African History: Ghana and Mali Kingdoms

In early African history there were two great West African kingdoms: Ghana and Mali. They both were developed on the crossing of trading routes. They have very similar history. In this short paper we will discuss the peculiarities of the historical development of the states of Ghana and Mali. We will determine what role was played by Islamic influence and suggest what features of development could have these countries without Islamic factor.

The kingdom of Ghana was the first great unified state in this region. Technologies of the use of iron and gold market made this country to be a major regional power in the region. But around 1054 Berberian tribes of Almoravids splintered that kingdom. They did not build own kingdom in this region but they weakened king’s power. After decline of the kingdom of Ghana the Kingdom of Mali began its development. Mali was situated in the same region of the south of the Sahara. The strengths of Mali were based on the monopolization of the trade routes, so economics of the state was very similar to economics of the kingdom of Ghana. Later, Mali reached even higher power than Ghana. But after the death of the great King Mansa Musa his descendants had lost the control on the provinces. The empire of Mali was crumbled. The empire weakened by internal controversies fell under attacks of nomads. It’s interesting that aggressors and victims were Muslims in this case. The great role in the future decline of Mali was played by the rebellion of Songhay.

An importance of Islam in history of the great medieval African kingdoms is undoubted. Islam transformed the features of the rule, economic system, culture and other issues of public life. Probably without Islamic influence the development of these states would be not so rapid. Islamic influence was an important factor in commercial affairs with Muslim countries, in state building, in introducing literacy and science. Islam became a unifying force for the people and an important factor for maintaining state power. But Islamic pressure was also a factor of destruction, which accelerated the decay of the great West African kingdoms.


World History, by Duiker W.J. and Jackson J.S. Vol. 1 Fourth Edition Wadsworth Publishing; 4 edition 2003 576 pp.

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African History: Ghana and Mali Kingdoms. (2017, Mar 28). Retrieved from