The Empire of Mali Introduction In its peak, the people of Mali occupied land as far west as the Atlantic Ocean. They also traveled as far east as Gao, the capital of the Songhai, as far south as the Niger bend, and as far north as the Sahara desert. They built a great empire between 1240 and 1337 that underwent a course of slow decline until the seventeenth century. History The empire of Mali originated from a small country known as Kangaba. Its people where known as the Mandingo (they have also been called the Malinke and the Mandinka).
After the breakup of Ghana, the Sosso, who had caused the breakup, were still in power. Apparently Sundiata, an heir to the Mandingo throne raised an army and defeated the Sosso in the battle of Kirina. Afterward, Sundiata established the empire of Mali. He converted to Islam for support of the Muslim peoples. When Mansa Musa came into power, in the early 1300s, the empire reached its height. Mansa Musa traveled through Cairo on his pilgrimage to Mecca. It is said that he gave away so much gold that it dropped in value in Cairo for 12 years. Afterward the empire slowly declined, until, in the 1600s it was no more than it had been originally when it originated: the small kingdom of Kangaba. Government The government of Mali was a dictatorship. The dictator, who had the title of Mansa, was the sole secular and religious leader of his people, though not he did not enjoy the same power as Egyptian Pharaohs did. The base of government was located in the capital, known as Niani. It was once written by a traveler that a person could travel safely without fear of harm, and that the people of Mali hated injustice and the Mansa did not tolerate injustice at all. The military branch of government was constant.
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There was a standing army of professional soldiers, so that Mali was ready for a battle without having to raise an army every time. Religion The religion in Mali was divided between two groups. The merchants, traders, and government officials, including the Mansa, were Islam, though, apparently, they did not adhere to it very well. Women were allowed freedom and even the Mansa still believed in the “spirit of the land.” The basic peasant farmer believed in a “spirit of the land” to whom he prayed so that he would get good crops. Economics The main currency in Mali was gold dust. This shows the enormous wealth of the country. There were many trade routes in Mali. The people who traveled these routes were the Dyula. The Dyula consisted of a group of Islamic people who followed the “Dyula-mansa,” the company chief. The Dyula were the main trade between Mali and countries across the Sahara. They traded gold for what they needed (this is unclear: they may have traded for either salt or copper or both).
Culture (Roles of men and women) Not much is said about the culture. Apparently the religion was the culture. The people placed a high standard on justice. People who lived in cities were probably scholars, merchants, or government officials. Those who did not were either miners or farmers. Conclusion During its peak, Mali was a great and powerful empire. It occupied a great deal of land. It had wealth, power, learning centers, and an organized government. It was a great empire that fell only due to bad ruling.