Rulers, Scholars, and Invaders: A Select Bibliography of the Songhay Empire

By Singleton, Brent | History In Africa, January 1, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Rulers, Scholars, and Invaders: A Select Bibliography of the Songhay Empire

Singleton, Brent, History In Africa


The Songhay Empire was a remarkable west African state, flourishing in several areas including territorial and trade expansion, development of a strong military and centralized government, unprecedented support for learning and scholarship, and skilful relations with the greater Sudanic and Islamic lands. Songhay arose out of the remains of the Mali empire under the rule of Sonni AIi ca. 1464. Yet it was the empire's second ruler, Askiya Muhammad, who initiated the centurylong golden age of peace and stability, bringing Songhay to its zenith. This era was particularly fruitful for the cities of Gao, Timbuktu, and Jenne, the empire's administrative, scholarly, and trade centers respectively. Timbuktu soared to preeminence in the Sudan and became known in other parts of the Muslim world, producing many respected scholars. However, by the later part of the sixteenth century fractious disarray among the descendants of Askiya Muhammad weakened the state, ultimately leading to the Moroccan invasion of 1591. Songhay's capitulation to the invaders ended the age of the great medieval west African states.

The purpose of this bibliography is to collocate the major scholarly resources, providing a solid introduction to researching the Songhay empire. Included are books, book chapters, journal articles, and conference proceedings published through 2002, as well as a small number of significant unpublished dissertations. The citations represent scholarly research on the topic in English, French, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, German, and Polish. Also included are several published primary resources in many languages, often incorporating dual text translations, transcriptions, and transliterations of the original documents. Citations are limited to those that focus on or contain discreet chapters or sections pertaining to the Songhay empire. General works about African history not meeting these criteria, or other sources that mention the Songhay Empire merely in passing, are omitted. The arrangement of citations is from general to specific, after primary materials and general history categories, the works are ordered by topic and further broken down by subtopics where applicable. Notes have been included for clarification, content description, or reference to other publications where an item has been published.

Primary Materials

1] Hunwick, John O. 1974. "Source Materials for the History of Songhai, Borno and Hausaland in the Sixteenth Century." Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria 7: 579-86.

2] Ibn cAli, Sidi cUmar. 1995-1998. Fihris makhtutat Markaz Ahmad Baba lil-Tawthiq wa-al-Buhuth al-Tarikhiyah bi-Tinbuktu I Handlist of Manuscripts in the Centre de Documentation et de Recherches Historiques Ahmed Baba, Timbuktu. London.

3] Leo Africanus. 1969. A Geographical Historié of Africa. New York.

4] Monteil, Vincent. 1967. "Les manuscrits historiques arabo-africain (III)." Bulletin de l'Institut fondamental d'Afrique noire 29B:599603.

For other primary materials see 33-34, 36, 61, 64-65, 76, 79, 81, 101-102, 104, 128-130.

General History

5] Awe, Bolande. 1965. "Empires of the Western Sudan: Ghana, Mali, Songhay" in A Thousand Years of West African History, éd. J.F. Ade Ajayi and Ian Espie, 55-71. Ibadan.

6] Béraud-Villars, Jean-Marcel-Eugène. 1942. L'empire de Gaô: un état soudanais aux XVe et XVIe siècles. Paris.

7] Boulnois, Jean, and Boubou Hama. 1954. L'empire de Gao; histoire, coutumes et magie des Sonrai. Paris.

8] Bovill, E. W. 1995. "The Rise and Fall of the Songhai Empire" in The Golden Trade of the Moors: West African Kingdoms in the Fourteenth Century. 2d rev. éd., 132-206. Princeton.

9] Cissoko, Sékéné Mody. 1984. "The Songhay from the 12th to the 16th Century" in General History of Africa, 4, éd. D.T. Niane, 187-210. London.

10] Fischer, Rudolf. 1982. Gold, Salz und Sklaven: die Geschichte der grossen Sudanreiche: Gana, Mali, Songhai.

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