How can we trace early African development? The share of rulers’ known birth year has been identified as an indicator of elite numeracy in African regions since 1400, and the share of murdered rulers allows us to gain insights into interpersonal violence behaviour of African elites. From this emerges a dynamic picture of quantitative African history: the absence of elite violence and high elite numeracy developed jointly in sub-Saharan Africa. Some African regions, such as today’s Ethiopia and Angola, took the lead in early development but also experienced severe declines. Development in Africa was, on average, later than in Northwestern Europe.