History of Mali

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The history of Mali covers events on the territory of modern Mali from about the 11th century to the present.


Pre-Imperial Mali

Early History, c. 700 - 1591

Mali's early history was dominated by three famed West African empires-- Ghana, Mali or "Manden Kurufa", and Songhai. These empires controlled trans-Saharan trade in gold, salt, and other precious commodities and were in touch with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern centers of civilization. All of the empires arose in the area then known as the western Sudan, a vast region of savanna between the Sahara Desert to the north and the tropical rain forests along the Guinean coast to the south. All were characterized by strong leadership (matrilineal) and kin-based societies. None had rigid geopolitical boundaries.

Ghana Empire

The Ghana Empire, dominated by the Soninke people and centered in the area along the border of the modern states of Mali and Mauritania. The Ghana Empire began possibly as early as the fifth century AD, and was a powerful trading state between c. 700 and 1075. From its capital in Kumbi Saleh on the edge of the desert, the empire expanded throughout southeastern Mauritania, southwestern Mali, and northern Senegal.

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