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THE ROYAL KINGDOMS OF GHANA, MALI, AND SONGHAY by Patricia C. McKissack

THE ROYAL KINGDOMS OF GHANA, MALI, AND SONGHAY

Life in Medieval Africa

by Patricia C. McKissack & Fredrick L. McKissack

Age Range: 11 - 15

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8050-1670-8
Publisher: Henry Holt

 Calling on both contemporary travelers' accounts and songs of the griots, the McKissacks reconstruct the history of three West African empires, each of which flourished in turn, only to be nearly buried by time and scholarly prejudice. Supported by trade in gold, salt, and, later, slaves, all three enjoyed long stretches of prosperity and peace between the 6th and 18th centuries AD, practicing religious toleration and giving women enough freedom to shock visiting Muslims. Mansa Kankan Musa I of Mali (d. 1332) ``governed an empire as large as all of Europe, second in size only to the territory at the time ruled by Genghis Khan in Asia.'' Ironically, and typically, the very location of Musa's capital is disputed today. The McKissacks shed light on the area's enduring social structures and family customs as well as its political history; they present different sides of controversies, sometimes supporting one of them (e.g., the contention that an African expedition crossed the Atlantic during Musa's reign). A final chapter, about two 19th-century slaves from West Africa, one of whom eventually returned to his homeland, probably belongs in another book, but it does help to narrow the gap between today's young readers and this glorious, obscured era in African history. Timeline; endnotes; substantial bibliography. Maps and index not seen. (Nonfiction. 11-15)