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The Spatial Organization of Pre-colonial African Kingdoms: The Empires of Ethiopia & Mali

Victoria O Alapo, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Pre-Colonial kingdoms in Sub-Saharan Africa were many, and were organized in unique ways. The old Empires of Ethiopia and Mali were selected for this research because of their antiquity and for their contrasts: Ethiopia was an official Christian Empire for about two millennia, while Mali was the quintessential Sub-Saharan Islamic kingdom. Also, both empires possessed documentation written by traditional Africans, in the form of ancient indigenous manuscripts, which predate the colonial period (i.e., the coming of Europeans) by several centuries. In addition, the research analyzes work that has been done by historians and other academics, and incorporates the reports of ancient Arabs traveling in the region. Effort has been made to show how such work can be done from a Geographer’s point of view. Not only that, but the research includes the very important and unique perspective of an African academic’s vantage point. That is, the viewpoint of an African Historical Geographer, as it were, “from the inside looking out”. This research is important because until fairly recently historical accounts given by Europeans or Westerners of non-European societies have been tainted with a Western bias; this research shows that Sub-Saharan Africa did indeed have great civilizations during the Pre-Colonial Era (i.e., the period prior to European colonization in 1884).

Subject Area

Geography|African history

Recommended Citation

Alapo, Victoria O, "The Spatial Organization of Pre-colonial African Kingdoms: The Empires of Ethiopia & Mali" (2022). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI29064924.