Sahelian kingdom

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The Sahelian kingdoms were a series of empires that had many similarities. They were centred on the sahel, the area of grasslands south of the Sahara. The wealth of the states came from controlling the trade routes across the desert. Their power came from having large pack animals like camels and horses that were fast enough to keep a large empire under central control and were also useful in battle.

All of these empires were also quite decentralized with member cities having a great deal of autonomy.

The states also all practiced matrilineal succession.

The Sahel states were limited from expanding south into the forest zone of the Ashanti and Yoruba as mounted warriors were all but useless in the forests and the horses and camels could not survive the heat and diseases of the region.

List of the Sahel Kingdoms

  • The first state to rise in this region was the Kingdom of Ghana. Centered in what is today Senegal and Mauritania, it was the first to benefit from the introduction of pack animals by Arab traders. Ghana dominated the region from the 10th to the thirteenth century.
  • When Ghana collapsed in the face of invasion from the Almoravids a series of brief kingdoms followed; eventually the Mali Empire rose to dominate the region. Located on the Niger River to the west of Ghana in what is today Niger and Mali, it lasted about a century before fracturing into a number of successor states at the end of the fifteenth century.
  • The most powerful of these new states was the Kingdom of Gao, which by the sixteenth century had risen to stretch from Cameroon to the Maghreb, the largest state in Africa history. It too was quite short-lived and collapsed in the early seventeenth century.
  • To the east, by Lake Chad, the state of Kanem-Bornu rose to preeminence. In the west the loosely united Hausa city-states became dominant. These two states coexisted uneasily, but quite stably.
  • In 1810 the Fulani Empire rose and conquered the Hausa, creating a more centralized state. It and Kanem-Bornu would continue to exist until the arrival of Europeans, when both states would fall and the region would be divided between France and Great Britain.

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