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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Death and attitudes to death at the time of early European expeditions to Africa (15th century)
Author:Tymowski, MichalISNI
Periodical:Cahiers d'études africaines (ISSN 0008-0055)
Geographic term:West Africa
Abstract:This article deals with death and attitudes to death at the time of early European expeditions to Africa. It describes the events that resulted in death and analyses attitudes towards death, ways of reacting to death, the causes of both sides, and the consequences of the death for those who remained alive. The problem is the one-sidedness of the source material. Firstly, the available sources (chronicles, travel reports, few documents and court records) are exclusively European. Second, the attitudes towards death were different in knights' environment than in the environment of merchants. In turn, in the documents one can find testimony of legal consequences of the death of the Portuguese in Africa. As to the Portuguese, the death of famous persons was treated differently than the death of the persons who had no social position. Above all, the death of persons on one's own side is treated differently than the death of persons of the opposite side. The deaths of Africans from the viewpoint of the Portuguese were anonymous and collective. In the first phase of African expeditions death was usually violent. There was no time for the dying to prepare for it, no time for contemplation or for usual gestures of custom and culture. The late medieval 'ars moriendi' could not be realized. Africans - on the contrary - could organize the appropriate burial ceremonies for their own died persons. But the death of captured slaves occurred in the person's isolation and was particularly lonely. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]