IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > G. Africa, 1500–1800 > 2. Regions > a. Sudanic West and Central Africa > 18th and Early 19th Centuries
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
18th and Early 19th Centuries
Despite perennial warfare, warrior states of West Africa encouraged economic development. Ruling warlords ensured the territorial integrity of Segu Bambara. Warriors raided other territories for captives and used their human booty in agriculture and the military. The resulting slave-based economy revolved around farming, fishing, and trade. The Massassi of Kaarta became another warrior state and, like the Bambara of Segu, benefited from slave raiding and conquest.  1
c. 1564–96
Borno's influence and power expanded under Idris ben Ali, referred to as Alawoma. Under Alawoma, a metropolitan core emerged and was controlled by a standing army and bureaucracy. This period witnessed significant population increase. Alawoma made the pilgrimage to Mecca around 1571 and instituted diplomatic ties with the Ottomans and the Sa'adi dynasty of Morocco.  2
c. 1611–55
‘Abd al-Karim ben Jame founded the state of Wadai, which fell within the political, cultural, and commercial sphere of Borno.  3
c. 1616–39
Umar ben Idris ruled during the peak of the Borno Empire. He oversaw the establishment of semiautonomous vassals and set up buffer states along Borno's desert borders. At this time trade expanded with Egypt and other states along the Mediterranean and with the non-Muslim communities to the south and southwest. Contact with the Mediterranean led to the introduction of new crops into Borno, including maize, tomatoes, and paw paw. From the south and southwest flowed slaves, many of whom entered the trans-Saharan slave trade. Umar ben Idris instituted religious and political reforms, making the Borno Caliphate a prosperous Islamic state.  4
The island of Gorée, off the Senegambian coast, became a staging area for Dutch trade in 1594–95. By 1621, the Dutch had transformed Gorée into the major European trading post for the transatlantic slave trade. Portugal took control of the island in 1629, followed by England in 1667 and France in 1677.  5
c. 1660
Increasing European presence and the intensification of the overseas slave trade contributed to the rise of Islamic militancy in Senegambia and the western desert. Nasir al-Din, a Moorish cleric, sought to impose a Muslim “theocracy” in the region to counteract the new influences. Around 1660, Nasir al-Din launched a jihad. His followers, mostly Berbers from present-day southern Mauritania, sought to gain Islamic converts and take control of the slave trade. Nasir al-Din's jihad represented the growth of Islam from a religion of the ruling and commercial elite to a popular religious and political movement.  6
In the course of pursuing his jihad, Nasir al-Din died in battle. His death led to the movement's decline. Thus the first popular resistance against the overseas slave trade and against the African rulers who participated in it had failed.  7
Influenced by the earlier example of Nasir al-Din, Maalik Sy waged a holy war of his own in the Senegambian region. He and his followers successfully founded the theocratic state of Bundu, located on the trade route between the Niger Bend and the Gambia. Maalik Sy's success was due largely to the strong military organization he commanded.  8
Maalik Sy's influence spread and contributed to the Muslim revolution in Futa Jallon. The holy war in Futa Jallon was, like its predecessors in the region, partly a reaction to the upheavals brought about by the overseas slave trade and by tensions within African societies. The leaders of the jihad had come from the Senegal Valley and gained experience from Nasir al-Din's short-lived marabout movement. Their holy war against the Jallonke aristocracies became one of the most successful Muslim revolutions in 18th-century Senegambia. The newly founded Islamic kingdom of Futa Jallon would preserve its character until the beginning of colonial rule.  9
Karamaxo Alfa led the Muslim revolution in Futa Jallon, on the borders of Senegambia. His efforts culminated in the establishment of a powerful Muslim theocracy in the region. After his death in 1751, religious and political wars in Futa Jallon and surrounding regions continued.  10
Borno under Ali ibn Dunama entered a sustained period of decline. Increasing slave raids and aggressive nomadic attacks led to abandonment of desert-edge regions of the state. Rebellions in outlying districts encouraged movement of populations and herds to more secure locations, including the migration westward to the Central Sudan. Internal dissent in court between Sefuwa dynasty and clerics. Crisis peaked around 1805 as Fulani nomads of Borno launched jihad against state.  11
1754, Dec. 15
Birth of ‘Uthman ben Muhammad ben Salih, known as Shehu Usuman dan Fodio, in Maratta, kingdom of Gobir. In 1804 he led a jihad against the nominally Muslim Hausa kings of the central Sudan and against the kingdom of Borno. Usuman dan Fodio ultimately established the powerful Sokoto Caliphate, the most powerful Muslim state in West Africa (See 1804).  12
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.