1743 French Map of Northwest Africa, depicting the areas covered in this curriculum unit.
Credit: Courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.
Timbuktu reached its peak as a center of Islamic culture and scholarship in the 16th century. This was its Golden Age. It was now a major city in the Songhai Empire. Of the city's population of nearly 100,000, a quarter were students and scholars. Many of these came from other parts of the Islamic world to study or teach at the cities many madrasas (Islamic schools) and its three universities, the most renowned being that associated with the Sankore Mosque.
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In the 15th century, the leaders of a kingdom known as the Songhai (also spelled Songhay) began expanding their domain along the Niger River. Like the kingdoms of Ghana and Mali that flourished in the region in earlier centuries, Songhai grew powerful because of its control of local trade routes. Timbuktu would soon become the heart of the mighty Songhai Empire.
Although Songhai's early ruler was not interested in scholarship, his successor, known as Askia Mohamed, certainly was.
Many manuscripts were written in the schools in Timbuktu, while others were imported from cities in Morocco and Egypt.
Write an essay comparing and contrasting the curriculum of the university at Sankore with that of your own school.
2 class periods