The Songhai Empire
Alex Beffa Global History April 9, 2012
The Songhai, also known as the Songhay, was not only the last, but also the largest and greatest empire of western Africa between 1000 and 1600 ce.i The previous empire was the Mali empire. Songhai was just a client state at the port of Gao, which was a major trading port for trans-Saharan trade especially since it is located on the Niger river. When the Mali empire started to decline in the 14 th century, the Songhai king declared independence.ii The Songhai empire was the most thriving west African empire for many reasons but major ones are: the kings Sunni Ali and Muhammad Ture as well as the conquering of the city of Timbuktu. Sunni Ali became ruler in 1464. He did not waste any time waiting to begin expanding. Shortly after coming to power, he went to conquer the great trading port of Timbuktu from the Tuareg raiders. After Timbuktu was his, Sunni Ali's armies went south to the port of Jenne. In 1480, he attacked the Mossi states south of the Niger river. He had a strong military background which helped him become one of the best conquerers and leaders in African empire history until this point. His best asset was his naval skills which is mostly likely why he typically conquered ports along the Niger river. One of his major advancements was the the creation of a bureaucracy. This allowed the Songhai to be a more centralized empire than the previous empires of Ghana and Mali. To help get the Muslim support, Sunni Ali claimed to be a Muslim, though he never truly left the old traditional religions supposedly due to the belief that it was the source of his supernatural powers in battle. In 1492, after a successful conquest, according to some oral traditions, Sunni Ali drowned while crossing the Niger river. Still others refuse to accept this theory, insisting that he died in battle. His reign was from 1464-1492. When Sunni Ali died, one of his sons named Sunni Barou took...