The late Edward William Bovill was a historian and author of numerous books.
An account of the golden trade of the Moors, and a source book on Saharan trade routes, caravan organization and Sudanese history. The author covers anthropology and economic geography as well as history, as he examines and explores the hot little towns, sharp traders and the brutal rulers. He seeks to encourage and inspire a generation of scholars to discover more about parts of Africa still surprisingly little known to the outside world.
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About Robert O. Collins: Robert O. Collins, professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is the author of Shadow in the Grass: Britain in the Southern Sudan, 1919-1956 and The Waters of the Nile: Hydropolitics and the Jonglei Canal, 1900-1988, as well as 24 other books.
Provides a broad description of the history of North & West Africa from the Tell, the high plateau and the Sahara to the Sahel, and from the Sudan to the bottom of North Africa’s hump. Bovill, relying on written history (and some archaeology), traces the history of northern Africa from pre-Carthaginian times to the beginning of the 20th Century.
We are introduced to Carthaginian interests in black slaves and Roman trade (and warfare) with the Garamantes, Vandals, Byzantium’s involvement in the region and the subsequent Arab conquest and spread of Islam, the rise of Ghana and Mali, the Sanhaja Berber’s Islamic puritan dynasty (Almoravids) which spread its control across Northwest Africa and into Muslim Spain before being overthrown by the Almohads (another puritan sect), the Almoravid invasion of Ghana, the rise of Timbuktu, the rise of the Songhai Empire, the (Moroccan) Al-Mansur’s rise to power and wealth and the invasion of the Sudan (especially of the Songhai Empire), the increasing independence of the the Berber governors of the Sudan and the growing independence of the Arma (mulattoes), the rise of the Kanem and Bornu and of the Hausa states, the Fulani religious and slave wars and their ultimate demise as the Europeans began to extend their control over the region.
Northern Africa, as Bovill tells us, is occupied by both light-skinned and dark-skinned people. The former include the late-coming Arabs and the ancient residents – the Berbers. The Berbers can be sub-divided into the Western tribes of the Botr (including the Zenata who formed the important Marinid dynasty of Morocco), the Branes (including the very powerful Sanhaja peoples), the numerous and widely spread Tuaregs of the central Sahara and a few other tribes. Of these, the first two are westernmost and are generally called Moors (thereby distinguishing them from the more independent Tuaregs and the Moriscos who returned from Spain during and after the Spanish reconquest of al-Andalus). The Tebu, Fezzanese and Haratins and Zhagawas make up the majority of the people of the Sahara who were dark-skinned. Further South, various dark-skinned people from the Wolofs of Senegambia, the Soninke (of ancient Ghana) the Mandingo (of ancient Mali) to the Songhai populated the region.
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Bovill also introduce us to the famous historian and legalist, Ibn Khaldun and various European and Muslim travelers through the region: Ibn Battuta, Leo Africanus (al-Hassan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzani) and Mungo Park. The mutual importance of the Berbers and Europeans in trade matters is also discussed. The Europeans needed gold (to trade in the East) and slaves from Africa while the Berbers needed military and other goods for local and trans-Saharan warfare as well as silk, spices, sugar and the like. Although the book provides a substantial amount of information, it is sometimes a less than complete history. For example, the rise of the Banu Marin (Marnids) and their dynasty in Morocco and Ottoman influence and control east of Morocco are barely mentioned. On the other hand, the discussion of the arrival of the Bedouin tribes and their relation to the lack of habitability of much of the Tell (Africa’s Mediterranean coastline) was especially interesting.
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