Biggest cities in Sub Saharan Africa (500-1500)

Nov 2018
41
West Covina
#81
According to Walter Rodney, a marxist historian which I admire a lot, in his work "How Europe underdeveloped Africa" he explains the development of the small, militaristic states of Yoruba and lower Nigeria due to the influence of the Europeans.

It is not he said civilization was developed by Europe, no way, on the opposite he identified the local and long lasting developments of native African cultures. But in the African context, where large empires integrating diverse areas were common, the rise of very little, and very powerful states, is linked to the trade of fire weapons and resources with the Europeans, which slave demand made this little and powerful states possible, with their thriving cities. In any case, the underliying factor here is the very high agriculture productivity, which is behind the strong demographic and urban development of the area.

The Oyo might be more in line with traditional African empires, but its rise as superpower around 1600 can't be a coincidence.
Oyos rise would have more to with horses being more available
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
4,889
Canary Islands-Spain
#85
He is correct. The basis of Oyo' military might was its cavalry, not firearms.

Walter Rodney's interpretation is misleading. I'll elaborate on why later.
Sorry guys, I mean, why suddenly the Oyo "found" useful the cavalry? Why in 1600 and not in 1200?
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,469
Benin City, Nigeria
#86
Sorry guys, I mean, why suddenly the Oyo "found" useful the cavalry? Why in 1600 and not in 1200?
Oyo had previously been invaded and defeated by the Nupe, and Oyo's leadership took refuge in a part of Borgu temporarily. Both Nupe and Borgu would have been using cavalry already, like other Sahelian states already were.

Reclaiming their territory and defeating their enemies meant that it was necessary for Oyo to adapt to the warfare of their enemies. It was probably during that period of refuge that the Oyo began their use of cavalry on a significant scale, in order to recapture their lost territory and defeat the Nupe invaders. Robert Smith's article "The Alafin in Exile: A Study of the Igboho Period in Oyo History" (1965) discusses the Oyo traditions surrounding their defeat by the Nupe, their eventual recuperation from this defeat, and their later emergence as a major power in the region.

I will try to go into more detail about the issue of the development of the states in the area and the role of external trade later when I find time.
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,469
Benin City, Nigeria
#87
So after re-reading the post above I see that I wrote "like other Sahelian states already were" when talking about Nupe and Borgu use of cavalry. Strictly speaking, Nupe and Borgu were/are in a transitional savanna zone, between the forest areas to the south and the sahelian areas further to the north, and not actually in a really sahelian region. But regardless, references to the extensive use of horses by the Nupe are abundant in the available sources, such as the Kano chronicle. In the book The Horse in West African History, the author, Robin Law, also identifies multiple references to the manufacture of stirrups, bridles, and other horse equipment in the Nupe area.

Something that sheds some light on Oyo's involvement with European trade is Peter Morton-Williams' 1964 article "The Oyo Yoruba and the Atlantic trade, 1670-1830". The article doesn't make a case for Oyo's military power being connected to its involvement with European trade, but instead mostly casts doubt on the idea.
 
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