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The Development of the Trade
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The New York Public Library, Humanities and Social Sciences Library, General Research Division

P.-D. Boilat, Esquisses sénégalaises (Paris: P. Bertrand, 1853)


The area of Senegambia and Mali, with a strong Mandingo presence, had an old and glorious history, centered on the ancient kingdom of Ghana and the medieval empires of Mali and Songhay. In the fourteenth century, Mali spread over 1,000 miles and counted four hundred cities, including Timbuktu, Djenné, and Gao. In 1324 Mansa Musa, the ruler of Mali, made the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Arabia, 5,000 miles away. The amount of gold he spent during his year-long voyage has become legendary, and tales of his wealth spread to Europe. West Africa was the principal source of gold for the Islamic lands of North Africa and for western Europe until 1500, when the focus shifted to the Americas.

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