Chapter 15: Societies and Empires in Africa


Chapter 15: Societies & Empires in Africa


• Throughout history different groups of Africans have found different ways to organize themselves to meet their political, economic, & social needs. • In the varied regions of Africa, climate & topography influenced how each community developed.

How did Geography & Climate influence development in Africa?

• Great variety – Climate – Topography – Landforms

North & Central African Societies: Hunter-Gatherer

• formed close-knit family groups • Oldest in world • Still around • Provide clues about ancient times

Hunter-Gatherer Societies

• Semi-nomadic • Few possessions, distinctive hunting techniques

“Stateless” Societies

• Power not centralized • Based on lineage groups not individual ruler – Family groups based on a common ancestor – Living members – Past generations – Future generations – Strong loyalty • balance authority among lineages of equal power • may be – patri-lineal – matri-lineal • Men usually hold positions of authority

Muslim States

• Islam spread across N. Africa • Rulers converted • Government based on Islamic Law (Sharia) • Muslim rulers relied on religious scholars as government advisors


• Desert, mountain dwellers • Indigenous to N. Africa • Accepted Islam • Maintained Berber Identity • Almoravids & Almohads found empires that united N. Africa (Maghrib)

Impact of Berber Rule

• Spread N. African culture • Stability &order • Unity through Islamic teaching • North/South Trade flourished

West African Civilizations

• While Berbers built empires in N. Africa, three powerful empire flourished in West Africa in the Sahel-the savanna region just south of the Sahara • Grew strong by controlling trade

Empire of Ghana

• Around 200 AD, trade across Sahara was infrequent • Berbers began to use camels • Travel great distance without water • Taxed trade-grew wealthy

Gold-Salt Trade

• • • Arab & Berber traders crossed desert loaded w/salt, cloth, weapons, manufactured goods African traders brought gold north Merchants met in trade cities, exchanged goods, officials collected tax & ensured fair weights and provided protection from bandits

Land of Gold

• By 800, Ghana was an empire • King controlled trade, large army, demanded taxes and gifts from chiefs of surrounding lands.

• King controlled supply of gold, kept price high • King was religious leader, judge, military commander • Head of government bureaucracy

Islamic Influences

• Islam spread through trade • Ghana’s rulers/elites converted to Islam • Common people kept traditional beliefs/practices • Islam spread literacy • Ghana lost power when Almoravids disrupted gold-salt trade

Empire of Mali

• By 1235 the kingdom of


had emerged. • Its founders were

Mande speaking people

, who lived south of Ghana.

• Mali’s wealth was also built on



Sundiata Conquers an Empire

• A powerful king named Sundiata ruled Mali from around 1230-1255 AD. He became known as a mansa, or emperor.

• He led the people in conquering and expanding his kingdom to be as great as Ghana had been.

Mansa Musa Expands Mali (1312-1337)

• Greatest king of Mali • developed gold/salt trade-kingdom became very powerful & rich • Made hajj to Mecca upon return built many mosques in Timbuktu • Attracted Muslim judges, doctors, religious leaders scholars

Ibn Battuta: 1352 • Muslim legal scholar • Traveled throughout Muslim world -27 years • Wrote a journal • Praised the people of Mali for their study of Qur’an • Criticized lack of strict practice (women did not veil) • Within 50 years, gold trade shifted to new fields in East • Mali weakened

Empire of Songhai

• As Mali declined, Songhai east built an army & extended territory-gained control of trade routes. Gao was the capital.

Songhai’s Powerful Leaders

• Sunni Ali – Built a professional army • Askia Muhammad – Set up good government

Other Peoples of West Africa: Hausa

• Hausa City-States

Other Peoples of West Africa: Yoruba

Other Peoples of West Africa: Benin

Eastern City-States & Southern Empires

• • • In the 3 rd century, Aksum traded extensively. From Red Sea it traded with Arabia, Persia, India & Rome Muslims cut them off from their port so they moved their capital south Other cities on East coast were thriving from Indian Ocean trade

East Coast Trade Cities


Portuguese Conquest

Islamic Influences

Enslavement of Africans

Southern Africa & Great Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe

Mutapa Empire