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Identify the locations and time periods of the sub-Saharan empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay.


Caravan approaching Timbuktu in 1853 (from Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa by Prof. Dr. Heinrich Barth, vol. iv, London 1858)
Caravan approaching Timbuktu in 1853 (from Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa by Prof. Dr. Heinrich Barth, vol. iv, London 1858)


external image Agregateur_Poietique.gifFor information about the history of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay, see World History I.18.



Click here for a brief overview of African Trade Kingdoms from the African Cultural Center.

Click here for a history of Sub-Saharan Africa

Multimedia.pngFor information about the trans-Atlantic slave trade, go to Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. See also WHI.20


map_icon.jpeg Mapping Africa is an audio slideshow showing maps from the earliest depictions of the continent to the colonial scramble for land.

timeline2_rus.svg.pngClick here for a timeline of Africa, 1st-15th centuries

lessonplan.jpgClick here for a lesson plan on African empires and using the internet as a source

Ghana Empire

  • ghana empire.png
    Location of Ghana Empire, wikimedia commons
    Located in today's Northern Senegal and Southern Mauritania
  • Origins are not clear
  • Believed to have started in the 1st millennium AD
  • It is possible that many Soninke tribes came together under 1 ruler, Dinga Cisse
  • Joined together in response to attacks from nomads
  • The empire became wealthy from gold
  • Trade was possible because of camels
  • Trade also brought Islam to the area
  • The empire may have declined due to:
    • Trade competition
    • Drought that negatively impacted the land and resources
    • Pressure from outside empires
  • The empire was replaced by the Mali Empire around 1235
  • Click here for more info
  • lessonplan.jpgClick here for a lesson plan on the Ghana Empire and ancient African trade



Mali Empire

  • mali empire.PNG
    Location of Mali Empire, wikimedia commons
    Located in Western Africa
  • In power from the 13th to 16th century
  • Trading empire built on gold
  • Also built wealth trading salt
  • Took over the Ghana Empire after being unsatisfied with their ruler, Sumanguru
  • Empire continued the spread of Islam
  • The empire declined due to over expanding
    • Not enough political stability
    • Lacked military strength to defend the empire
    • The empire fell apart around 1550
  • Click here for more info
  • lessonplan.jpgClick here for ideas and essential questions about the Mali Empire



Songhay Empire

  • Located along the Niger River
    SONGHAI_empire_map_BLANK.PNG
    Songhay Empire, wikimedia commons
  • Fell under the control of the Mali Empire in the 14th century
  • Sonni Ali the Great, a Songhay leader, conquered lands as the Mali Empire fell apart
  • The empire traded gold, kola nuts, and slaves
  • Empire declined in part because of drought and disease
  • Morocco invaded in 1591 for control over the gold trade
  • The Songhay Empire was unprepared for the battle and Morocco defeated them
  • Moroccan army looted and pillaged the the empire
  • Click here for more info
  • lessonplan.jpgClick here for a primary source activity involving the Songhay Empire