When (if ever) did Songhai expand to the Atlantic Ocean?

Aug 2018
41
United States
Most depictions of Songhai clearly show it extending its borders to the Atlantic ocean, usually centered around the Gambia or Senegal Rivers. However, I have not been able to find a source for this, does anyone know if there is any validity to these images and if so, do you have a source that you could share? Thanks.


songhai_empire_carte.jpg
 
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Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,634
Republika Srpska
Okay, I will take a shot at answering this. But please take everything with a grain of salt since this is really my first foray into African history. I was able to find sources that claim that the area you are interested was under the dominion of the Susu people that lived on the Fouta Jalon plateau. It seems that the Songhai ruler Askia the Great managed to impose Songhai overlordship over the Susu since the first known jihad campaign in the Fouta Jalon area was actually undertaken by Askia the Great, which shows that he had influence in the region. It is likely that after subjugating the peoples of the plateau he managed to take their other holdings including the Atlantic coast.

Sources:
Encyclopedia of African History, Volume 1 A-G, pg. 922
E. Gregg, R. Trillo, The Rough Guide to the Gambia, pg. 233
 
Aug 2018
41
United States
Okay, I will take a shot at answering this. But please take everything with a grain of salt since this is really my first foray into African history. I was able to find sources that claim that the area you are interested was under the dominion of the Susu people that lived on the Fouta Jalon plateau. It seems that the Songhai ruler Askia the Great managed to impose Songhai overlordship over the Susu since the first known jihad campaign in the Fouta Jalon area was actually undertaken by Askia the Great, which shows that he had influence in the region. It is likely that after subjugating the peoples of the plateau he managed to take their other holdings including the Atlantic coast.

Sources:
Encyclopedia of African History, Volume 1 A-G, pg. 922
E. Gregg, R. Trillo, The Rough Guide to the Gambia, pg. 233
Thank you. Do you perhaps have the direct quote from the book? I don't own it and can't seem to find any pdfs for it available online.
 
Aug 2018
41
United States
Hm.. well anyway despite not locating any conclusive evidence of Songhai expanding to the Atlantic coast, I did find out surprisingly enough, Songahi actually raided Moroccan towns. Not only did they raid them but even conquered one of them in the mid 16th century and a small population of these conquerors still exists there to present. Goes totally against the misconception that Moroccans just walked into Songhai one day and took the whole place with little effort. There was lots of back and for for several decades prior.
 
Dec 2018
1
World
This is a question that's been bugging me for a while, and I can't find any basis for these maps that keep popping up with the Songhai empire reaching all the way to the coast. Of course it's always hard to come up with precise borders for ancient states that didn't keep maps, but it does seem like the Atlantic ocean would be a pretty big landmark, so it's odd that that's not mentioned anywhere (anywhere I looked at least). The Mali Empire was still an independent state during Songhai rule, so I assume that the maps might be conflating Songhai and Malian territory into one. I've only seen maps like this on the internet, though. The history books tend to stick to more conservative borders for the Songhai empire. The image you uploaded looks like it could be from a book. Which book does it come from?

Here is what Sékéné Mody Cissoko has to say about the extent of Songhai in his chapter "The Songhay from the 12th to the 16th century" of the General History of Africa, Vol 4 (p.194) by Unesco (emphasis is mine):
Askiya Muhammad continued the work of Sunni 'Alï Ber. Assisted by his brother, 'Umar Komdiägho, he extended the empire on all frontiers. In 1512 he conquered Macina and Zara, where Tengella was killed, and was succeeded by his son Koly Tengella. Askiya Muhammad became master of the Sahara as far as the mines of Teghazza and took Agades and the Hausa towns of Katsina and Kano. He unsuccessfully attacked the southern peoples, the Bariba, Mossi and Dogon. By his conquests, he consolidated the Songhay empire and extended it to its furthest limits, from Dendi to Sibiridugu to the south of Segu, and from Teghazza to the frontiers of Yatenga.
Ségou is still really far from the ocean...

This is the map by Djibril Tamsir Niane that accompanies this text:
SqLHQJ0.jpg

Michael Gomez touched on this question in his recent book, African Dominion. If I remember correctly he does mention the Askia campained in the west, as @Maki was saying, against the Susu, the Denianke, and the Mali empire, but didn't end up actually conquering any of them. I'll come back and provide a quote when I have the book on hand.

Incidentally, there are other errors on the map you uploaded, like Tekrour, a kingdom which by the time of the Songhai empire didn't exist anymore. It was replaced with the Djolof/Wolof empire and the new Denianke kingdom, neither of which was a vassal of Songhai to my knowledge. So I would take that particular map with an extra grain of salt.

Anyway, I'd be happy to see any evidence for Songhai having reached the coast, but until then, I'll just assume those maps are errors copied and duplicated from one to the next...
 
Aug 2018
41
United States
This is a question that's been bugging me for a while, and I can't find any basis for these maps that keep popping up with the Songhai empire reaching all the way to the coast. Of course it's always hard to come up with precise borders for ancient states that didn't keep maps, but it does seem like the Atlantic ocean would be a pretty big landmark, so it's odd that that's not mentioned anywhere (anywhere I looked at least). The Mali Empire was still an independent state during Songhai rule, so I assume that the maps might be conflating Songhai and Malian territory into one. I've only seen maps like this on the internet, though. The history books tend to stick to more conservative borders for the Songhai empire. The image you uploaded looks like it could be from a book. Which book does it come from?

Here is what Sékéné Mody Cissoko has to say about the extent of Songhai in his chapter "The Songhay from the 12th to the 16th century" of the General History of Africa, Vol 4 (p.194) by Unesco (emphasis is mine):

Ségou is still really far from the ocean...

This is the map by Djibril Tamsir Niane that accompanies this text:
View attachment 14140

Michael Gomez touched on this question in his recent book, African Dominion. If I remember correctly he does mention the Askia campained in the west, as @Maki was saying, against the Susu, the Denianke, and the Mali empire, but didn't end up actually conquering any of them. I'll come back and provide a quote when I have the book on hand.

Incidentally, there are other errors on the map you uploaded, like Tekrour, a kingdom which by the time of the Songhai empire didn't exist anymore. It was replaced with the Djolof/Wolof empire and the new Denianke kingdom, neither of which was a vassal of Songhai to my knowledge. So I would take that particular map with an extra grain of salt.

Anyway, I'd be happy to see any evidence for Songhai having reached the coast, but until then, I'll just assume those maps are errors copied and duplicated from one to the next...
Thank you for looking into this. I can't remember for sure where I got that map but me and my team have concluded through our long list of sources that the maps (like many other maps of pre-colonial African states) are just popularized despite being inaccurate. This is typical since there isn't much African research or demand for African research. We went ahead and produced our video on Songhai anyway without having it expand to the coast based on the sources that we did have. Also that source you provided claims that conquests of Mossilands failed but we've seen multiple sources confirm the conquest of Mossilands in 1498. The king of Yatenga was basically ambushed on his way back from Walata and from there, Songhai finally crushed the Mossi. This lead to many Mossi fleeing to the south to the the Kingdom of Maprussi and even the founding of entirely new states like Dagomba. Despite this, Songhai failed to convert them to Islam and didn't hold on to them very long. They broke free in 1562.
 
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