Pre-colonial Mali and the rich history of Timbuktu by Jimin Chun jyc5842


My country Mali is located in the Western part of Africa that has rich history of ancient kingdoms. The Mali Empire, also known as the Manden Kurufaba according to other sources, was an ancient kingdom of Mali that existed from 1230 to 1600. Their history is important because they greatly inspired the spread of language and customs throughout the western part of Africa.

The cities of Mali became important trading centers for all of West Africa as well as famous centers of wealth, culture, and learning. Timbuktu, an important city in Mali, became one of the major cultural centers not only of Africa but of the entire world. Vast libraries and Islamic universities were built. These became meeting places of the famous poets, scholars, and artists of Africa. Mansa Musa, who was Muslim, was perhaps best known outside of Mali for his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 C.E. According to some accounts, 60,000 people accompanied him, along with 200 camels laden with gold, silver, food, clothing, and other goods.


The Mali Empire had ties with the Ghana Empire. It was an essential trading partner for Manden Kurufab as it heavily relied on trade. Thus Mali Empire grew and prospered by monopolizing the gold trade and developing the agricultural resources along the Niger River. Like Ghana, Mali prospered from the taxes it collected on trade in the empire. All goods passing in, out of, and through the empire were heavily taxed. All gold nuggets belonged to the king, but gold dust could be traded. Gold was even used at times as a form of currency, as also were salt and cotton cloth. Later, cowrie shells from the Indian Ocean were introduced and used widely as currency in the internal trade of the Western Africa


The Mali Empire’s most famous king was Mansa Musa. He divided the empire into provinces, each with its own governor, and towns that were administered by a mayor. A huge army kept the peace, putting down rebellions in the smaller kingdoms bordering the central part of the empire, and policing the many trade routes. Timbuktu became a center of learning, luxury, and trade, where citizens traded with merchants from other parts of Africa, the Middle East, and even Europe.

The great scholars of Timbuktu are known for their records of their knowledge and research known as the Manuscripts of Timbuktu. It refers to the large number of historically important manuscripts that have been preserved for centuries in private households. The collections include manuscripts about art, medicine, philosophy, and science. Also, the merchants of Timbuktu were known for their trade. They established many trade routes that allowed for other kingdoms to adapt to Timbuktu’s cultures and traditions.

After doing some research on the internet/in library catalogs about Mali and its ancient kingdoms, I found out that there is vast amount of information about them. They included books, eBooks, and news articles about Mali and the rich history of Timbuktu. I enjoyed using websites on the ancient kingdoms of West Africa because they outlined the resources I need well with good organization and presentation.



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