The Mali Empire and Others

Mali Empire | Cartoon history of Mali Empire | West African Empires | Timbuktu and its libraries | Academic

Mali Empire

Mali Empire by Ari Nave from Encarta Africana, a long, excellent article. The long article Ancient African Civilizations also has a good article on "The Empires of Ghana and Mali."

Art of Ancient Mali from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. In addition to artwork, this site has a fine timeline and Mali bibliography with internet links.

"A History of Ancient Mali" Decent studet paper by Andrew Weiss for a course "History of Africa to 1800"

Civilizations in Africa: Mali. by Richard Hooker. Summarizes the rise of Mali under Sundiata and Mansa Musa. From Washington State University's World Civilizations. See also Civilizations in Africa: Songhay.

Mali Empire with description (Sondiata and Mansa Musa), with map, from the MET.

The Trans-Saharan Gold Trade (7th–14th century A.D.) with a map of the Mali Empire crisscrossed by trade routes.

Civilizations in Africa: Mali by Richard Hooker (brief), from Washington State's World Civlization.

Bibliography: The Mali Empire, a lengthy but still under-construction bibliography by Brenda Randolph. Includes some hyperlinks that require subscriptions (eg., WorldBook).

Djenne-Jeno, Mali from Encarta Africana.

Short ungraded quiz from McGraw Hill.

The Mosque of Djenne, Mali. Although rooted in tradition, the present mosque dates to the beginning of the 20th century.

The Mali Empire from Mali: Ancient Crossroads of Africa (Virginia Museum of Art). This page is no great shakes, but they have a good set of resources.

Editorial note: Like almost all "educational" reports of the hajj, this one reports Mansa Musa brought 60,000 people to Mecca. So, let's tackle that. First, 60,000 is the highest number. As a general rule, if ancient or medieval accounts describe different but large numbers of people, the answer is rarely the highest. Second, taking 60,000 would be more trouble than it's worth, and perhaps impossible. Almost all the places through which this virtual army would pass would be much smaller than it, and not accustomed to feeding such numbers—a necessity since you can't carry enough food to walk to Arabia. Mecca itself didn't exceed 60,000 residents until the 20th century! A hungry mob larger than most Medieval armies? Image the political problems. Or take the physical: as Engels' demonstrated in Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army a group that size can't even use wells; even if the water doesn't give out, not enough people can drink at a time to keep the mass from dying of thirst.… You'd probably get more educational value from asking students to take statements like this apart than from the material itself.

Cartoon history of Mali Empire

Part 1: Who built the empire of Mali?

Part 2: Who was Mali's Mansa Musa?

Part 3: How did Mali's gold travel?

Part 4: Did Mali have religious freedom?

Part 5: What did Timbuktu school's do? (I like Abu Ishaq es-Saheli's "Shaq Attack" t-shirt)

West African Empires

Empires and States,13th to 16th Centuries from the online version of The Spread of Islam Through North to West Africa: A Historical Survey with Relevant Arab Documents, by Joseph Kenny (2000). A Dominican in Nigeria has a website with essays and resources devoted to Islamic history and theology, Christian history and theology and inter-religious dialogue.

Ancient West African Civilizations: An Overview. Authoritative paragraphs on Malian and other rulers by NYU professor Richard W. Hull, for a workshop on "Early African Empires and their Global Connections". See next page for more figures. and the bibliography, Selected Readings for African Civilizations: A Focus on West Africa.

BBC: The Story of Africa–West African Kingdoms. Snappy introduction to the Empire of Mali, with source-quotations and some audio mixed in.

Kingdoms of the Medieval Sudan by J. Rotondo-McCord. The site covers Mali, Songhay, Hausaland and Kanem-Bornu. My favorite feature is the Mali Self-Test.

Timeline: Western and Central Sudan, 1000–1400 (including Ghana Empire, Mali Empire and Songhai Empire), from the MET.

Empires of Mali and Ghana, a brief description of their rise and fall, by K. C MacDonald, from the "Road to Timbuktu" segment of Henry Lewis Gates' Wonders of the African World.

Ghana Empire with map, from the MET.

Songhai Empire with blurb and map, from the MET.

The rise and fall of Mali and Songhai from the (generally much better) site Collapse: Why Do Civilizations Fall?

Timbuktu and its libraries

Timbuktu's intellectual heritage. Henry Lewis Gates talks to scholar Ali Ould Sidi at the Sankore Mosque, Timbuktu. Wonders of the African World. See also this segment, on the discovery of some ancient manuscripts. Both segments include transcripts if the video doesn't work or (as with me) it crashes your browsers.

The History Channel's Timbuktu, Mali steps through the major phases of the city, with bibligraphy, timeline, suggested activities and a quiz.

Timbuktu, Mali by Barbara Worley. Lengthy article from the Encyclopedia Africana.

"The Islamic Legacy of Timbuktu" by Tahir Shah, Saudi Aramco World (1995). Starts with an accounts of Mansa Musa's hajj.

"Although Timbuktu has been conquered many times by many powers, absorbed into one empire after another, none ever sacked or looted it. As a result, traces of its Islamic legacy appear at almost every turn. Qur'anic inscriptions decorate doorways. The tombs of hundreds of famous scholars and levered teachers dot the town—some unremembered, some within the knowledge of local guides. Most noticeably, a handful of fabulous mosques reel upward into the brilliant African sky and constitute the anchor points of the city's plan."
Includes a nice survey of the Tarikh literature through which much of its history is know.

NPR: "On the Edge, Timbuktu," a four-part report by Alex Chadwick.

BBC Travel Report: "Timbuktu — city of legends" (15 April, 2002). Good popular account of Timbuktu's varied material and scholarly fortunes.

Library of Congress: Ancient Manuscripts from the Desert Libraries of Timbuktu. This is a beautiful, impressive website. At its core are a simple procession of images and descriptions manuscripts on diverse topics—philosophy, medicine, astrology, law—you name it.

Timbuktu: The El Dorado of Africa from's African History guru Alistair Boddy-Evans.

When Timbuktu Was the Paris of Islamic Intellectuals in Africa by Lila Azam Zangeneh, New York Times (April 24, 2004).

Reclaiming the Ancient Manuscripts of Timbuktu by Chris Rainier, National Geographic News (May 27, 2003)

Timbuktu: A Center for Trade (map)

The Timbuktu Libraries Project. Official site.

Timbuktu: The Mythical Site by Bamba Kiabou, for UNESCO.


"Trans-Saharan Trade and the West African Discovery of the Mediterranean World" by Pekka Masonen, from Ethnic Encounter and Culture Change. Papers from the Third Nordic Conference on Middle Eastern Studies 1997. Covers the role of royal pilgrimates, like Mansa Musa's, as well as official state visits. The original talk is also online.

LibraryThing: Catalog your books online.

If you enjoy this site you may also like these other sites by me:

Ibn Battuta on the Web. Comprehensive guide to the 14th century Muslim traveler, Ibn Battuta on Morocco, and his Rihla.

Ibn Khaldun on the Web. Web directory and guide to the great 14th century Arab historian and philosopher of history.

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