The Mali Empire rose as the Ghanian Empire declined. Its origins as a small, unimportant kingdom are much earlier (7th century). King Baramendana Keita conveted to Islam, convinced Moslems brought rain that ended a drought (middle-11th century). This was before the people of the Sahel were heavily Islamizied. The King made a pilgrimage to Mecca and appointed Muslims to his court and made alliances with Muslim groups to the north. Kangaba was a mere tribal center and gradually expanded to become an imperial capital. Several small states (Soso, Diara, Galam, and others) had risen on the ruins of the old Ghanian Empire. These were conquerd by the Malians. King Sundiate Keita conquered Soso and leveled Kumbi-Kumbi, the old Ghanian capital (1240). The Malian Empire extended over what in the early-20th century was French West Africa, a greater expanse than the Ghanian Empire. The modern country of Mali is only a small part of the Malian Empire. The economy was largely agricultural, but there was also weaving and mining. [Franlin, pp. 14-16.] This new Empire reached its peak under Mansa Musa (14th century). Musa seized Tombouctou and Mali became a center of Muslim scholarship. This was at the same time that the Renaissance was beginning to remake Europe and modern science began to develop. In Mali the focus continued to be on Islam and religious scholarsgip. Tombouctou and Djenné were also key links in the eastern trans-Sahara caravan trade. Over time the Mali Empire declined and by the time the Europeans were beginning to make inroads in coastal areas had desintegrated (17th century). The nomadic Tuareg came to dominate the northern Saharan area of the former Mali Empire.
The earliest known indigenous African empire was the Ghana Empire which dominated West Africa for a millenium. The Empire covered a large area of sub-Saharan West Africa, although beyond the boundaries of the modern country which bears its name. The actual boundaries were not well defined and varied with the level of power exerted by the central power. The center of the Empire was built around rivers which were the primary means of communication and commerce. The major areas of control were the Senegal River and upper Niger. The Empire also had varying degrees of authority over neighboring peoples and exerted tribute. The origins of the Ghanian Empire are murky. It is known to have existed by the 4th century AD, but its origins probably pre-date the Christian era. The Arabs thus encountered a well-established African civilization in West Africa. The political organization appears to be a confederacy of important settlements. The Empire was divided into provinces which were furher sub-divided. The kingship (Tungka) and other high officers were hereditry. Records are limited, but suggest that the Empire was not built primarily by military conquest. The economy was built on agriculture, including gardents and date groves. Sheep and cattle were also raised. The agricultural economy was affected over time by droughts. Here the climate change appears to have been a factor. Trading was also important to the economy and the primary trading partner was with the north. In antiquity this meant the Roman Empire. After the fall of Rome this meant the Vandal kingdom of North Africa and than the Arabs who conquered North Africa. The most important town was Kumbi-Kumbi. The religion was like most of Africa animistic. The Tungka was at the head of the relion. Islamc gradually was accepted by the people and was pronounced by the 10th century. The Arab influence benefitted the economy and this allowed the Empire to expand. The Tunka converted to Islam (11th century). The increased power of the Empire was able to impose control over the trade routes. Ghana imported wheat, fruit, sugar, brass, pearls, and salt. They exported rubber, ivory, slaves, and gold. The Empire reached the peak of its power during the Sisse dynasty. A fanatical Muslim group, the Almoravides invaded the Empire (1076). They captured Kumbi-Kumbi and killed thoe who refused to convert to Islam. The ensuing religious strife and droughts resulted in the decline of the Empire (late-11th century). Invaders destroyed the Empire (12th-13th centuries). [Franlin, pp. 11-13.] The Ghana Empire disintegrated (13th century). Various successor states arose in areas of the Empire.
It is at this time that the Mali Empire begins to rise. The Sosso located in the northeast of the Ghana Empire was one of several successor states. It was Kaniaga kingdom (12th century). The modern Sosso tribe trace their history to Kaniaga kingdom known as the Sosso. As the Ghana Empire desintegrated, the Sosso expanded frojm their homeland into into various territories previously held by the Ghana Empire. This included the Ghana capital of Koumbi Saleh, an important Sahelian trading center. King Soumaoro Kanté invaded and conquered the Mandinka kingdoms centered in what is now Mali. (Mandinka and Mandingo or names often pplied to the Mali Empire.) The Sosso were subsequently defeated the Battle of Kirina (c1240). Mandinka prince Sundiata Keita organized a coalition of smaller states and with their combined military forces decisively defeated the occupying Sosso. Many date this as the foundation of the Malian Empire. Sundiata after his stunninh victory, marched his victirious army on to the capital city of Sosso and destroyed it. This was the end of the short-lived Sossa Kingdom.
The Mali Empire rose as the Ghanian Empire declined. Its origins as a small, unimportant tribal kingdom are much earlier (7th century). The Soso with the desintegration of the Ghana Empire conquerd areas to the east, including areas of what is now modern Mali. Sosso domination was, however, very brief. It did incite a revbelion among the Mandinka which led to the rise of the Mali Empire. The great Mali Empire is still commemorated in thriving oral traditions throughout Mali, except perhaps the Taureg dominated Saharan north. Prince Sundiata Keita ('the hungering lion') was exiled by the Sosso. He organized a Mande revolt against Sosso King Sumanguru Kante. These are real historic figures, although their histrodicity is clouded by legend. Sundiata's revoly and foundation of a great empire is celebrated by Mande-speaking peoples through jalis ('griots'). Jalis are prestigious indivusuals who possessed has knowledge about history, genealogies, and music. Jalis in the western Sahel have historically performed importantb social and political roles and this continues in modern Mali. Jalis praise songs are now aired broadcast over television and radio in addition to the live reciations which continue. They are an important feature of contemporary weddings and religious and national holidays.
It was also called the Mandingo Empire or Manden Kurufaba.
The Mali Empire was a Muslim kingdom, unlike the Ghana Empire which it followed (1230-1600 AD). King Baramendana Keita conveted to Islam, convinced Moslems brought rain that ended a drought (middle-11th century). This was before the people of the Sahel were heavily Islamizied. Unlike the Soninke and the Sosso, Mande royalty adopted Islam at aelatively early point. The King Keita made his hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) and appointed Muslims to his court. He also made alliances with Muslim groups to the north. Next to Sundiata, the most famous ruler of the Mali Empire is Mansa Kankan Musa I. He rose to the throne several decades after the death of Sundiata. Musa was not the first Malian emperor to adopt Islam. Musa's hajj (1324–25) was noted by both the Islamic world as well as Europeans. Musa startled observers for the wealth he displayed during his stopover in Egypt. He was accompanied by an enormous entourage. Musa spent so lavishly in gold in Cairo that the metal's value plummeted.
The Mali Empire was previously little known beyond the Sahel. The Empire began a ,atter of klegend. The image here of Musa and his gold decorating a map of Africa appeared a few decade later (figure 1). The traveler Ibn Battuta visited ancient Mali a few decades after Musa's death (14th century). He was impressed by the peace and lawfulness prevalent in the Empire. He was scandalized, however, by the lax form of Islam practice there. [Ibn Battuta] Ironically this is much the same experience as expressed by the Whabbi Islajicists tryinf to seize control of Mali today.
The Mali Empire at its peak extended over an area larger than western Europe. It consisted of numerous vassal kingdoms and provinces Kangaba was a mere tribal center and gradually expanded to become an imperial capital. Several small states (Soso, Diara, Galam, and others) had risen on the ruins of the old Ghanian Empire. These were conquerd by the Malians. King Sundiate Keita conquered Soso and leveled Kumbi-Kumbi, the old Ghanian capital (1240). The great cities of the Niger bend (Gao and Djenné) prospered. Timbuktu became the most important city on the trans-Saharan caravan routes. Unlike most of the trading cities, Timbuktu became known in Europe fot its great wealth, even entering the English vernacular. Important but smaller and less known trading centers developed in southern West Africa at the transitional zone between the tropical forest and the savanna. This included Begho and Bono Manso (modern Ghana) and Bondoukou (modern Côte d'Ivoire). The Malian Empire extended over what in the early-20th century was French West Africa, a greater expanse than the Ghanian Empire.
The modern country of Mali is only a small part of the Malian Empire.
The economy was largely agricultural, but there was also weaving and mining. [Franlin, pp. 14-16.] Control of trahns-Saharan trade routes was vital to the economy. Tombouctou and Djenné were also key links in the eastern trans-Sahara caravan trade. The gold-salt trade continued. Other commodities traded incuded slaves, kola nuts from the south and slave beads and cowry shells from the north. The Saharan slave trade becane an important part of the economy. The nuts/beads/shells might be used as cuurrency).
The expansive Mali Empire seized control of important trade routes to the west and east. There were several important western trading centers, inclusing Quadane, Oualata and Chinguetti (modern Mauritania). To the east, the Tuareg towns of Assodé and subsequently Agadez (modern Niger) grew in importance.
This Malian Empire reached its peak under Mansa Musa (14th century). Musa seized Tombouctou.
Mali became a center of Muslim scholarship. This was at the same time that the Renaissance was beginning to remake Europe and modern science began to develop. In Mali the focus continued to be on Islam and religious scholarship. This was not unique to Mali. Thesane occurred in universities and other centers of learning throughout the Aran ad wider Islamic wiorld. There was in Islam not Renaissance that so changed Christendom. As a result, Muslim countries at the dawn of the 20th century were little changed over more than a millenium. Photographs takn in the 18th andearly-20 century could easily have been taken centurues earlier. And thus as a result, Muslim countries have plyed little or no role in the develioment of the modern world. Roughly a quarter of humanity has been cutoff rom participation in the modern wiorld. To the extent that modern technology exists in Muslim countries today, including Mali, it is bought abroad and imported.
Over time the Mali Empire declined. The history of the Mali Empire covers several centuries, but was much shorter than the Ghana Empire which preceeded it. By the time the Europeans were beginning to make inroads in coastal areas, the Empire had largely desintegrated (17th century). Following Mansa Musa's death, Mali went into a long period of decline, shrinking to the size of its original territory (1645).
The nomadic Tuareg came to dominate the northern Saharan area of the former Mali Empire. This was a factor in thedecline of the Malian Empire. The Taureg came to control theSaharan caravan routes afeecting the value that the Reabs-Saharan trade conveyed on the Maklians.
Although unconnected with the great medieval Mali Empire, it is worth noting a brief Manikan Islamic Empire that resisted the french during the European Scrable for Africa. One of the major Muslim resistance efforts to French rule was led by Samory Touré (c1830-1900). His resistance was centered in the western area of what became French West Africa, in the area around what is modern Mali, but including portions of several neighboring countries. Touré founded the the Islamic Wassoulou Empire, also referred to as the Mandinkan Enpire. He proved to be a major impediment to French rule. An important issue for Touré and other Muslim leaderes was slavery. They resisted French efforts to stamp out the slave trade and slavery itself. This was an important part of the ecomomy of the Muslim states and many of their supporters believed it was santioned by the Koran, with some justification. Touré's Empire was forged around the Dyula (Dioula or Juula) people. The Dyulka were a merchant caste of the Mande tribe or ethnic group. They were centered in Mali, but also found in Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Guinea-Bissau. El Hajj Umar Tall died near Bandiagara (1864). This left his Toucouleur Empire without a strong sucessor. The chiefs he had dominated and brought into his Empire saw an opportunity to break away, perhaps more accurarely called a tribal federation, and establish independent kingdoms. Samori Touré was one of these chiefs who proved especially prominent. H
Franklin, John Hope. From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans (Vintage Books: New York, 1969), 686p.
Ibn Battuta. Book/diary, the Rihla.
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