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Renaissance: The Age of Askia Al-Ḥājj Muḥammad

Renaissance: The Age of Askia Al-Ḥājj Muḥammad

(p.219) Chapter Ten Renaissance: The Age of Askia Al-Ḥājj Muḥammad
African Dominion
Michael A. Gomez
Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses the reign of Askia Muḥammad. Originally affixed to clerical and commercial interests, the askia's arrogation of power would encourage a review of those relations, leading to a series of challenges to Timbuktu and Jenne's self-promotion as bastions of autonomy and self-regulation. The askia's policies are therefore not unlike those of Mansā Mūsā, who paired internationalism with indigenization. These challenges would endure throughout Songhay's existence, and require rethinking Timbuktu exceptionality. Notwithstanding difficulties, Songhay's cosmopolitanism reached a height of sophistication never before witnessed in the region. More specifically, it is with Songhay that a variety of ethnicities undergo a process through which their allegiance to the state begins to supersede group loyalties, resulting in the formation of a new political identity. As an experiment in pluralism, it was unprecedented. Like Mansā Mūsā, Askia Muḥammad would also embark upon a campaign of significant territorial expansion, extending well into the northern Sahel, while evincing substantial interest in the Hausa city-states to the east. Notwithstanding his accomplishments, Songhay would be slowly circumscribed by breathtaking transformations on a global scale.

Keywords:   Askia Muḥammad, Timbuktu, Songhay, cosmopolitanism, ethnicities, state allegiance, pluralism, territorial expansion, northern Sahel, Hausa city-states

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