Wolof Empire


Wolof Empire

Infobox Former Country
native_name =
conventional_long_name = Wolof Empire
common_name = Wolof Empire
continent = Africa
region = West-Africa
country =
era = Early Modern Period
status =
status_text =
empire =
government_type = Monarchy
year_start = 1350
year_end = 1900
event_start =
date_start =
event_end = Formally annexed by France
date_end =
event1 = Reduced to a regular Wolof Kingdom
date_event1 = 1600
p1 = Wolof people
flag_p1 =
s1 = Waalo
flag_s1 =
s2 = Cayor
flag_s2 =
s3 = Baol
flag_s3 =
s4 = Kingdom of Sine
flag_s4 =
s5 = Saloum
flag_s5 =
s6 = French West Africa
flag_s6 = Flag_of_France.svg




flag_type =




image_map_caption = Constituent States of the Wolof Empire
capital = Linguère
common_languages = Wolof
religion = Animism, Islam (19th Century)
currency =
leader1 = N'Dyadya N'Dyaye
leader2 = 'Ali Buri N'Dyaye
year_leader1 = 1350-1370
year_leader2 = 1875-1890
title_leader = Emperor (Buur-ba Jolof)

The Wolof Empire or Jolof Empire (French: Diolof or Djolof) was a medieval West African state that ruled parts of Senegal and The Gambia from 1360 to 1890.

Origins

Traditional accounts among the Wolof agree that the founder of the state and later empire was Ndyadyane Ndyaye who lived in the 13th century. [Fage, J.D. & Roland Anthony Oliver: "The Cambridge History of Africa" page 484. Cambridge University Press, 1975] The foundations of the empire were set down by the voluntary association of several small states beginning with Waalo in the north. At the time just prior to the empire's formation, Waalo was divided into villages ruled by separate kings using the Serer title "Laman". A dispute over wood near a prominent lake almost led to bloodshed among the rulers but was stopped by the mysterious appearance of a stranger from the lake. The stranger divided the wood fairly and disappeared, leaving the people in awe. The people then feigned a second dispute and kidnapped the stranger when he returned. They offered him the kingship of their land and convinced him to do so and become mortal by offering him a beautiful woman to marry. When these events were reported to the ruler of Sine, also a great magician, he is reported to have exclaimed "Ndyadyane Ndyaye" in amazement. [Stride, G.T. & C. Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800" page 21. Nelson, 1971] The ruler of Sine then suggested all rulers between the Senegal River and the Gambia River voluntarily submit to this man, which they did. [Stride, G.T. & C. Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800" page 22. Nelson, 1971]

Early history

The new state of Djolof, named for the central province where the king resided, was a vassal of the Mali Empire for much of its early history. [Fage, J.D. & Roland Anthony Oliver: "The Cambridge History of Africa" page 381. Cambridge University Press, 1975] Djolof remained within that empire's sphere of influence until the latter half of the 14th century. [Fage, J.D. & Roland Anthony Oliver: "The Cambridge History of Africa" page 456. Cambridge University Press, 1975] During a succession dispute in 1360 between two rival lineages within the Mali Empire's royal bloodline, the Wolof became permanently independent. [Ogot, page 136] A close examination of Wolof societal and political structure reveals that at least some of its institutions may have been borrowed directly or developed alongside those of its larger predecessor.

ociety in Imperial Djolof

The Portuguese arrived in the Jolof Empire between 1444 and 1510, leaving detailed accounts of a very advanced political system. [Fage, J.D. & Roland Anthony Oliver: "The Cambridge History of Africa" page 456. Cambridge University Press, 1975] There was a developed hierarchical system involving different classes of royal and non-royal nobles, free men, occupational castes and slaves. Occupational castes included blacksmiths, jewellers, tanners, tailors, musicians and "griots". [Fage, J.D. & Roland Anthony Oliver: "The Cambridge History of Africa" page 484. Cambridge University Press, 1975] Smiths were important to the society for their ability to make weapons of war as well as their trusted status for mediating disputes fairly. Griots were employed by every important family as chroniclers and advisors, without whom much of early Djolof history would be unknown. [Stride, G.T. & C. Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800" page 26. Nelson, 1971] Wolof nobility were nominally Muslim [Fage, J.D. & Roland Anthony Oliver: "The Cambridge History of Africa" page 486. Cambridge University Press, 1975] but Islam failed to fully penetrate Wolof society until about the 19th century. [Stride, G.T. & C. Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800" page 26. Nelson, 1971] Throughout the different classes, intermarriage was rarely allowed. Women could not marry upwards, and their children did not inherit the father's superior status. [Stride, G.T. & C. Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800" page 26. Nelson, 1971]

Women in Imperial Djolof

Women were influential in government, however. The "Linger" or Queen Mother was head of all Wolof women and very influential in state politics. She owned a number of villages which cultivated farms and paid tribute directly to her. There were also other female chiefs whose main task was judging cases involving women. In the empire's most northern state of Walo, women could aspite to the office of "Bur" and rule the state. [Stride, G.T. & C. Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800" page 26. Nelson, 1971]

Political organization

The Djolof Empire was organized as five coastal kingdoms from north to south which included Waalo, Kayor, Baol, Sine and Saloum. All of these states were tributary to the land-locked state of Djolof. The ruler of Djolof was known as the "burba Jolof", a title distinct from all others, and ruled from the capital of Linguère. [Fage, J.D. & Roland Anthony Oliver: "The Cambridge History of Africa" page 484. Cambridge University Press, 1975] Each Wolof state was governed by its own ruler appointed from the descendants of the founder of the state. [Stride, G.T. & C. Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800" page 25. Nelson, 1971] State rulers were chosen by their respective nobles, while the "burba Jolof" was selected by a college of electors which also included the rulers of the five kingdoms. [Fage, J.D. & Roland Anthony Oliver: "The Cambridge History of Africa" page 457. Cambridge University Press, 1975] There was the Bur of Waalo, [Stride, G.T. & C. Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800" page 26. Nelson, 1971] the "Damel" of Kayor, [Fage, J.D. & Roland Anthony Oliver: "The Cambridge History of Africa" page 457. Cambridge University Press, 1975] the "Teny" of Baol, [Stride, G.T. & C. Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800" page 24. Nelson, 1971] as well as the two Lamans of the Serer states of Sine and Saloum. [Stride, G.T. & C. Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800" page 21. Nelson, 1971] Each ruler had practical autonomy but was expected to cooperate with the "burba Jolof" on matters of defense, trade and provision of imperial revenue. Once appointed, office holders went through elaborate rituals to both familiarize themselves with their new duties and elevate them to a divine status. From then on, they were expected to lead their states to greatness or risk being declared unfavored by the gods and being deposed. The stresses of this political structure resulted in a very autocratic government where personal armies and wealth often superseded constitutional values. [Stride, G.T. & C. Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800" page 25. Nelson, 1971]

Contact with Europe

After an initially hostile start, peaceful trade relations were established between the Djolof Empire and the kingdom of Portugal. At this time the Wolof were at the height of their power and the "burba Jolof" had extended his authority over the Malinke states on the northern bank of the Gambia including Nyumi, Badibu, Nyani and Wuli. In the 1480s, Prince Bemoi was ruling the empire in the name of his brother Burba Birao. Tempted by Portuguese trade, he moved the seat of government to the coast to take advantage of the new economic opportunities. Other princes, opposed to this policy, deposed and murdered the "burba Jolof" in 1489. Prince Bemoi escaped and sought refuge with the Portuguese who took him to Lisbon. There he exchanged gifts with King John II and was baptised. Faced with the opportunity to put a Christian ally on the throne, John II sent an expeditionary force under a Portuguese commander and the prince back to Djolof. The objective was to put Bemoi on the throne and a fort at the mouth of the Senegal River. Neither goal was achieved. A dispute between the commander and the prince resulted in the former accusing Bemoi of treachery and killing him. [Fage, J.D. & Roland Anthony Oliver: "The Cambridge History of Africa" page 457. Cambridge University Press, 1975]

Late period

Despite internal feuds, the Djolof Empire remained a force to reckon with in the region. In the early 16th century, it was capable of fielding 100,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry. [Stride, G.T. & C. Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800" page 23. Nelson, 1971] But the seeds of the empire's destruction had already been sown by the prospects of Atlantic trade. Virtually everything that had given rise to the great Djolof Empire was now tearing it apart. Coastal trade, for instance, had brought extra wealth to the empire. But the rulers of the vassal states on the coast got the lion's share of the benefits, which eventually allowed them to eclipse and undermine what little power the emperor had. [Fage, J.D. & Roland Anthony Oliver: "The Cambridge History of Africa" page 457. Cambridge University Press, 1975] There was also the matter of external forces such as the breakup of the Mali Empire. Mali's slipping grip on its far-flung empire, thanks to the growth of the Songhai Empire, had allowed Djolof to become an empire itself. But now conflicts in the north were spreading to Djolof's northern territories. In 1513, Dengella Koli led a strong force of Fulani and Mandinka into Fouta Toro seizing it from the Wolof and setting up his own dynasty. Koli was the son of an unsuccessful rebel against the Songhai Empire and may have decided to act against the Wolof as an alternative to fighting the Songhai or Mandinka. [Stride, G.T. & C. Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800" page 23. Nelson, 1971] In the mid-16th century, Kayor successfully broke from the Djolof Empire. It was soon followed by Waalo and other vassals. By 1600, the Djolof Empire was effectively over. The state was just one among several independent Wolof states. [Fage, J.D. & Roland Anthony Oliver: "The Cambridge History of Africa" page 457. Cambridge University Press, 1975]

Mauretanian promise

In 1670, wandering Muslim clerics from Mauretania stirred up a rebellion against the Wolof rulers by a clever ruse. They promised to show the Wolof how to produce millet without the labor of planting. During the ensuing rebellion, the Mauretanians invaded, killed the rulers of Waalo and Kayor and defeated the "burba Jolof". However, when the Mauretanians could not deliver on their promise, the Wolof restored their rulers and drove the invaders out. The Mauretanians still remained a problem, however; and Waalo in particular suffered from their constant raids. [Stride, G.T. & C. Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800" page 24. Nelson, 1971]

Baol and Kayor

In 1686, Baol split from Kayor under the "teny" (king) Latir Fal Sukake. The "burba Jolof" used this as an excuse to try and hem in his crumbling empire and invaded Kayor. Sukake, fearing for his own security, invaded Kayor and killed the "burba Jolof" in battle. He then annexed Kayor creating a union of the two states that would last until his death in 1702. Thereafter, the two states would be ruled by his sons. By the late 1700s, Kayor was pre-eminent again and annexed Baol while inflicting serious defeats on the Muslim al-Mami of Futa Toro in 1786. [Stride, G.T. & C. Ifeka: "Peoples and Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800" page 24. Nelson, 1971]

Destruction

Around 1875, Ahmadu Shaykhu of the Kingdom of Fouta Djallon took his "jihad" to Djolof. The empire was more or less annexed until 1890. From then on, it was absorbed into the French colony administered from Dakar. The state was formally extinguished in 1900.

References

ources

*cite book |author=Ogot, Bethwell A. |title=General History of Africa V: Africa from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century |publisher=University of California Press |location=Berkeley |year=1999 |pages=512 Pages |isbn=0-52006-700-2

ee also

*List of rulers of Jolof
*Cayor Kingdom
*History of Senegal
*History of the Gambia
*Wolof people
*Mali Empire


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