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Kingdom of Songhai

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Simmy Delva

on 21 February 2014

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Transcript of Kingdom of Songhai

What is of Them Now?
Where Was It?
The Songhai Empire was the largest former empire in West Africa, located in mainly Niger, Mali , Burkina Faso and Ghana, but also took up small parts of Mauritania and Nigeria. There were two capitals in the Songhai Empire, first being Kukiya and the second Gao. Kukiya was located north of the Falls of Labezanga and north of it was Gao.

Gao, the second capital, was a walled city in the Songhai Empire. It was a very important city to the Songhai, with traders coming from India, China and other countries to trade with the Songhai.
The people of Songhai mainly followed the Islamic religion, but also had their own original beliefs as well.

Islam was introduced to the Songhai people in 1009, when Muslim merchants came to trade in Gao with the Songhai people. It was mostly just the royal court who practiced Islam though, many of the people stayed to their own beliefs and traditions.

Magic, witch doctors and spirits are all apart of the people of Songhai's religion. The group of magicians in Songhai are known as Sohanti and performed spiritual rituals that the Songhai believed to help them.
Why and How Did They Fall?

Map of Songhai
How Did They Function?
The Songhai people had a clan system. The clan they were in ultimately decided their occupation. The most common occupations were metalworkers, fishermen and carpenters. The kingdom of Songhai was also known to have been a strong, trading nation. Trade was one of the things that held it together. Traders were the second in society after the nobles and direct descendants of the Songhai people. Trade was used for many different purposes. The wealth made through trade was used to build bigger kingdoms and empires. A large and strong army was used to protect their trade interests, and also helped the local economy. Food was sold in markets and was grown in local farms and fields. The people of Songhai also had a slave trade. Though they were at the bottom of society they sometimes had important work. They were used as soldiers, since they were trusted not to overthrow the rulers. They were also given the role of royal advisors. The Songhai people believed the slaves would give better judgement since they would be unbiased due to the fact that they wouldn’t really be affected by the outcome. Another group of slaves were the palace slave who served mainly as craftspersons, potters, woodworkers, and musicians.
All throughout Africa, great kingdoms have risen and fallen. Most of these ancient kingdoms may have been lost in our past, but the history and information about them are still among us. Today we will be sharing some of this information about the Kingdom of Songhai. Songhai was one of the largest Islamic kingdoms ever in history. To this day, we are left with noticeable traces and marks from the great Songhai Empire.
In its time, the Songhai Empire was the most powerful Kingdom of western Africa. With the riches of gold and salt mines, an established government, and even trading, the Songhai kingdom was expanding, and very strong. But it was still no match for the rest of Africa when it began to decline towards the 16th century.

Weakened by environmental changes (causing drought and sickness), greedy invaders, as well as political struggles, the Kingdom of Songhai was definitely on its way downhill. On the way, they also slid into a raging civil war. Songhai was splitting apart, with several provinces wanting to declare independence, and the failing leadership of the successors of Askia Muhammad. There were also a lot of problems due to different religions and beliefs people had from the new ruler.
Greedy Invaders
Having gold and salt mines and trading was a huge help to the Songhai Empire, but was also one of the causes of it's downfall. As not only did it create riches, it attracted the unwanted attention of greedy invaders. One of the biggest threats to the Kingdom of Songhai was their northern neighbors, the Moroccans, who wanted nothing more then to control the gold trade. They earned profit from it already, but the sultan (the ruler) of Morocco, Al-Mansur decided that he wanted to control all of the salt and gold trades of West Africa, in order to make their profits even greater, and help pay for their large army.

From the political problems and civil war, Songhai was already very weak, especially with their army being reduced by about half. Starting in the 1580's, attacks were being planned on them, until 1591, when Morocco invaded, attacking the capital of Songhai. As predicted, Songhai lost the battle, losing many lives of soldiers and even civilians to the superior army of Morocco.

Today, you can still find traces of the famous Songhai Empire. Now, there are three modern day groups of people from the Songhai called the Songhai, Dendi, and Zarma. About 3 million people call themselves Songhai. They live along the Niger River at the edge of the Sahara Desert in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, and respect their ancestors of the Songhai Empire. The Songhai people also speak Songhai languages. They are some of what's left from the fall of the Kingdom of Songhai, descendants of the people who fled from the disaster of their previous empire many years ago.

You can also find the remains of the Tomb of Askia, the Tomb of one of Songhai's deceased emperors.

In conclusion, the Songhai kingdom was a strong trading kingdom with an unfortunate ending. If the Kingdom did not fail economically and fall, history as we know it may be much different. But being as large and important as it was, and lasting from 1375-1600, it still had a huge impact on life in Western Africa and in the area. Thanks for watching! We hope you enjoyed and learned a lot from our presentation!
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