Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

Imperial Reach Versus Institutional Grasp: Superstates of The West and Central African Sudan in Comparative Perspective

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

image of Journal of Early Modern History

The history of five states in the African West and Central Sudan—Songhay, Borno, Segu, Samory and the Sokoto Caliphate—is analyzed for a period from ca. 1500 to ca. 1900. Recent scholarship has stressed the non-territorial nature of these “states without maps”, an issue that needs to be dealt in a more nuanced manner, given the efforts by local regimes to control both multiple urban centers of commerce and rural zones of agricultural production as well as maintaining regular systems of taxation. None of these states used writing or salary payments to maintain an effective bureaucracy, basing their power instead upon various combinations of lineages with claims to ruling or aristocratic status, associations of young unmarried male initiates, segregated occupational groups (bards, smiths and fisher folk) and finally, slaves. Warfare was the main occupation of Sudanic empires but despite the introduction of firearms in the late 1500s, weapons and tactics did not undergo a “gunpowder revolution,” continuing instead to center around horses and armor. Sudanic rulers controlled access to these resources more easily than European monarchs and they also proved effective in the major goal of campaigns: not territorial competition with other states but rather raiding for slaves. Islam played an increasing role in general life and politics of Sudanic Africa (the most powerful of these empires, Sokoto, was a nineteenth-century jihadist state). However, the potential that such a scriptural faith offered for transforming administration, law and commercial life was not fully realized by the time the region came under European rule and thus moved from its early modern to modern history.

Affiliations: 1: University of Chicago


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Journal of Early Modern History — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation