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UNIT 11: Early Empires

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VIDEO SEGMENT: The Mali Empire

This segment explores the Mali Empire of West Africa, which arose between 1200 and 1400 in the kingdom of Ghana. Oral tradition records that a powerful leader, named Sunjata, unified the Mali Empire, and that the empire grew rich and powerful from trade conducted across the vast expanse of the Sahara desert. Indeed, merchants traveled long distances to trade iron products, salt, and gold in Mali's markets.

The empire itself grew increasingly cosmopolitan, as it became host to a wide variety of traders, slaves, and travelers who frequented Mali's urban centers at Timbuktu, Gao, and Jenne Jao. Like the Mongol Empire, the key to Mali's success was its effective military force — paid for with wealth gained by the trans-Saharan trade and with tribute won from neighboring conquered states.

In return for tribute, Mali's military offered protection from thievery and banditry — which further encouraged trade to flourish in the region. In addition, while the Mali central administration established its own rule of law over conquered territories, it allowed regional cultures to remain under the control of existing clans and elites.

Although the Mali Empire collapsed in the mid-fifteenth century, during its existence it provided a conduit for the exchange of ideas, religions, and commodities, and connected people across the vast inland ocean of the Sahara.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Franko Khoury, EQUESTRIAN FIGURE, INLAND NIGER DELTA STYLE, INLAND NIGER DELTA REGION, MALI (13th-15th Century). Courtesy of the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Anonymous, MAN WITH SERPENTS, MALI (c. 1000-1600). Courtesy of WorldArt Kiosk/Kathleen Cohen.


Abraham Cresques, CATALAN ATLAS (14th century). Courtesy of the Biblioteque Nationale

Hot Pepper Studios, created for Bridging World History, MALI EMPIRE(2004). Courtesy of Oregon Public Broadcasting.



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