Map of Songhai Territory
Located in western Africa, the Songhai Empire was one of the largest Islamic empires in history.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Technology: A-

      Songhai technology was very advanced for during their time period. They were making gun powder and guns to help fight in wars. They were advanced metal workers, making most of their technology done with metal.

Arts & Architecture: B+

      Songhai art and architecture is organized and well developed. The Songhai people created many different things, including their own food, language and religion. Their art was centered around islamic and african designs. The huge towers reflected Islamic designs, and the two horns sticking out of the towers was a local feature of Songhai buildings.

Government: B

      The Songhai government was well developed and organized. It had a royal court which appointed governors to watch over the many tributary states. These governors were stern, but fair, and gave the many individuals, whom they ruled over, freedoms. Although the governors gave the individuals freedoms, if they disobeyed the rules and laws they were severely punished. Also, the government had to be very well organized because the Songhai empire was the largest out of all the ancient African empires. Overall the government gets an A- because they ruled a very large area and were stern, but also fair and lasted from 1340-1591.

Society: C

      The society of the Songhai Empire had a lot of slavery. Slavery was common in many parts of Africa, but in the Songhai Empire they were used for agricultural advancment, paid tribute to master crops and services. The slaves they had few rights, were exposed to harsh punishment, and were taxed more than others.
      The Songhai society was controlled by man, who controlled both marriage and the market place. Women and children were considered a separate part of the community. New people to come to the village had to look for the leader of the village and get permission to live there. When they first got there, most people were welcoming and friendly, but took more time to make friends.
      In the Songhai Empire there was great diversity. Some relied more on military power. Other African societies were stateless. They had little concentration of authority. Songhai and some of the neighbors were imperial states. In the Songhai Empire, most of the men and women were treated equally.

Religion: A-

      The main religion of the Songhai Empire was Islam (monotheistic). Many converted to become Muslim when the Songhai people came in contact with the Muslims from the north. Magic was another belief also practiced by the Songhai people, in groups called the Sohanti. Other religions such as Christianity also existed throughout the empire. The city of Jenne which was the center of trade was split in half between the Muslims and Christians. This reduced the chance of religious conflict and helped to advance the empire.

Economy: B+

      The economy of the Songhai Empire was very strong and efficient. The city of Jenne was the center of trade, located in the middle of the empire (around present-day Mali). The empire continued to expand until it extended from the Atlantic Ocean to what is now Niger and Nigeria.
      Trade in the Songhai Empire flourished and made the nobles rich. The state protected the Julla, or merchants, and guarded the port cities along the Niger River. This created a very strong trading kingdom. Common trade goods included gold, salt, rice, kola nuts, cotton, and slaves (the Songhai was a strong member of the slave trade). These were exported in exchange for West African or European items, such as textiles, horses, and luxury goods. The abundant amount of gold and salt mines in the Songhai Empire also drew invaders, and it eventually contributed to the empire's decline.