Friday, November 9, 2018

Great Rulers of the African Past

Great Rulers of the African Past
120 pages
© 1965 Lavinia Dobler and William Brown

Most of African history is a complete unknown for me; what few kings I can name outside of Egypt and Carthage are familiar to me only through the Civilization series, namely Shaka and Mansa Musa.  While in the future I would like to do a study series and get to know the cradle of humanity better,  this brightly-illustrated book will serve a taste.  It is a history of five men -- three Muslim, one Christian, one whatever-makes-you-stop-bothering-me -- who created legacies for themselves, either by conquering far and wide or by  relentlessly attempting to connect to the outside world and enrich themselves through trade and courting scholars and technicians.  Three of these lives unfold in northwest Africa, along the Senegal and Niger rivers;   one is set close by, near Lake Chad; and one is alone in being set in the Congo.  This book's size and style indicate it was intended for younger readers, say perhaps middle schoolers,  and there are explanations of important places and people which surface, like Mecca -- which two kings here make pilgrimages to. 

The men chronicled are:

  • Mansa Musa of Mali,  a pious and highly admired king who journeyed to Mecca;
  • Sunni Ali Ber,   forger of the Songhai Empire, who built an empire nearly the size of Western Europe, but disappeared abruptly on campaign
  • Askia Muhammad, general of the armies to Ali Ber's successor-son,  whose political cluelessness so angered his Muslim subjects that they encouraged Muhammad to seize the throne
  • Affonso I, a young prince of Congo who converted to Christianity after Portugal initiated first contact between Europe and southern Africa; he  was alone in his family in taking the new religion seriously
  • Idris Alaoma, another king who died in battle, but not before he discovered gunpowder weapons in Egypt and arranged to have some brought home


  1. the history of Eritrea is interesting, with its long history of Christianity...

  2. Like you apart from North Africa (Carthage etc...) and South Africa (Boer War etc...) Africa as a continent is almost completely blank to me. I have hand full of books on European exploits *in* Africa... But the African nations themselves? Nada.

  3. Could you check out an art post I did on Friday? It's Civil War naval stuff that you might have some insight to....


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