Wagadugu, more commonly known as the Ghana Empire (as early travellers confused the term ‘Ghana’, which applied to the nation’s ruler, with the state itself) was a thriving trade-oriented state situated in Western Africa, around 800 Kilometres from the modern state of Ghana. From 300 AD until the mid-1000s, Arab camel caravans crossed the Sahara Desert for the purpose of trading salt, copper, dried fruits, textiles and clothing for gold, ivory (often fashioned into jewellery), leather goods and slaves at the bustling markets of West African cities; with estimated populations of over 15,000, Kumbi Saleh (the capital) and Audagost were the largest cities in the region. Wagadugu occupied the area between the Senegal and Niger Rivers, in what is now south-eastern Mauritania and western Mali.

Berbers from the north ruled the native Soninke people during the early period. Indeed, Wagadugu did not flourish until the native population gained power (shortly after 700, until the mid-1000s) and Arab trade connections developed. Efficient import and export taxes, paid in gold, were set by the Ghana (who claimed ownership of all gold nuggets discovered in the region). With such a financial backing, strictly enforced, he maintained a firm grasp on domestic law enforcement, maintained an efficient government and was able to protect trade routes. Skilled ironworkers were hired to produce weapons and armour for this army, contributing to Wagadugu's strength.

Nonetheless, Moroccan Berbers called Almoravids (Al-Murabitins) conquered Wagadugu in the mid-1000s, disrupting trade and embroiling the region in costly and prolonged conflict. The Soninkes retook Kumbi Saleh in the late 1000s when the Almoravids were in turn defeated by the Almohads (Al-Muwahids), but authoritative rule was never again established in the outlying regions of the empire, which had declared their liberation. Without trade connections and, in turn, an army, Wagadugu fell into terminal decline and never regained its former strength. It fell to the Sosso in the early 1200s and was absorbed into the ascendant Mali Empire, causing widespread tribal interaction and dilution of bloodlines, although some residents of modern Ghana can trace their lineage to this medieval state, further identifying the region with the Republic of Ghana.

Medieval Ghanaian history recording becomes recognisable upon the development of trans-Saharan relations, with the first credible histories appearing in Arabic around the seventh century. The region’s history became progressively better-documented once the region converted to Islam; the geographers al-Bakri and al-Idrisi, along with fourteenth-century traveller Ibn Batutta and historian Ibn Khaldun are considered the best sources for accurate descriptions of the region from the fourteenth century onwards, especially when the slave trade began in earnest. Portuguese, British, Spanish and Dutch slave trading ports were established along what became known as the Gold Coast from the fifteenth century onwards, beginning the most brutal period of Ghana’s history.

As in interesting addendum, Ouagadougou (as Wagadugu is also known) is also the capital of Burkina Faso and shares a similar connection to Wagadugu as modern Ghana.

Thank rp for its inclusion.


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