Mali and Songhai

         These essays explore the heyday of Mali's kingdoms – the 13th through 16th centuries – when two large and powerful regional kingdoms, Mali and then Songhai, ruled much of interior West Africa and prospered by controlling the gold-for-salt trade across the Sahara Desert.

          The Concise Essay first looks at the origins of the kingdom – how founder-kings exploited favorable circumstances to their advantage. I then turn to an examination of sources of wealth and power in the ancient world – agriculture, foreign trade, and foreign conquest. I move on to means of control – political organization and religious persuasion – used by ruling elites to retain power and extract wealth from the masses. Next I examine causes of decline in Mali's kingdoms – internal erosion of control followed by foreign incursions by competing enemies. I then summarize the key trends in the aftermath of Mali and then Songhai – how successful later groups were in holding on to power and creating wealth. At the end of the essay, I draw lessons for contemporary powers from the experiences of ancient empires and kingdoms.

         The Complete Essay allows the reader to go more in-depth into Mali's past. The essay is divided into three parts to allow readers to explore the background to the rise of those two intriguing kingdoms, to understand how the Sudanic kingdoms were organized to generate wealth and tax much of it for the benefit of the ruling class, and to see how things fell apart in Mali for four centuries thereafter. A time line, an annotated bibliography, and a description of sites visited in Mali and West Africa are appended at the end of the essay.

Airplane-based, Aboard a TCS and Starquest Expeditions Jet, Dakar and Keur Simbara, Senegal, Airplane-based, Ouagadougou and Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, Beyond Timbuktu: North Africa by Air Zegrahm Expeditions, Agadez and Timia, Niger, Airplane-based, Aboard a Chartered Convair 580, Western and Southern Africa, Casablanca to the Cape by Private Air Bushtracks Expeditions, Timbuktu and Djenné, Mali, Africa and the Indian Ocean An Expedition by Private Jet TCS Expeditions