Africa was the home of several great empires. One of the most prosperous was the Kingdom of Mali which lasted from 1200-1500 (Jackson, 199). It was established by the Mandinka (Mandingo) people (Jackson, 207). Mali was the first great Muslim state in Sudan (Jackson, 207). It was the Muslim discipline that governed Mali which helped make it so successful.
Mali was prosperous in commerce and farming (Martin, 82). The kingdom had gained control of the trade of gold and salt that had previously been monopolized by Ghana (Jackson, 207). The soil in the Mali Kingdom was rich and fertile, excellent for growing the cotton, peanuts, grains, and variety of other crops which secured the food supply of the area (Jackson, 207). Since it was not forbidden by Islam, slavery was also a means through which Mali gained wealth.
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Material wealth was not the only draw that Mali had; its rulers, too, were instrumental in establishing Mali's reputation. Mali's rulers were called "mansa" which meant "lord" (Koslow, 40). One of the most famous was Mansa Musa (Jackson, 208). Musa left his legacy with the pilgrimage he made to Mecca in 1324 (Davidson, 91). On this pilgrimage Musa brought 500 slaves and a similar number of golden staffs (Davidson, 91). This large amount of gold was traded along the way, with varying effects on the surrounding economies. These effects proved devastating to the region around Cairo (Koslow, 40). It was this pilgrimage which gained Mali international acclaim (Martain, 82). Musa is credited with ruling Mali at its peak and transforming the area into a true state.
This disciplined and influential Empire thrived in the 13th and 14th centuries but began its downfall in the 15th (Martin, 82). After the passing of Musa, Mali never again had a leader that was powerful or influential enough to hold it together. When the Mali Kingdom collapsed, the Songhay empire in West Sudan took its place (Jackson, 212). The wealth and power that Mali possessed were never again fully displayed by an African Empire.
Adler, Philip. World Civilizations. (West Publishing Company; Minneapolis, 1996)
Davidson, Basil. African Civilization Revisited. (African World Press; Trenton, 1991).
Jackson, John. Introduction to African Civilizations. (The Citadel Press; New Jersey, 1970).
Koslow, Philip. Centuries Of Greatness. (Chelsea House Publishers; New York, 1995).
Martin, Phyllis, and Patrick O'Meara. Africa , 3rd ed. (Indiana University Press; Bloomington, 1995).