Neither author mentions conquest of neighboring regions as a pre condition for

Neither author mentions conquest of neighboring

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of the coastal slave trade. Neither author mentions conquest of neighboring regions as a pre-condition for trade. Songhai . The Songhai Empire, with its capital at Gao, took advantage of a weakened Mali to become free from Malinke control in 1340. Levzion (1975) only links this weak- ness to trade conditions in a roundabout way, noting that Mali power in Timbuktu was dislodged by first Mossi and later Tuareg raids. Gao was captured by Moroccan forces in 1591, after which the empire fractured. Levzion (1975) attributes Songhai weakness at this point to a divisive civil war, and not to trade factors. It is clear that the empire
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ECOLOGY, TRADE AND STATES IN PRE-COLONIAL AFRICA 21 depended for its wealth on the trans-Saharan trade. Neumark (1977) attributes the suc- cess, not only of Songhay but of the states that preceded it, to “their strategic commer- cial position on the fringes of the Sahara.” Songhay exported principally gold and slaves, as well as ivory, rhinoceros horns, ostrich feathers, skins, ebony, civet, malaguetta pep- per, and semi-precious stones. It re-exported cloth and leather goods from Hausaland and kola from the forest zone. It imported salt, linen, silk, cotton cloth, copper utensils and tools, ironwork, paper, books, weapons, cowries, beads, mirrors, dates, figs, sugar, cattle and horses. Leo Africanus noted the empire’s prosperity, as abundant food could be produced in the southern savanna and shipped to Timbuktu via the Niger (Levzion, 1975). Lovejoy (1978), similarly, notes that Timbuktu and Gao, Songhay’s most impor- tant cities “controlled trans-Saharan trade, desert-side exchange, and river traffic on the Niger. Located in the Sahil but with easy access to western and central savanna, they were at the hub of overland and river routes where staples of desert-side trade such as grain and salt could readily be transferred from river boat to camel, and vice versa.” Songhay was the first Sudanic empire whose power reached as far as the salt mines of Taghaza (Levzion, 1975). Shillington (1989) notes taxes on trade as a key source of gov- ernment revenue. It is true that, after its establishment, Songhay did expand – Bovill (1995) writes that Songhay moved into the Hausa states to capture their quality land and into Air to drive out Tuareg raiders. Levzion (1975) adds that these conquests were largely along the Niger river, because of Songhay’s dependence on its Sorko fleet for its military power. This is not necessarily counter to the Ricardian view. In the case of Air, this was a move- ment to protect existing trade interests, not to secure new routes. The strength of Song- hay, like many of the states that came before it, had already been based on its favorable location for trade before it began its expansion. Toro . One of Uganda’s four traditional kingdoms, Toro broke free of Bunyoro in 1830, was reconquered in 1876, and became independent once again with Lugard’s help in 1891. The base of economic production in Toro was hoe-cultivation of finger-millet, plantains, sweet potatoes and beans, though a cattle-keeping class existed (Taylor, 1962).
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  • Spring '17
  • JAMES FENSKE

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