African History: 9th to 16th Century

African History - 9th to 16th Century

The time of the great empires in West Africa from the 9th to the 16th centuries

In West Africa warriors subjugated several small rulers around 800 and founded the Gana Empire with the capital Koumbi Saleh. Gana controlled the southern part of the western trade route through the Sahara as well as the mining and trading of gold. Islamic traders and the warriors of the Almoravids penetrated the south via the trade routes, conquered Gana around 1076 and initiated the Islamization of the region. Check to see countries in western Africa.

In the following centuries, Mali, an empire founded by Sundjata Keita (around 1230–55) from the Malinke people, took over the hegemony and control of the gold and salt trade and the major trade routes. Emperor Kankan Musa (1312–35) subjugated numerous neighboring peoples and made a pilgrimage to Mecca with large numbers. Timbuktu and Gao became centers of commerce and Islamic learning.

Around 1400 the Songhai Empire strengthened and pushed Mali back to the west. It reached its heyday under Ali Ber (1464–92) and Mohammed Touré (1493–1528); Gao, Timbuktu and Djenné became thriving centers. As in Mali, power and wealth were based on conquests, tribute payments, slave labor and the control of trade routes and the salt deposits in the desert. In 1591, Songhai was defeated by a Moroccan expeditionary force. On Lake Chad in central Sudan, the empires Kanem and later Bornu (Kanem-Bornu) emerged in the 8th century. The Hausa formed along the major trade routes between Niger and Chadsince the 11th century smaller city-states such as Kano, Gobir, Katsina and Zaria. Further south, Yoruba city-states emerged, including Oyo. In the rainforest zone, the rulers of Benin, the Oba dynasty, created a kingdom in the 12th century, which under powerful warrior kings experienced a great territorial expansion as far as Lagos and created outstanding works of art made of ivory and bronze. It existed until 1897. Its basis was tribute payments by subject peoples, slave labor and trade, among others. with Europeans.

The age of the colonizers

The invasion of the Europeans in the 19th century led to the complete division of the continent. The causes lay in Europe: in the search of the European powers for new markets and in nationalistic rivalries. The invasion started from bases on the coasts and was triggered by attempts to enforce the slave trade ban by military force (1807) and by the amalgamation of the interests of European and African traders in West Africa. The latter wanted to free themselves from the foreign trade monopoly of their rulers, but could not compete with the capitalization and technology of the Europeans and underestimated the determination and the political backing of their opponents. The result was the weakening of their own states.

France established itself in Algiers in 1830 and from 1840 built the base of St. Louis du Sénégal into a colony, from where General L. L. C. Faidherbethe march inland began, supported by soldiers recruited locally, the »tirailleurs sénégalais«. The aim was to create a contiguous block of land from the Mediterranean to the coast of West Africa. Guinea, Ivory Coast, Dahome and much of the interior were conquered. Britain enforced the ban on the slave trade by force and sought direct access to domestic markets. It subjugated Ashanti, occupied the coastal region, intervened in the Yoruba wars, destroyed Benin and advanced along the Niger against the Sokoto caliphate. Germany wanted to protect the interests of large trading houses in West, Central and South West Africa and placed Togo, Cameroon and South West Africa under German protection. The great areas of Central Africa became either colonies of the French or the private property of the kingLeopold II of Belgium (Belgian colonies). Angola remained the property of Portugal, as did Mozambique on the east side of the continent. In southern Africa the last peoples lost their independence and, among other things, got caught. because of their rich natural resources, under British rule. In East Africa part fell to Germany (Tanganyika and Rwanda as well as Urundi); the more strategically important part, Kenya and Uganda, to Great Britain, which wanted to protect the Nile and the sea route to India. The British were also able to secure control of Egypt and Sudan.

Everywhere resistance was opposed to the advance of the Europeans, but this was unsuccessful because of a lack of unity and inferiority in terms of weapons technology. The “Golden Age of Strangers” began. The Europeans rearranged the political landscape by drawing new borders, smashing old empires and removing rulers legitimized by tradition and often viewed as sacred rulers. They took their place themselves or those in power appointed by them. The Europeans set up their own administration, which was supposed to enforce their claim to power, collect taxes, guarantee peace and order, judge according to their ideas and create an economic and cultural infrastructure.

The goals of colonial economic policy were dictated by supply and demand in Europe: export of wood, raw materials and tropical products such as palm oil, coffee, cocoa, tea, fruit and cotton; Import of industrial finished goods, fabrics, iron and building materials, vehicles and machines. To this end, the land was redesigned and workers withdrawn from local food cultivation; ports were built that were connected to the production and mining sites by newly built roads and railway lines. The income was not used to improve cultivation methods or the living conditions of the locals, but to finance foreign rule. Only after the Second World War did the colonial powers organize development programs for the individual colonies.

The social changes shook the foundations of African societies because hierarchies and value systems that had grown in a long tradition were overturned. Rulers lost their sacred legitimation, the elders and wise men lost their authority, women lost their power in food security, the community lost its central importance and gave way to the individual. The new elite that arose in the administration, the schools or the colonial economy, and the freed slaves benefited from the new order.

These changes took place against the background of a cultural revolution that shook one’s own worldview and self-understanding, introduced new religious beliefs and rites and replaced the language of the fathers with that of the colonizers. School, Christian mission, contact with the way of life of the Europeans and life in the new, colonial cities became the bearers of this transformation. But they also carried the seeds of rethinking and revolution in them by providing access to the political and philosophical ideas of the western world.

African History - 9th to 16th Century