Hegelian Historiography: Disrupting Social Order

In the perspective of many historians, the development of language was a powerful weapon of conquest used to dictate the destiny of a civilization. The study of historical writing, otherwise known as historiography, has allowed the modern world to acknowledge and gain insight on the structure and traditions of ancient civilizations. Under the influence of the Enlightenment’s preoccupation with reason, a German philosopher by the name of Friedrich Hegel was responsible for the institution of western methods of historiography in regards to Africa. As historians continue to analyze Africa’s past by translating pictographs, Hegel’s teachings are challenged and at times proved inaccurate due to the “philosopher’s theory that history is regulated by the ideas revealed in historical forces.” The racialized view of Africa was emphasized through Hegel’s Philosophy of History, in which he wrote, “The Negro, as already observed, exhibits the natural man in his completely wild and untamed state. There is nothing harmonious with humanity to be found in this type of character.

At this point, we leave Africa, not to mention it again. For it is no historical part of the World; it has no movement of development to exhibit. Egypt will be considered in reference to the passage of the human mind from its Eastern to its Western phase, but it does not belong to the African Spirit.” Even in a nation founded on the principle of equality, Hegel’s beliefs continue to hold an impact on American society, whether portrayed through written articles, documentaries, or even the manner in which people view each other. Within the article Keepers of the Lost Ark, the readers are able to identify elements of Hegelian historiography through the form in which the author speaks of Africa.

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As Paul Raffaele interviews the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, he clearly begins to doubt Paulos’ reliability as he questions whether the Ark of the Covenant is actually located in Axum, how it came to be in the possession of the Africans, and if they are able to confirm it is the original Ark. On account of Hegel’s influence on modern and western ideals, the readers were exposed to certain discontinuities throughout history due to the comparison between Jewish traditions and African beliefs, such as when and how the Ark was stolen. Although, the article also challenges Hegel’s belief that Africa was not civilized because it was not monotheistic, which in fact, was not the case since the city of Axum was the first empire to adopt Christianity as the official religion. Even though Hegel does not consider Egypt to be influenced by African spirit, it is located in the continent of Africa. Therefore, Hegel’s belief that “the darker an individual’s skin, the less civilized,” was disproved because the Egyptians had built a vast empire.

?In the documentary Lost Kingdoms of Africa, elements of Hegelian historiography had been referred to throughout the scenes about Axum. In the video, the man claimed that Africa had little to no history, only remnants of the past such as structures they built with pictography inscribed in them or rubble from what used to be a building created in the fourth century. The idea that minimal history was recorded about Axum is astonishing since at the height of its empire, it had been considered one of the four great powers. Hegel had degraded Africa due to its lack of a verbal language yet modern historians now realize that the significance of Africa was not in their writings, but in the marks they left on the world. In opposition to Hegel’s theories, the documentary emphasized the idea that Africa did indeed produce things of value.

Due to the supposed location of the Ark of the Covenant, it continues to thrive as a symbol of the kingdom’s heritage. Axum was known as the only empire in Sub-Saharan in Africa to have issued currency. Through the observation of a coin, historians concluded that the continuity of Ezona’s reign as emperor before and after the country converted to Christianity represented the kingdom’s immense strength. Overall, the structure of society in Axum was depicted through the continuous tradition of burying rulers under the great stones. ?In brief, Hegel’s idea of dialectic revolutionized the modern perspective towards the continent of Africa.

Many have yet to recognize Africa’s historical significance because of the lack of records, and they continue to overlook the meaning behind their unique architecture. Although this continent is viewed as containing many developing countries, the Africans continue embrace their sense of pride which relies on the belief that the city of Axum holds a sacred object of their faith, God’s embodiment in the Ten Commandments.