Africa, Culture and Trade 1500–1800

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Map Code: Ax01900

In the 16th century the Songhay Empire dominated in West Africa through control of the lucrative trans-Saharan caravan routes and trade in slaves and gold. This dominance would be abruptly shattered by the invasion of Sultan Ahmad Al-Mansur of Morocco (1591). The Moroccans soon withdrew, enabling the Air Dynasty of Agades, Coulibaly of Segu and Mossi States to establish their independence. To their south, the Gulf coast kingdoms of Asante, Dahomey, Oyo and Benin prospered through the growth of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Kanem and Borno were united under the Muslim Sayfawa dynasty with Mai Idris Alooma (1571–1603) who established a strong centralized state which received embassies from the Ottomans. Christian Ethiopia needed Portuguese help to repulse the Ottomans (1543), but the Portuguese themselves would be repulsed (1693) when they tried to capture the goldfields of the powerful Rozwi of Zimbabwe, pioneers of the ‘bull-horn’ battle formation Shaka Zulu would later make famous.

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