This is a subject hardly known about by anyone. It’s conventionally thought that Europeans & Africans only interacted and discovered each other through slavery, but history shows this has never been the case. Africans (and yes I’m talking about indigenous ‘black’ Africans) have been integral to European civilisations, cultures, education, spirituality, even existence.
Probably the best and most extensively discussed such example of this is the Moors. The Moors are a group of north/ northwest African Muslims who first came to Europe via Spain in the 8th century. Because of them Europe became acquainted with many things we take for granted today, such as education for females & the general public, libraries, oranges, lemons, pavements, cotton, silk, universities, street lamps, underwear & soap. I kid you not on the last 2.
|Well I’m bringing back the pre-Moor days!|
Just to be clear, nowadays it’s claimed this is what the Moors looked like:
However, these are more akin to modern Moors. As I explained in another post many/ most north Africans are mixed with ‘white’ European to a very high degree. The pure original Moors, as all pre-19th century Europeans knew and explicitly stated, looked like this:
Shakespeare, Queen Victoria I and many others made explicit reference to the Blackamoors, which was synonymous with Moor (as it was a contraction of the phrase “black as a Moor”). In fact, for much of European history Moor was the standard designation for all ‘black’ people regardless of whether they were actual Moors or not, because those were THE ‘black’ people known of back then!
(on a point of fact, Martin Lawrence’s 2001 film Black Knight had this exactly spot on)
|Watch your tongue Moor!|
The Moors first came to Europe in 711 under the command of a man called Tariq ibn Ziyad, who crossed what is now known as the Strait of Gibraltar* and defeated the Visigoths. The Visigoths were a Germanic tribe who were ruling Spain at the time. The Moors then established al-Andalus, an Islamic empire that covered Spain, Portugal, Andorra & southern France.
* (named after him; Gibraltar = semi-contraction semi-mispronunciation of Jabal Tariq, or Tariq’s Mountain)
Centuries later the Moors and their descendants in Europe, the Moriscos, were expelled from Spain by King Philip III in 1609. He was inspired to do this by Queen Isabella I of Castille & King Ferdinand II of Aragon, pretty much just because they felt they were godless heathens polluting Christendom & European peoples. However, the Moors did not just move back to north Africa (as I wrongly used to think). Though some did, many converted to Christianity and moved to Italy, Constantinople & Sicily, while others went on further – some even as far as Serbia & the Balkans!
(On a point of information, they didn’t call themselves Moors. That’s what ‘white’ people called them. They called themselves Berbers, and they came in different tribes – Zaghawa, Sanhaja and Kabylia being a few. Modern Berbers also often refer to themselves as Imazighen, possibly revealing their Greek ancestry as the ancient Greeks used to call some of them Mazices)
Just for more information, the Moors were nowhere near the first Africans to inhabit Europe. It’s now known that the very first humans to inhabit all parts of the world were dark-skinned Africans, which includes Europe. There have been remains of humans with a Khoisanid (like the Khoikhoi & San of southern Africa)/ Australoid (like Australian Aborigines, or Koori) type morphology dug up all over the British Isles, and there is some evidence that Mongoloid-types came some time afterward. David MacRitchie asserts that this Mongoloid presence included a very strong strain of ‘blackness’, in the form of Huns and Scythians. He even goes on to claim that some of the Danes were ‘black’!
David MacRitchie is a Scotsman and author of Ancient and Modern Britons: a Retrospect, Accounts of the Gypsies of India, The Testimony of Tradition, Pygmies in Northern Scotland, Memories of The Picts, Hints of Evolution in Tradition and The Aborigines of Shetland and Orkney. He reckons there are 2 types of modern Britons – xanthochroi (yellow-skins, better known as pale or fair ‘whites’) and melanochroi (black-skins, better known as dark ‘whites’), and the melanochroi are mixed descendants of the xanthochroi & Australoids. Despite the fact he didn’t like ‘black’ people’s historical presence in Europe, he was absolutely staunch in his belief that they were there, as he was that the Moors were ‘black’.
‘White’ Europeans as we know them are between 6-12,000 years old according to modern genetic research, but it’s still not known for sure exactly how they came about. Were they among one of the later-coming morphological types that then somehow predominated over the others, or did they develop (or as some like to say, “evolve”) in Europe from the ones that were already there?
In another post I will mention individuals of the historical African diaspora in Europe.
- mainly Runoko Rashidi’s Black Star: The African Presence in Early Europe (ISBN 9780956638021)
- general knowledge from when I did a BHM presentation at school