IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > G. Africa, 1500–1800 > 2. Regions
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1455)
2. Regions
a. Sudanic West and Central Africa
17th Century
The nomadic Moors of the western Sahara dominated the region. Two main groups constituted Moorish society in this era, the Hassani and the Zawaya. The Hassani, the military clans, ruled the Sahara north of Senegal and achieved political dominance over rival Moors, thanks to their military strength. The Zawaya, essentially clerical and commercial clans, occupied the southwestern Sahara and contributed the bulk of Islamic scholars and clerics. Most of the region's commerce was in the hands of the Zawaya.  1
A Moroccan army under Djudar Pasha defeated the Songhay army. Djudar Pasha's invasion of Songhay was triggered by the Moroccan desire to spread Islam and to gain direct access to Sudanese gold and slaves. Equipped with firearms, Djudar Pasha's invading force of 3,000 to 4,000 troops scored an easy victory over a Songhay cavalry equipped with lances and an infantry equipped with lances and bows and arrows. This was the first recorded use of muskets in sub-Saharan Africa. Songhay's defeat signaled the end of the last great Sudanese Empire. The decline of Songhay ushered in a period of intense but localized political consolidation and economic development.  2
In an effort to revive the Mali Empire's power, Mansa Mahmud attacked Jenne but was repulsed by Moroccan forces dispatched from Timbuktu. Mansa Mahmud's defeat marked the end of Mali's influence in the Middle Niger region; henceforth the kingdom disintegrated.  3
1618 Onward
The bulk of the Moroccan army returned, leaving garrisons in the important towns of the Middle Niger region and in Timbuktu. Decades after the Moroccan occupation of Timbuktu, descendants of the conquering troops began to assert their autonomy. These descendants, known as the Arma, exerted influence only in the regions neighboring their garrisons. The Arma became the overlords of Timbuktu, a position they would hold until the early 19th century. The Arma, however, faced constant revolts from Timbuktu's inhabitants and from the nomadic tribes of the western desert. Arma authorities regularly suppreseed uprisings led by local Muslim scholars.  4
c. 1537
The formation of the kingdom of Kaabu, which arose as a consequence of Mali's westward expansion. Malinke traders had migrated west to obtain gold and salt, paving the way for Kaabu to become the western seat of the Mali government. By the 16th century, Kaabu was the dominant power in the Senegambian region.  5
c. 1500–1620
Hausa city-states gained strength in this era, largely because of their strong armies. Ruling aristocracies controlled these states' political, administrative, and military personnel. Underpinning the Hausa city-states' economies were productive peasants and lucrative trade routes. One major route linked Hausaland with the Volta Basin; another led to the Sahara. In the trans-Saharan trade, the Hausa exchanged slaves, cloth, gold dust, and kola nuts for horses, camels, and salt. From the 16th to the early 18th century, Hausa states fought among themselves for supremacy. As Hausa states gained strength, bitter rivalries developed. Military conflicts between Kano and Katsina erupted throughout the 16th century, as both states struggled for control over eastern Hausaland. In the 18th century, the city-state of Gobir clashed with Kebbi, Kano, and Katsina.  6
17th Century
The Mossi were one of several kingdoms to emerge in the political vacuum created by the fall of Songhay. Its development was hastened by the 17th-century expansion of Yatenga, a Mossi state that gained new territory by conquest. Mossi officials superimposed their own political structures throughout much of the Volta Basin, incorporating many non-Mossi peoples into their empire.  7
c. 1730
The Kano aristocracy had developed formidable military capabilities and become the most powerful state in Hausaland. In the 17th and 18th centuries, new forms of political and military offices emerged in Hausaland. City-state bureaucracies greatly expanded, and officials established specialized government departments to oversee protocol, internal and external affairs, regional governments, and the treasury. Military rulers played an especially important role in city-states. In order to maintain security vis-à-vis their neighbors, these rulers made their forces more efficient and tightened their chains of command. Significant expansion of central Sudan's economy, by means of slave labor, occurred during the 17th and 18th centuries. Slavery and the slave trade underpinned the central Sudanese economy in this era. Besides contributing to land cultivation and pastoralism, slaves helped maintain the region's system of transport, trade, craft production, and communications. Their labor as caravan workers was particularly crucial to the trans-Saharan trade. Slaves also worked as soldiers and civil servants.  8
18th Century
Height of kingdom of Salum, western Senegal, and development of a military aristocracy. The kingdom of Salum's strategic location on the Salum River near the Senegambian coast enabled it to profit from the nearby salt deposits and the European slave trade. The Salum kingdom's ruling warrior aristocracy came to power through its control of the coastal slave trade. The kingdom eventually expanded toward the Gambia.  9
c. 1710
Biton Kulubali and his largely slave army restructured Bambara society through force and founded the Segu Bambara kingdom, with its capital at Segu. The Bambara state of Segu expanded in the delta region of the Middle Niger, near trade routes and commercial centers. Biton Kulubali steadily gained young followers, who swelled the ranks of his slave army. Following Biton's death in about 1755, the state was racked by civil war. It was rebuilt by Ngolo Jara in about 1767 and remained an important regional center until 1860.  10
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.