come up with a question or topic of interest to you. This could be anything you found confusing, any connections you may have made with other material (past or present), links to other cultures or fields of inquiry, etc. Post your initial post of at least 250 words where you bring up what resonated with you the most in the weekly reading and why. Then, respond to at least 2 peers (minimum of 250 words per response)look at the uploaded file
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Topic: Module 10 Discussion

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Module 10 Discussion
Lilia Anand
Please complete the readings for this week (including the document) and come up with a question or
topic of interest to you. This could be anything you found confusing, any connections you may have
made with other material (past or present), links to other cultures or fields of inquiry, etc. Post your
initial post of at least 250 words where you bring up what resonated with you the most in the
weekly reading and why. Then, respond to at least 2 peers (minimum of 250 words per response).
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Michael Valderrama

Oct 22, 2019
This week’s topic covered a subject that I am quite certain nobody knew very much about – the
history of ancient and medieval African Kingdoms and Empires. This topic is difficult to study since
African history is rarely talked about in popular culture and the general public has no exposure to it
and thus not much interest in it. Everyone knows Julius Caesar and George Washington, but only
the most ardent admirers of Africa know the name Mansa Musa.
It’s a shame, too – since, according to BBC writer Naima Mohamud in her 2019 article, the
benevolent and glorious Mansa is the current world record holder of richest human being to ever
exist. How rich? Some sources estimate his wealth at four hundred billion dollars. To put that into
context, Bill Gates’ net worth is a mere quarter of that at $105.6bn.
Mansa Musa was so wealthy that his generosity destroyed economies along his pilgrimage route
to Mecca. (Cox, G. “African Empires and Civilizations: Ancient and Medieval.” 1974.) The Mansa
brought with him sixty thousand men, among them twelve thousand slaves wearing silk imported
from Persia and entire herds of goats and sheep that they would slaughter for food. Mansa Musa’s
baggage train also had eighty camels carrying three hundred pounds of gold each. It is said that
he handed out gold to beggars and built a new mosque every Friday, although this is debated
Topic: Module 10 Discussion
even by the primary scholars. (Ryan, P. “Imale: Yoruba participation in the Muslim tradition: a study
of clerical piety.” 1975.)
When he reached Egypt and greeted the Egyptian city of Cairo in 1324, the sultan himself was
astounded by the vast wealth this African king had brought with him. The Mansa and his
entourage spent so much gold that they crashed the Egyptian economy, kicking their currency into
inflation for twelve years.
In modern times, Lucy Duran of the School of African and Oriental Studies in London recounts that
the local poets refused to sing praises of him because they think he wasted resources outside of
the empire.
Adreana Ciaruffoli

Michael, your responses are always so in depth and I appreciate the effort you put into each
post. I definitely agree that this is a subject that most of us probably know very little about.
That’s so wild to think that even this many years later that he is the richest human to ever
exist. 400 BILLION? I couldn’t even fathom that much money and when you you compare it to
Bill Gates, it’s even more mind-blowing. I look at millionaires all the time on social media and
think “Wow, I couldn’t imagine having that much money” and then I read about Mansa Musa
and how truly wealthy he was. Thinking about the camels holding three HUNDRED pounds of
gold is just insane. I didn’t even know it was possible to crash an economy by spending so
much, I imagine something similar would happen in the present day if someone spent as
much as he did. But I do have one question, do you believe his spending habits were reckless
and a way to show off or do you think he did it for the good of himself and his people? Maybe
neither, I guess that’s something we will have to leave for the imagination.
I can understand why people would think he wasted resources but I wonder why it’s such a big
deal and why the local poets were offended by it so much that they would refuse to sing
praises about him. It’s one of those situations where I feel like you have to give credit where
credit is due, and Mansa’s wealth came from somewhere.
Leslie Young

Hey Michael! As Adreana said, I always appreciate how in-depth your discussion posts go.
The interesting part of your response is that for some reason, the name Mansa Musa is
familiar to me. I cannot recall where I may have heard it but it is familiar. It is kind of funny how
rich the African King was and how it depleted different economies as you pointed out. Does
Topic: Module 10 Discussion
the inflation technically mean that with how much money was spent in Cairo, actually made
the king richer? What was the conversion rates among the places? what would his riches be
worth today? How much of Mansa Musa’s riches came from blood or dirty money? A quick
google search tells me that most of his riches came from his exploitation of the salt and gold
trade in his country as well as the slave trade. I would love to know your thoughts on this
Thanks for your post Michael.
Tyler Kirksmith

Hey Michael, I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts, but this is the first time I’ve actually
responded to one. I think it’s interesting that you said not many people know who Mansa Musa
was. Though I’m inclined to believe you due to the mere fact that I have no recollection of
hearing his name before this class, the book states that he is early Africa’s most famous ruler.
I think it’s incredible that someone who lived so many years ago is still the current world
record holder for the richest human to ever exist! I cannot fathom the type of wealth he
possessed, especially when you think of it in the context you provided by comparing his
wealth to the wealth of Bill Gates. The book states that he gained this wealth due to his control
of the trans-Saharan trade.
A large percentage of rulers in history have the tendency to be greedy with their wealth, but as
you mentioned, Mansa Musa was generous almost to a fault. His wealth was so abundant that
when he made his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324, he carried with him thousands of pounds of
gold. al-Omari, one of the Egyptian sultan’s officials, recalled the day twelve years later and
said that no person of the Sultanate went without receiving gold from Mansa Musa. This did
indeed ruin the value of money because everyone in Cairo earned incalculable amounts from
I honestly appreciate your post very much because I was able to better learn the material
because of it. You have a lot of knowledge and I’m glad you chose to go above and beyond
every week in order to share it with us.
Michael Valderrama

Hi Adreana,
Topic: Module 10 Discussion
Thanks for asking! I believe the Mansa’s primary purpose for his lavish spending was to attract
attention to himself and his kingdom. Everyone would be talking about the African king who
was literally giving out gold to beggars. The man wanted prestige and wanted his kingdom to
be recognized as one of the great nations of the world.
You see, there is a problem with being a mega-billionaire in Africa. The Mansa had all this
wealth, but not much to spend it on. The Empire of Mali did not have the most active markets
for imported goods. With this in mind, Mansa Musa wanted to attract foreigners to engage with
more direct trade with Mali, since to other Muslim powers at the time, Mali was seen as
something of a second-class nation, despite the fact that it was drowning in gold.
His pilgrimage to Mecca was calculated to awe every nation he came across, meant to show
the world that the Mali Empire was wealthy and prosperous, and he basically wanted to show
the Middle Eastern world that he was “open for business.”
Hi Leslie,
No, Mansa Musa’s extravagant months-long shopping spree in Cairo and the resulting
inflation did not make him richer. In fact, the Mansa bought goods for several times their actual
value just to show off his generosity.
The inflation kicked in when everyone had so much gold – an individual shopkeeper could
earn several hundreds of thousands of modern dollars after a single visit from one of the
Mansa’s slaves, for example – that gold was worthless; the logic being, if everyone has gold,
then gold loses its scarcity.
Even when Mansa Musa tried to correct this error by borrowing gold from moneylenders at
astronomical interest rates, the damage to the economy was done, and so began 12 years of
an Egyptian economic recession.
Ryan Heldmann

Michael maybe you can answer This for me. I don’t quite understand why he was viewed
so poorly due to his spending outside his empire. I understand that his spending was over the
top extravagance during his Hajj. It’s not like he neglected his own empire. He furthered many
aspects of life in Mali. He contributed a lot to the infrastructure of MalI and the Songhai
Topic: Module 10 Discussion
One of his great achievements in my opinion is his royal patronage of education. He
attracted many of the scholars to Mali. That expanded the Quä’rnic knowledge, studies of art,
architecture, law and history. He Encourage the building of Universities. Not to mention the
spread of Islam to much of west Africa.
He established Timbuktu as one of The most prolific trading hubs of the era. The great
mosque in GAO was one of the First fired clay brick buildings in African architecture. The
architecture in buildings he commissioned throughout his kingdom alone is evidence of his
spending on his people.
I think they just be you him in the wrong way I think the extravagant spending on his Hajj;
Should be looked at of a modern day Chamber of Commerce or tourism board. He said out
with all these wealth and riches and oddities of his land in order to draw attention. He wanted
to make the wealth and riches of Mali stand out and say “ Hey look what we’re doing over here
come trade with us. Bring your business here we have the money.“ I would say Mūsā I Used
his pilgrimage as a campaign to strengthen Mali.
Michael Valderrama

Hi Ryan,
Your assessment of the Mansa’s intentions is correct: he did, in fact, wish to show the Muslim
world the wealth of his empire as well as put his kingdom on the political map.
However, the man’s extravagant display of generosity sent all of his nearby potential trade
partners into inflation-driven economic crisis, making Malian gold near worthless.
Therefore, the man succeeded in establishing a name for his kingdom, but at the same time
he also made his most valuable commodity useless, discouraging trade from nearby states.
 Reply
Adreana Ciaruffoli

I honestly knew very little about African societies and Kingdoms until this weeks readings. Growing
up, Africa itself was so fascinating to me because of its sheer size alone and the fact that there
were so many countries inside of that continent. I would catch myself saying “African culture is….”
Topic: Module 10 Discussion
a lot and the more I read, the more that I realized how insignificant that statement really is. There
were and still are hundreds, maybe thousands of different cultures that exist at the same time. I
really found it riveting how every climate zone (and there are 5) had their own economic
development that was shaped through agriculture. Africa’s geography, climate and people take on
a whole new meaning of diversity.
Another thing that I found quite interesting was where the term Ethiopians originated from. The
translation of the word is literally “people with burnt faces” which has a sort of negative connotation
to it. This was what the Greeks called the people who lived in the Sahara. Then, when I kept
reading I read about how the Berbers described this region as Akal-n-Iquinawen, today’s Guinea
and then how the Arabs used the term Bilad al-Sudan, today’s Sudan. BOTH translations meant
“Land of the Blacks”, which was obviously not what I was expecting to read.
Lastly, I was intrigued learning about the spread of Islam in Africa. I didn’t know that one of the
most influential consequence of trans-Saharan trade was the introduction of Islam. Arab invaders
introduced Islam to the Berbers and eventually the Berbers became Muslims. Then, the berbers
carried Islam to sub-Saharan West Africa through trade. This whole chapter taught me a lot of new
things about Africa that I had never known.
Leslie Young

Hello Adreana.
I think the topic you chose to speak about is interesting because the literal meanings of those
words seem increasingly derogatory and it would seem odd that Ethiopian is still used today. It
makes me wonder if those who use it, know the background of the word and its origins.
I always like the histories behind the spread of religion, like influencing trade and art, not the
bloody massacre part. So the fact that Islam heavily influenced trans-Saharan trade is no
surprise to me. The conversion of the Berbers to Muslims gives way to many different
opportunities such as war and trade.
Thanks for your post Adreana! It was truly eye-opening!
Brian Finley

Hello Adreana, I too don’t or didn’t know about that much of the African culture, but when I did
talk about African peoples I always said, “African culture is..”. It is interesting to think about
how a statement that starts with that is meaningless. I started talking about the different
zones that were in Africa in my discussion as well and the more I read on it and the more I
Topic: Module 10 Discussion
talked about it, its kind of cool to think about. The way Africa was developed was in many
different way technically because different cultures in Africa made it to what it is today. Also,
each group or community had to develop and adapt to the surrounding area to be able to
survive. They adapted to there own way and were able to be successful and they were able
to be successful where ever they were in the continent.
Tyler Kirksmith

Hey Adreana!
I also learned a lot about the differences in African cultures in this chapter. I knew enough
about Africa to know it was home to many different people and cultures, but it was really
interesting to learn more about them! Though some people will wrongfully generalize Africans
as all the same, there is absolutely wide variety of culture and diversity on the continent.
You mentioned that you found the translation of the word Ethiopians to have a negative
connotation, and to that I can agree. I also was not expecting to learn that the Berber and
Arab terms for Ethiopia translates to “Land of the Blacks”, but I’m not really surprised.
However, I think these translations can be attributed more to a lack of vocabulary and
sophistication than to the racism we would perceive it as today.
I also want to comment on the spread of Islam throughout Africa. I also found this very
interesting and I wrote my original post about it. Islam began to spread through Africa due to
influence Arab invaders had on Berbers in Northern Africa, who then took the religion to West
Africa through trade. Something that I found so interesting about this was how much Islam
influenced the development of West African Empires. One of the most important changes
Islam brought to this region was the use of written documents to keep and preserve records.
Obviously, written documents are extremely important when trying to understand history. So
not only did Islam impact the history of West Africa, but it also impacted how well we are able
to understand its history.
Hetal Patel

Hello Adreana, I also knew very little about African cultures and their societies until this
chapter, but I found them very interesting as they have migrated so much all around the
places. They are the world’s second-largest continent after Asia and also covers 20 percent of
the earth’s land surface, and their cultures are enormously diverse both within and across
regions. As you mentioned, I had no idea that they have five climatic zones which are divided
roughly in the African continent as usually there are only three to four in each continent so I
Topic: Module 10 Discussion
found that very interesting and unique. Their climatic zones included the Mediterranean whish
supported economies based on fishing, tropical rain forest which favored hunting, gathering
and root-based agriculture, sub-deserts and deserts which favored herding, and the savanna
regions which encouraged grain-based agriculture. I agree with you on this that Africa’s
geography, climate, and people did take on a whole new meaning of diversity as they had
such a unique diversity.
The climatic zones helped the Africans to shape their agriculture and plant cultivation. The
African farmers learned to domesticate plants. Their cereal-growing people taught forest
people to plant grains on the plots cleared by their famous method known as “slash and burn.”
Cereal such as millet and sorghum are indigenous to African. Traders brought bananas,
plantains, taros, sugarcane, and coconut palms to Africa and because they have a tropical
condition, the cultivation of banana plants spread rapidly. Cattle raising spread more quickly
than did the planting, as the herds prospered on the open savannas that are free of flies and
are devastating to cattle.
Rudy Saucer

Good afternoon Adreana,
What really interested me most about your post was your take on just how diverse and large
the continent of Africa really is. You stated how this incredibly large piece of Earth contains a
blend of hundreds of different cultures and that is a very accurate statement. In fact, this was a
very important factor that actually help lead to the turmoil that most of the countries in Africa
are in now. Now, I know what you are thinking, “How could the cultural makeup of a continent
ultimately lead to its own self destruction?” Well, before World War II began, much of Africa
was divided into large pieces of land known as colonies which were controlled by a number of
European world powers including Belgium, France and Great Britain. However, once Nazi
Germany invaded Poland and started to acquire chunk after chunk of many other European
countries, not to mention conquering …
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