The Ghana Empire
  • Home
  • History
  • The Ghana Empire

The Kingdom of Ghana, also known as Wagadu or Wagadugu, was the earliest known empire of western Sudan and was founded by a king of the Soninke people. Europeans and Arabs mistakenly named it Ghana, which means “ruler”.

The first historical records of this nation are from the end of the 8th century, but it probably came into being long before that. Oral records maintain that the kingdom emerged by the 7th century and had over 144 kings. However, the modern-day country of Ghana has no historical connection to the medieval kingdom.

The rulership of Ghana was matrilineal, which means that the king's sister gave birth to the new ruler. The bloodline of the royal family was continued through its women.

The king did not rule his state alone but was helped by a People's Council whose members came from all levels of society. This type of social organization shows that Ghana's political system was well developed because it included citizens and didn't rely on the guidance of a single person.

Economy and Industry

This kingdom had a very advanced system of administration and taxation because traders had to travel through its lands to carry goods like gold and salt to and from North Africa to the southern parts of West Africa. The state's economy was dynamic and helped to expand the kingdom into an empire.

It also had large armies and defeated smaller states around it that had to pay tribute and taxes to its rulers. Although Ghana received great riches from its subordinates, it did not rely on them for economic growth. Instead, it developed agriculture, iron smelting, stone masonry, carpentry, pottery, cloth manufacturing, and goldsmithing. The products they produced were traded along the Trans-Saharan trade routes from western Africa to Egypt and the Middle East in the north. They usually exchanged goods for gold, salt, and copper and sold war captives as slaves.

While there are written records of Ghana, like in the “Book of Routes and Kingdoms” by 11th-century geographer Abu Ubayd al-Bakri, the kingdom is still a mystery. North Africans called it the “Land of Gold” because gold was plentiful in the area, but the locations of its gold mines were kept secret to maintain control over them.

Religion and Decline

Although the people of Ghana protected their good relations with Muslim traders, allowed Muslims to live in its cities, and even encouraged Muslim advisers to help the royal court with its administration of legal issues, the kingdom never converted to Islam.

The Muslim religion had been the main faith in northern Africa since the 8th century and Ghana's northern neighbors were dedicated believers. These Muslims called themselves the Almoravids and in 1076, in the 11th century, they declared a holy war, or “jihad”, against Ghana under the leadership of Abdullah ibn Yasin.

The Kingdom of Ghana was destroyed and many of its people converted to Islam as it lost its military and commercial power. From 1180 to 1230, the southern parts of what used to be Ghana were controlled by the Sosa people, who were anti-Muslim, but by that time Ghana had come to an end.


Recommended Stories


About African History

Africa is a beautiful continent with beautiful people and with a beautiful culture. We have come a long way, history have been eradicated from most of our schools. But we have a story to tell. how we came through the journey of life.

Find all beautiful stories of our beautiful continent here as we frequently update and furnish you with information that will blow your mind. remember to share this app.

Get the App