Ghana Mali Songhai

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Other African Kingdoms





Benin-15th-16th century

East Africa- 10th century

Important People and their significance

The rulers of Ghana governed a wide area through the use of officials & nobles. Some similarities as European feudalism.

Mansa Musa: made a religious pilgrimage to Mecca & brought Muslim scholars/architects back with him to Mali. He commissioned a palace/mosque at Timbuktu

Sultan Sunni Ali, ruler of the Songhai people captured Timbuktu and brought the upper Niger under his control. Songhai became the largest of West Africa’s 3 trading kingdoms

Ife/Benin: Ewuare made Benin into a Major West African state
Zimbabwe: The Shona people established Great Zimbabwe which grew into and empire built on Gold
East Africa: Bantu-speaking people


Caravan brought salt south to Ghana & returned north with gold. The power of the kings in Ghana rested on their ability to tax all trade passing the region

Timbuktu became a thriving trading center on the Niger River and an important center of several important universities and attracted students from Europe, Asia, and Africa

Expanded trade networks as far as Europe & Asia, & across the Sahara Desert.

Established elaborate system of taxation & communications

Ife/Benin: slave trade for European Guns/iron goods
Zimbabwe: gold, copper, ivory
East Africa: gold sent down Zambia River told to merchants from Arabia to India

Islamic Influences

1076 Ghana was invaded by the Muslims (Almoravids) from North Africa, who brought Islam with them. Many rulers converted to Islam. Islam encouraged the spread of literacy

Mansa Musa brought back Muslim schloars/architects, built mosques, because of importance of studying the Quran, many of his subjects learned to read and write

Timbuktu continued to flourish as a center of Muslim scholarship, & many subjects were Muslim

Zimbabwe: trade with Muslim traders along the East coast
East Africa: trade allowed Islamic influences to spread. Most government officials/wealthy merchants were Muslims


Ghana never fully recovered from the Muslim invasion in 1076, and eventually dissolved into several smaller stats

Later rulers of Mali proved less capable than Mansa Musa, and the empire collapsed in the 1400s.
Sultan Sunni Ali captured Timbuktu in 1464

Kingdom lasted only 130 years.

1591 the ruler of Morocco invaded West Africa & overpowered Songhai.. Moroccans unable to govern from distance, broke apart into independent areas.

Ife/Benin: European interference
Zimbabwe: 1450, the city was abandoned
East Africa: European Interference

The Kingdoms of Africa

2. What was the Gold-Salt trade and explain its significance?

Merchants, moving in camel caravans across the desert, picked up large blocks of salt on their journey, to exchange for gold. A thriving trade developed, based on this gold-salt trade. Ideas were exchanged, such as Islamic beliefs, as well as goods.

3. Describe family roles in these African Kingdoms

Boys/girls were separated from the communities & underwent special ceremonies at puberty. Marriages were arranged & the groom paid a dowry to the bride’s family. Under Islam, women were limited to running the household while their husbands represented the family.

“The lord of this Mali kingdom has a great balcony in his palace. There he has a great seat of ebony that is like a throne fit for a large and tall person. It is flanked by elephants’ tusks. The king’s [weapons] stand near him. They are all gold; sword and lance, bow and quiver of arrows. Before him stand about twenty Turkish pages, who were brought from Cairo. One of these standing on his left holds a silk umbrella topped by a dome with a hawk made of gold. The king’s officers are seated in a circle near him, in 2 rows, one to the right, one to the left. Beyond them sit the commanders of the cavalry. In front of him there is a person who never leaves him and who is his executioner; and another who is his official spokesman. In front of him are also drummers. Others dance before their king to make him merry.”

Ibn Battuta, 1349


What is Ibn Battuta’s point of view in this passage?

  1. Label each of the African Kingdoms

in different colors The ruler of Mali is both rich and powerful

5. One way in which the African Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai were similar was that they----

A. Benefited from the gold-salt trade

B. Directly controlled gold mines

C. Adopted Islam as the religion of their subjects

D. Improved their military strength with the use of gunpowder
Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Benin, Zimbabwe



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