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The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Life in Medieval Africa Paperback – Oct 15 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish (Oct. 15 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805042598
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805042597
  • Product Dimensions: 15.1 x 1.1 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 113 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #664,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The McKissacks ( Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman? ) continue to illuminate aspects of African American heritage with this introduction to three major kingdoms of medieval Africa: Ghana, Mali and Songhay. Based on folklore, contemporaneous accounts and modern scholarly research, their discussion covers the origins, customs, people and political history of these civilizations, which flourished from approximately A.D. 500 to 1700 but which until recently have been neglected by historians. Because much of the available information about medieval Africa is sketchy at best, the narrative is sometimes confusing, especially when the authors combine divergent theories or rely on myth and legend to fill holes in the historical record. Still, their volume contains insightful information about an important period in both African and world history and explores such complicated issues as African involvement in the slave trade and the role of religion in establishing, shaping and destroying bygone kingdoms. A timeline, notes and extensive bibliography encourage further reading. Ages 10-14.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-7-The McKissacks describe the West African civilizations that flourished between the years 700 C.E. to 1700 C.E. A chronological account is given of each successive kingdom, and there is also substantial information about the social history of Mali and Songhay, e.g., education, the treatment of women, religion, and arts and crafts. The relationship between Islam and politics, and the interplay between traditional and Islamic customs in Mali and Songhay are highlighted. The authors have attempted something unique with their inclusion of indigenous and contemporaneous historical accounts (by such historians as Leo Africanus and Ibn Battuta), as well as in their substantial use of oral history. While this makes for an interesting perspective, it prevents the line between history and mythology from being clearly drawn. For example, in the story of Sundiata, visits from a powerful king in the magical form of an owl are not distinguished from the factual dates that Sundiata ruled Mali. This might limit the usefulness of the book to situations in which adults are able to help students think critically about the text. Adequate but uninspired photographs of ancient artifacts and modern people with traditional life styles illustrate the text. Unfortunately, the maps do not make clear the geographical relationships among the three kingdoms (they existed at different times, and in each case the territory of the earlier kingdom was wholly or partly subsumed under the later kingdom). The helpful notes discuss the validity of certain bibliographical sources. The informative time line links events in Africa to those in other parts of the world, and the bibliography is impressive. In spite of its limitations, this title will be an important addition to most collections.
Susan Giffard, Midtown Ethical Culture School, New York City
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is short and relatively simplistic in its explanations. You would not want to use it as the pillar to your dissertation on Malian history. Nevertheless, it does give a good general introduction to West African history and the great kingdoms that once flourished by the Niger River.
It starts with the creation myths, and then chronologically, explains very simply the beginnings and endings of the kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhaim. It addresses the mingling of the native religion with Islam, and ends with the downfall of the kingdoms. It also briefly addresses the issue of slavery.
I bought this about a month before visiting a friend who is doing research in Bamako (the Capital of Mali). I vaguely recollected learning about a chapter's worth in seventh grade about the Saharan trade routes and something about Ghana and Songhai and Timbuktu, but could not remember much more than the names of the kingdoms.
This book was excellent, in giving me enough background to be able to appreciate the depth of the history and the people when I visited. That being said, this is an excellent place to START learning about West African history - but hopefully, it is not where you will end your learning, as there are other resources out there that give much deeper and more thorough information about this great region.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "the_armchair" on Aug. 8 2000
Format: Paperback
If you're after a balanced, scholarly history of these fascinating kingdoms, regrettably this is not it.
This authors intent appears principally to raise the esteem and consciousness of pubescent Afro-Americans
Despite falling well outside the scope indicated by the title, the book includes sections on the European Atlantic slave trade as well as wild speculation that fleets of explorers from Mali may have been in contact with Meso-America.
The book is nearly saved from total uselessness by the inclusion of a bibliography, though Time-Life picture book publications feature heavily, so even this fails to do much other than disappoint.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By icebergslims on June 29 2001
Format: Paperback
OK I am sick and tired of europeans thinking Africans never had a rich culture of their own. The mali dynasty was a great one that grew out of trade with saharan tribes and over the course of history grew into a sucessful and prosperous kingdom. When Europe was in the dark ages scholars like Ahmed baba was writting books,in fact over 3500 of them. I dsiagree with the contact of the meso american cultures,but there is proof in arabic manuscrips that africans was able to sail to the new word. The evidence shows that their is a genous of plantains that grow in brazil called musa x. The name of a king in Mali was musa,and ibn battua an norther african scholar traveled all around the islamic worls and told about the wealth of the african people here. By the way my friend from australia have you been to mali i have I am also white by the way
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Great place to start ... April 25 2003
By Joanna J. Young - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is short and relatively simplistic in its explanations. You would not want to use it as the pillar to your dissertation on Malian history. Nevertheless, it does give a good general introduction to West African history and the great kingdoms that once flourished by the Niger River.
It starts with the creation myths, and then chronologically, explains very simply the beginnings and endings of the kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhaim. It addresses the mingling of the native religion with Islam, and ends with the downfall of the kingdoms. It also briefly addresses the issue of slavery.
I bought this about a month before visiting a friend who is doing research in Bamako (the Capital of Mali). I vaguely recollected learning about a chapter's worth in seventh grade about the Saharan trade routes and something about Ghana and Songhai and Timbuktu, but could not remember much more than the names of the kingdoms.
This book was excellent, in giving me enough background to be able to appreciate the depth of the history and the people when I visited. That being said, this is an excellent place to START learning about West African history - but hopefully, it is not where you will end your learning, as there are other resources out there that give much deeper and more thorough information about this great region.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Good introduction to West African history Feb. 1 2007
By John Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I find that the book is a good introduction to the study of the history of the West African kingdoms. However, it does not give much more than that; little is told about the daily lives of the people, which is what really interests me about any period in history. In addition, I found that the book focuses a bit too much on the mythology, which, let's face it, sounds strange to modern American children, reinforcing the notion that Africans are primitive. The book also does not give enough pictures of what anything or anyone from the kingdoms looked like, forcing the reader to imagine the visuals, which are bound to look more like modern cartoon depictions of Africa than the actual kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay.

That being said, if you have children who are interested in learning a little bit about African history, this book is a good start. It gives bits of information that you don't get in your history classes, even those that teach world history. I learned about these kingdoms way back in the 7th grade, but even then I did not learn that there were Europeans who went to African universities in the Middle Ages, which is quite a switch from today's world. That little fact is powerful, because it forces the question of what happened to Africa that resulted in the widespread poverty, disease, malnutrition, and war we hear about so much in the news today.

Since I am not African-American and do not know many people who are, I am unable to judge with any certainty whether the book is good for enhancing the self-esteem of African-American children (which seems to be one of the purposes of this book). However, I can say that the book is a good introduction to West African history for anyone, regardless of race or age.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Medieval Africa July 17 2007
By M. Mcgee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an awesome book. I had purchased this book many years ago at a homeschool curriculum fair because I have a friend who is from Ghana. I did not know, at the time, that medieval Ghana is not the same as present day Ghana.

I student taught 7th grade social studies and science this past fall semester and I relied on this book quite a bit to teach the origins of sub-Saharan trading. The few textbooks we had in class gave very little detail about this critical time in Africa's history and I wanted to expand the students' knowledge about Africa's trading routes and slave trading.

I would highly recommend this book as a classroom reference or as an informative book on the kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Sonhay.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I like it! May 20 2013
By Kathrandra D. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm doing research for a movie screenplay. I wanted the facts, but not an intellectual thesis on the subject. This book fits the bill. It is written in terms anyone can understand.
***A Great Book I Really Enjoyed*** Oct. 25 2014
By C Nix - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having this book has greatly enriched our lessons on Africa and the royal kingdoms of Mali and Songhay. Ghana we were already very acquainted with, however, Mali and Songhay has really surprised us. Take a chance and buy this book its especially excellent for African courses and homeschooling curriculums.


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