Kilwa, an island located off the coast of East Africa in modern-day southern Tanzania, was the most southern of the major Swahili Coast trading cities that dominated goods coming into and out of Africa from and to Arabia, Persia, and...
The Spread of Islam in Ancient Africa
Following the conquest of North Africa by Muslim Arabs in the 7th century CE, Islam spread throughout West Africa via merchants, traders, scholars, and missionaries, that is largely through peaceful means whereby African rulers either tolerated...
Swahili Coast Map
A map of the east coast of Africa showing, amongst others, the key trade ports of the Swahili Coast during the medieval period, 12th to 15th century CE.
The Kikuyu people (aka Gikuyu or Agikuyu) are a Bantu-speaking people who occupied territory in what is today central Kenya in East Africa from the 17th century onwards. They established themselves primarily as agriculturalists around Mount...
Great Zimbabwe is a ruined city near Masvingo, central Zimbabwe which was inhabited between c. 1100 to c. 1550 (flourishing c. 1300 - c. 1450) in the region’s Late Iron Age. Capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe of the Bantu-speaking Shona people...
Kilwa Map Illustration
An illustration of the trading city-state of Kilwa on the Swahili Coast (modern Tanzania) which flourished between the 12th and 15th century CE. (From Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg's 'atlas Civitates orbis terrarum', vol. I, 1572 CE)
Vasco da Gama
Vasco da Gama (c. 1469-1524) was a Portuguese navigator who, in 1497-9, sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa and arrived at Calicut (now Kozhikode) on the south-west coast of India. This was the first direct voyage from...
The Gold Trade of Ancient & Medieval West Africa
West Africa was one of the world's greatest producers of gold in the Middle Ages. Trade in the metal went back to antiquity but when the camel caravans of the Sahara linked North Africa to the savannah interior, the trade really took off...
Trade in the Middle Ages
Peoples, cities and states have traded since antiquity but in the medieval period, things escalated so that goods travelled ever greater distances by land, river and sea. Great cities arose thanks to commerce and international trade such...
The Spice Trade & the Age of Exploration
One of the major motivating factors in the European Age of Exploration was the search for direct access to the highly lucrative Eastern spice trade. In the 15th century, spices came to Europe via the Middle East land and sea routes, and spices...
North Africa’s Place in the Mediterranean Economy of Late Antiquity
The Mediterranean Sea was the economic focal point of the Roman Empire. Rome's armies first established an empire across these waters beginning back in the times of the Roman Republic. In 200 CE, the Mediterranean was still the channel that...
Husuni Kubwa Palace, Kilwa, Tanzania - Reconstruction
The island of Kilwa Kisiwani was one of the most important sultanates in the Swahili Coast trade network, linking East Africa to the Arabic world. For over 300 years, gold and ivory passed out of its ports, while Chinese silk and porcelain...
Roman Expeditions in Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa was explored by Roman expeditions between 19 BCE - 90 CE, most likely in an effort to locate the sources of valuable trade goods and establish routes to bring them to the seaports on the coast of North Africa, thereby minimizing...
The Roman Empire in West Africa
At its fullest extent, the Roman Empire stretched from around modern-day Aswan, Egypt at its southernmost point to Great Britain in the north but the influence of the Roman Empire went far beyond even the...
Kingdom of Axum
The African kingdom of Axum (also Aksum) was located on the northern edge of the highland zone of the Red Sea coast, just above the horn of Africa. It was founded in the 1st century CE, flourished from the 3rd to 6th century CE, and then...
Cochin, located on the southwest coast of India, was a Portuguese colony from 1503 to 1663. Known to the Portuguese as Cochim, it was one of several important cities on India’s Malabar Coast and a great trade centre for spices like pepper...
Great Mosque, Kilwa
The ruins of the Great Mosque of Kilwa on the Swahili Coast (modern Tanzania). Constructed during the reign of al Hasan ibn Suleiman (r. 1320-1333 CE).
Great House, Kilwa
The ruins of the Great House, Kilwa on the Swahili Coast (modern Tanzania). Likely constructed during the reign of al Hasan ibn Suleiman (r. 1320-1333 CE).
The Salt Trade of Ancient West Africa
Salt from the Sahara desert was one of the major trade goods of ancient West Africa where very little naturally occurring deposits of the mineral could be found. Transported via camel caravans and by boat along such rivers as the Niger and...
Map of Ancient & Medieval Sub-Saharan African States
A map indicating the major ancient and medieval states in sub-Saharan Africa. Areas and dates relate to a state at its peak. In addition, shaded areas are approximate indicators only. For the majority of the states, their precise borders...
Trade in Ancient Egypt
Trade has always been a vital aspect of any civilization whether at the local or international level. However many goods one has, whether as an individual, a community, or a country, there will always be something one lacks and will need...
The Eastern Trade Network of Ancient Rome
The life of wealthy Romans was filled with exotic luxuries such as cinnamon, myrrh, pepper, or silk acquired through long-distance international trade. Goods from the Far East arrived in Rome through two corridors – the Red Sea and the Persian...
Kingdom of Benin
The Kingdom of Benin, located in the southern forests of West Africa (modern Nigeria) and formed by the Edo people, flourished from the 13th to 19th century CE. The capital, also called Benin, was the hub of a trade network exclusively controlled...
Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania
Speakers: Stephen Battle, Program Director, Sub-Saharan Africa, World Monuments Fund and Steven Zucker
The Seven Voyages of Zheng He
Admiral Zheng He (aka Cheng Ho, c. 1371-1433 CE) was a Chinese Muslim eunuch explorer who was sent by the Ming dynasty emperor Yongle (r. 1403-1424 CE) on seven diplomatic missions to increase trade and secure tribute from foreign powers...
The Wolof (aka Jolof or Djolof) Empire was a state on the coast of West Africa, located between the Senegal and Gambia rivers, which thrived from the mid-14th to mid-16th century CE. The empire prospered on trade thanks to the two rivers...
The Mali Empire (1240-1645) of West Africa was founded by Sundiata Keita (r. 1230-1255) following his victory over the kingdom of Sosso (c. 1180-1235). Sundiata's centralised government, diplomacy and well-trained army permitted a massive...
Mutapa (aka Matapa, Mwenemutapa, and Monomotapa) was a southern African kingdom located in the north of modern Zimbabwe along the Zambezi River which flourished between the mid-15th and mid-17th century CE. Although sometimes described as...
Old Dongola (aka Dungulah or Dunkula), located in modern Sudan, was the capital of the ancient Nubian kingdom of Dongola (aka Makuria or Makurra) which flourished from the 6th to 14th century CE. A Christian kingdom for at least 750 years...
Trade in Medieval Europe
Trade and commerce in the medieval world developed to such an extent that even relatively small communities had access to weekly markets and, perhaps a day's travel away, larger but less frequent fairs, where the full range of consumer goods...
Goa, located on the west coast of India, was a Portuguese colony from 1510 to 1961. The small coastal area was conquered by Afonso de Albuquerque (c. 1453-1515) and became an important trade hub for the Eastern spice trade. Goa was the capital...
Traditional Dhow Sailing Vessel
A traditional dhow sailing vessel, used by medieval Arab traders in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
Cultural links between India & the Greco-Roman world
Cyrus the Great (558-530 BCE) built the first universal empire, stretching from Greece to the Indus River. This was the famous Achaemenid Dynasty of Persia. An inscription at Naqsh-i-Rustam, the tomb of his able successor Darius I (521-486...
Trade in Ancient Celtic Europe
Trade in raw materials and manufactured goods in ancient Celtic Europe was vibrant and far-reaching, particularly regarding the centre of the continent where there was a hub of well-established trade routes. As the Celts' territory expanded...
Int'l Commerce, Snorkeling Camels, and The Indian Ocean Trade: Crash Course World History #18
In which John Green teaches you the history of the Indian Ocean Trade. John weaves a tale of swashbuckling adventure, replete with trade in books, ivory, and timber. Along the way, John manages to cover advances in seafaring technology, just...
Trade in the Phoenician World
The Phoenicians, based on a narrow coastal strip of the Levant, put their excellent seafaring skills to good use and created a network of colonies and trade centres across the ancient Mediterranean. Their major trade routes were by sea to...
Resource Map of the Ancient East
Map showing some of the major regional resouces of the eastern Mediterranean, the Near East, East Africa, and Central and South Asia.
The Portuguese Colonization of Cape Verde
The Portuguese colonization of the Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) Islands began from 1462. Initially envisaged as a base to give mariners direct access to West African trade, the Central Atlantic islands soon became a major hub of the Atlantic slave...
Swahili Doorway, Mombassa
A carved wooden doorway typical of Swahili Coast architecture (12th - 15th century CE). Mombasa old town, Kenya.
Trade in the Roman World
Regional, inter-regional and international trade was a common feature of the Roman world. A mix of state control and a free market approach ensured goods produced in one location could be exported far and wide. Cereals, wine and olive oil...
Timbuktu (Timbuctoo) is a city in Mali, West Africa which was an important trade centre of the Mali Empire which flourished between the 13th and 15th centuries CE. The city, founded c. 1100 CE, gained wealth from access to and control of...
Trade in Ancient Greece
Trade was a fundamental aspect of the ancient Greek world and following territorial expansion, an increase in population movements, and innovations in transport, goods could be bought, sold, and exchanged in one part of the Mediterranean...
The Songhai Empire (aka Songhay, c. 1460 - c. 1591) replaced the Mali Empire (1240-1645) as the most important state in West Africa (covering modern southern Mauritania and Mali). Originating as a smaller kingdom along the eastern bend of...
The Near East is traditionally regarded by archaeologists and ancient historians as the region of southwest Asia, specifically the area encircled by the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Red Sea and the Persian/Arabian...
North Africa During the Classical Period
Phoenician traders arrived on the North African coast around 900 B.C. and established Carthage (in present-day Tunisia) around 800 B.C. By the sixth century B.C., a Phoenician presence existed at Tipasa (east of Cherchell in Algeria). From...
Interrelations of Kerma and Pharaonic Egypt
The vacillating nature of Ancient Egypt's associations with the Kingdom of Kerma may be described as one of expansion and contraction; a virtual tug-of-war between rival cultures. Structural changes in Egypt's administration led to alternating...
The Etruscan civilization flourished in central Italy between the 8th and 3rd century BCE, and their prosperity was largely based on their exploitation of local mineral resources, both through manufactured goods and trade. The Etruscans exchanged...
Trade in the Byzantine Empire
Trade and commerce were essential components of the success and expansion of the Byzantine Empire. Trade was carried out by ship over vast distances, although for safety, most sailing vessels were restricted to the better weather conditions...
The Carthaginians, like their Phoenician forefathers, were highly successful traders who sailed the Mediterranean with their goods, and such was their success that Carthage became the richest city in the ancient world. Metals, foodstuffs...
Economy & Trade in Ancient Greece
We have prepared five lesson plans including classroom activities, assignments, homework, and keys as well as: Multiple choice quiz questions in an excel format Glossary of keywords and concepts in an excel format Open questions...
The migration of the Bantu people from their origins in southern West Africa saw a gradual population movement sweep through the central, eastern, and southern parts of the continent starting in the mid-2nd millennium BCE and finally ending...
Ibn Battuta (l. 1304-1368/69 CE) was a Moroccan explorer from Tangier whose expeditions took him further than any other known traveler of his time and resulted in the work which has made him famous, The Rihla of Ibn Battuta. Scholar Douglas...
The Ghana Empire flourished in West Africa from at least the 6th to 13th century CE. Not connected geographically to the modern state of Ghana, the Ghana Empire was located in the western Sudan savannah region (modern southern Mauritania...
Ife (aka Ile-Ife) was an ancient African city which flourished between the 11th and 15th century CE in what is today Nigeria in West Africa. Ife was the capital and principal religious centre of the Yoruba kingdom of Ife, which prospered...
Sir John Hawkins (1532-1595 CE) was an Elizabethan mariner, merchant and naval administrator who has the inglorious (if not wholly accurate) record of being England's first slave trader. In the 1560s CE Hawkins trafficked slaves from...
The Impact of Prejudice on the History of Great Zimbabwe
Between 850 BCE and 1600 CE, great civilizations thrived in Africa, yet few non-Africans have learned about them. While some may be familiar with the achievements of ancient Egypt, most of our knowledge of African history is tainted by the...
Early Human Migration
Disregarding the extremely inhospitable spots even the most stubborn of us have enough common sense to avoid, humans have managed to cover an extraordinary amount of territory on this earth. Go back 200,000 years, however, and Homo sapiens...
Kingdom of Kongo
The Kingdom of Kongo (14-19th century CE) was located on the western coast of central Africa in modern-day DR of Congo and Angola. Prospering on the regional trade of copper, ivory, and slaves along the Congo River, the kingdom's wealth was...
The Portuguese Colonization of São Tomé and Principe
São Tomé and Principe are islands located in the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. They were uninhabited before being colonised by the Portuguese from 1486. So involved were they with the slave trade, they became known as the Slave Islands where...
The Maasai (or Masai) people are an East African tribe who today principally occupy the territory of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, and who speak the language of the same name. The Nilo-Saharan Maasai migrated southwards to that region...