The monograph The Birth of African Civilization by Natalya Kochakova is an experience in comprehensive research into the development of civilization in countries of the Bight of Benin Coast. Within the framework of present-day political and admiнnistrative division these are currently the south-western part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the southern part of the People's Republic of Benin. In the pre-colonial period these terriнtories were a single socio-cultural region settled by related ethnic groups Yoruba, Edo and Aja and included the towns of Ife (or Ile-Ife) and Benin. Its centre were the Yoruba states and Igbo-Ukwu was possibly its far-out eastern province, while in the west it had the Aja states, including the Dahomey Kingdom.

Without equating the notions culture and civilization, the author links the genesis of civilization with a certain level of the socio-political development of the peoples of the socio-cultural region in question; at the same time the monograph makes it abundantly clear that the notion "civilization" has essentially not just a scientific but also political aspect, and acquires variнous functions and significance in different historical periods. In the 20th century a whole range of motives forced science to adopt a novel research approach, i. e. enriching the concept of historical process based on the studies of European antiquity with the data of the historical and cultural research embracing entire humankind.

The material and cultural and historical, factors of the incepнtion of local civilization in the socio-cultural region of the Bight of Benin countries in the times long past were the transition of their population to a productive economy. In the most advanced parts of the region the first prototowns (primarily Ile-Ife) inhaнbited by tillers and craftsmen came into existence not later than the 10thЧ14th cc. A. D. During the formation of local precivili-zation, the chief external factor from 15-th c., which influenced this process until the turn of the last century was trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The initial seats of the shaping local precivilization were city-states, protocity-states, to be more precise.

The following stages of state formation may be traced in the socio-cultural region under review prior to the second half of the last century.

The initial entity is a protocity-protostate coming into being through the merging of several early communities (Benin) into a single whole or by the growth of the initial core (Ile-Ife), i. e. a populated area differing from the village not economically but rather by the development of social forms relating to a higher, compared with the village, concentration of people and the preнsence of popular shrines, market and fortifications.

The next stage is the emergence of the city-state or the "nom state", a farming territorial-kinship community organized as an urban settlement. It was ruled by the king and the council of nobles representing the patriarchal-tribal groups comprising the town community and the hierarchy of hereditary-elective posts related to these groups. Economically, the city-state continued as a farming settlement but, unlike the countryside, it had a large population of craftsmen as well as a sizeable ruling social group free of physical labour and their numerous servants.

The next stage is the state, an ethnically homogeneous system of subordinate city-states and villages around the kernelЧthe capital city-state. The subordinate towns were bound to the capiнtal by the pledge of annual presents and gifts, military conscripнtion and some types of public works, and were dependent on it as regards foreign relations and appointment of candidates to the local throne.

The acme of pre-colonial state development was "empire" composed of ethnically heterogeneous city-states, states and pre-state formations variously dependent on the capital city-state.

The colonial partition of the region between Britain and France markedly influenced the development of local civilization, as reflected in features of administration (direct and indirect rule), offered models of political culture, differences in the systems of education, language differences, etc. The colonial frontiers and the policy of stifling traditional culture had a pernicious impact both on the cultural situation in general and on the cultural contacts between local peoples. At the same time that period witнnessed the creation of conditions for transmitting information via essentially new media like the written language, the printed word and modern types of communication.

After gaining political independence the local peoples entered a qualitatively new stage in the development of international reнlations, first and foremost, inter-African links. This resulted not only from cultural progress in Nigeria and Benin but, in no lesнser degree, from global political processes accounting for this cultural progress: the victory of the national liberation movement worldwide, the growing weight of liberated nations in world poнlitics, the gains made by Afro-Asian solidarity, etc.


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