Discuss the Effect of Islam upon West Africa

Essay by anonymouspimpHigh School, 10th gradeA, March 2008

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Change Over Time Essay Assignment #1The camel, with its ability to travel long distances without water and carry heavy loads, facilitated trans-Saharan communication. During the seventh and eighth centuries CE, Islamic conquerors had added North Africa to the dar al-Islam. By the end of the eighth century CE, Muslim merchants had crossed the Sahara and initiated commercial relations with Sub-Saharan West Africa and by the beginning of the second millennium, Islam had become entrenched in West African life. Islam dramatically changed West Africa culturally, politically, and economically in the time period between 1000 CE and 1750 CE, but many staples of West African society remained the same.

Economically, Islam ushered a new era of economic prosperity into West Africa. The adoption of Islam by West African states provided them with common ground upon which states such as Mali greatly expanded their gold trade to encompass Arab and Mediterranean nations. Established Muslim trade routes facilitated the huge increase in the volume of African trade.

Commercial cities sprung up across West Africa, with commerce increasing Timbuktu's population to 100,000. In the twelfth century, Muslim merchants introduced cotton, rice, and citrus fruits to West Africa; by the sixteenth century cotton was the main textile produced in West Africa. European demand for cotton textiles ensured that West Africa would remain economically prosperous. Islamic merchants expanded the African slave trade to a continental level, providing Europeans with a framework upon which to build the catastrophic Atlantic slave trade, replacing small scale tribal slavery with huge state economies built entirely around capturing slaves and selling them to foreign nations. However, despite these huge changes in economic methods and volume, West African states relied heavily upon trade as the principle form of economic support throughout periods of Islamic influence.

The increase in trade with Islamic merchants between...