The Ruins of Empires 


...There a people, now forgotten, discovered, while others were yet barbarians, the elements of the arts and sciences. A race of men, now rejected from society for their sable skin and frizzled hair, founded on the study of the laws of nature, those civil and religious systems which still govern the universe.”


So wrote Count Constantine Francis Chassebeuf De Volney in 1793 in the still somewhat controversial Ruins of Empires. We are indebted to Count Volney for refusing to hide the obvious evidence of the contributions Africans have made to world civilization. Volney had little problem establishing from first hand observations and study that early Nile Valley Africans had in fact provided a basis for the civilization of his time. To suggest that the ancestors of Africans being sold into slavery could have founded the underlying principles of the Arts, the Sciences, Literature, and even Religion was as revolutionary in Volney’s day as it is today. However, it was not Volney’s sole intent to stir the fires of revolution.


Volney’s writings reveal his preoccupation with understanding the workings of the universe and the role man creates for himself in that universe. It is clear to Volney that someone, obviously not the Europeans of his time and certainly not the Greeks of so-called ancient time, had studied the universe and mastered many of its deepest secrets. Volney was unafraid to give deserved credit for this accomplishment to people darker than himself.


As can be expected, Volney had detractors. When ‘’Ruins’’ was published in an American edition, positive references to Black people were stricken from the text. The author later issued a corrected edition that restored those positive references. During a tour of the United States, Volney wasaccused of Hottentotism, an inference that he ignorantly worshipped Black people. His masterful response to this attack by proslavery forces is included in this volume. Throughout, Volney remained committed to the view that civilizations rise and fall and their permanence is not determined by race.


Volney’s Ruins of Empires remains a profound and ever helpful reference for those who are trying to gain undistorted access to the African past. His conclusions about the pre-eminence of African civilization, becomes a starting point for such access.

Source: Volney, C. F., THE RUINS OF EMPIRES, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires: and The Law of Nature. Black Classic Press,  Baltimore, MD. 1991.  (Peter Eckler edition 1890). P. 16-17.  REVIEW FROM THE BACK COVER OF BOOK.


ARF EDITORIAL COMMENTS:  What Count Volney revealed about Afrikans from his exploration in Khemet (Egypt) may have caused major embarrassment and anger to the white supremacy western world who were deeply entrenched in slavery at the time. ARF with hindsight thinks that Volney’s writings must have impacted and been a catalyst in the abolitionist movement against the European Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

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