculty of History of the University of Warsaw. In addition, there will be a discussion about the book “Penser l’Histoire de l’Afrique”.


Africa is a surprisingly diverse continent in terms of cultures, as is illustrated by the diversity in languages, traditional systems of social organization, political systems, techniques, or traditional food production economies. Why is it so? What can we make of this diversity in terms of history? A closer look into the history of several regions of Africa suggests that this diversity is a social response to the environmental diversity of the African continent: in Africa probably more than elsewhere, societies had to adjust to very constraining milieus and to find new opportunities in them. It is thus interesting to observe that many African polities in the Middle Ages had their capital on ecological thresholds. Based on documented examples from the Horn of Africa (the sultanate of Ifât), West Africa (the kingdoms of Ghâna and Mâli) and East Africa, it is suggested that such environments worked as places of both ethnic differentiation and commercial interfaces with the broader medieval world.

Bio François-Xavier Fauvelle

François-Xavier Fauvelle is the Professor of Ancient African History and Archaeology at the Collège de France in Paris. A former director of several research institutions in France and abroad, he organized and hosted the biennial meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists in 2016. He was the coordinator of several research programs in Africa, mainly in Ethiopia and in Morocco. He is the author or editor of around 20 books and the author or coauthor of around 150 academic articles. His book The Golden Rhinoceros: Histories of the African Middle Ages, originally published in French in 2013, received the main French award for academic history books; it was published in Polish (Złoty nosorożec : dzieje średniowiecznej Afryki, Dialog, 2018). He recently published Penser l’histoire de l’Afrique (2022) et Les Masques et la mosquée : l’empire du Mâli (2022).