1310: The Year Mali Discovered America

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by pa_dutch, Aug 4, 2007.

  1. pa_dutch Member

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    I know several of you are hoping for an update to my "Guns of the Monomotapa" timeline, but the computer with all of my saved information is being repaired. Don't worry, I fully intend on continuing that timeline, as I have the latest update half-finished already, as well as a pre-made outline that will hopefully lead to the present-day.

    In the meantime, I've also been working on a new timeline, that explores another popular African WI: What if Mansa Abubakari II of Mali actually pursued a successful exploration and colonization of the New World? This is what I think would have happened.

    1310 AD: Abubakari II, mansa of the Mali Empire, is intrigued by scholarly speculation of a round, “gourd-shaped” Earth. At the expense of his everyday duties, Abubakari II becomes obsessed with determining this hypothesis. In what could be seen as an act of mid-life crisis, he funds a spectacular exploration effort, having 200-400 sailboats of the finest Mediterranean models built and placed at the mouth of the Senegal River. He hires a large, diverse crew comprising all professions – sailors, traders, builders, artists, warriors, and learned men, and supplies them with enough rations to last for two years. The enormous fleet heads off across the great western ocean, relying on a unique system of drum communication.

    1311 AD: A captain returns to Abubakari II, reporting to the mansa that the expedition came upon land at the other end of the ocean. At the site of modern-day Recife, northeastern Brazil, the crew established a make-shift colony and would soon be in need of additional provisions. Excited at this discovery, Abubakari II assembles an even larger fleet of two thousand boats that he intends to lead for himself.

    1312 AD: Abubakari II abdicates the throne of Mali, handing it down to his brother, Kankan Musa. He decides instead that he will journey across the ocean to rule this new land he calls “Boure Bambouk”, after the richest goldfields of Mali. He remarks that he will bring Islam to the furthest reaches of the world.

    1313 AD: The third year in the fledgling colony of Boure Bambouk, the first under the direction of Abubakari II, sees its highs and lows. Abubakari establishes the first diplomatic contacts with the curious Tupi tribes of the region, encouraging trade with them. Through this trade, the colonists of Boure Bambouk are first acquainted with New World crops, including corn, beans, peanuts, tobacco, cotton, and tropical fruits. Such agricultural commodities will allow the colony to become self-sustaining. Likewise, Old World livestock, such as cattle, sheep, and guinea fowl, are first introduced to the Tupi, as are cereal grains like rice, millet, and sorghum.

    1314 AD: Abubakari sends a boat back to Mali to petition his brother for more support. Mansa Musa is impressed by the new crops presented to him, and garners more settlers and aid to send to Boure Bambouk. Thus begins a back-and-forth exchange of Bamboukian goods in return for Malian assistance. Agriculture of corn, beans, peanuts, peppers, and cotton will set off a population explosion in Mali, that will provide future settlers from across the sea.

    1316 AD: Meanwhile, the Tupi are devastated by Old World diseases as a consequence of the flourishing trade. It was their belief that the Mandinka were sent by their supreme god, Maira, which led to Tupi to approach the Mandinka with hospitality rather than hostility. Abubakari convinces the local Tupi chieftain that his god, Allah, and the Tupi god, Maira, are one and the same, and that the sacrificial belief system of the Tupi is corrupted. The Tupi chieftain converts to the “true faith” of Islam, and wills his daughter to Abubakari in marriage.

    1318 AD: Abubakari gives birth to a son, producing a mixed-race heir to the throne of Boure Bambouk. The Tupi become increasingly dependent on Boure Bambouk, setting up villages around the outskirts of the Mandinka colony. In an effort to promote unity and encourage intermingling, Abubakari permits Tupi migration into his colony, as many curious Tupi abandon their tribal culture in favor of settled life of Boure Bambouk. Marriages between Tupi and Mandinka become more and more common as Islam takes hold among the devastated indigenous peoples, a pidgin Tupi dialect becomes the region’s lingua franca, and a new multiethnic society becomes dominant.

    1322 AD: In an effort to stabilize his colonial government, Abubakari works to establish a Gbara, or Great Assembly, much like the one in Mali. Made up of village leaders and Islamicized Tupi chieftains, the Gbara meets for the first time works to modify their own constitution. The proposal they come up with is based heavily on the ancient Malian system of law, the Kouroukan Fouga, also taking into account those aboriginal Tupi customs and cultural rules which have penetrated the multiracial population of Boure Bambouk.

    1324 AD: Mansa Musa makes his famous pilgrimage to Mecca, bringing knowledge of Boure Bambouk to the learned scholars of Cairo and beyond. Mansa Musa promotes literacy in the Arabic script throughout his realms. Explorers from Boure Bambouk conduct expeditions to explore the coasts of Brazil, and with funding from Mansa Musa, new settlements are established within the vicinity of the original colony. The initial headquarter trading post, now a burgeoning capital city, undergoes a rapid period of growth, as do the surrounding Tupi villages which are eventually subsumed and incorporated as neighborhoods.

    1330 AD: Abubakari, now learned in the Arabic script, establishes schools and imports literate scholars to teach in them. He also has prominent scholars create a literate version of the Tupi dialect spoken by most of his colony, including a version of the Koran translated into Tupi. As the Mandinka population of Boure Bambouk continues to grow, new settler colonies are founded as far away as the sites of Sao Luis in the west and Salvador to the south, which will spread Bamboukian culture to the native peoples of those regions.

    1332 AD: Abubakari passes away and is succeeded by his eldest son, Mohammed. Though still an adolescent, the biracial mansa and his advisors will work to further integrate the multicultural society and create a more coherent government modeled after his uncle’s empire across the ocean. His religion, a version of Islam heavily fused with the most complimentary Tupi beliefs, is not much different from that of his subjects. In Boure Bambouk, the lines between Mandika and Tupi become sharply blurred as the country drifts further and further apart from Mali in terms of language, culture, and ideology.

    1337 AD: Following the death of Mansa Kankan Musa of Mali, arguably its greatest emperor, his son and successor Maghan takes the throne. Maghan is an incompetent leader who is disdained for his wasteful spending. Even so, his reign is too short to have any long-term damage on the great shape of the state he inherited from his father. Now that a generation has passed between the split of Mali and Boure Bambouk, contact between the two states will become less and less frequent. Maghan and his successors have little interest in the far-away land across the sea, which holds little value to them now that all of its crops have been imported to Africa. Despite its namesake, Boure Bambouk has not turned up much profit in gold for it to be interesting to future Malian mansas.

    1340 AD: Merchants from Boure Bambouk first reach the court of Mayapan in the Yucatan Peninsula. The Mayans are very intrigued by the Mandinka and their innovations, and in the ensuing years, a subtle but evident exchange of agricultural, technological, architectural, and philosophical influences will transfer between the two civilizations. Mohammed is likewise interesting in the Mayans, as trade goods of cacoa, vanilla, advocado, chile, pumpkin, and turkey trickle back to Boure Bambouk.

    Map of Boure Bambouk growth:

    bourebambouk.PNG
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2007
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  2. Hierophant The Unyielding

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    Excellent!

    My only thought is that wouldn't Mandikan be the root of the evolving Bamboukan language? I mean with the Tupi devastated population wise by the old world diseases, wouldn't it be the Mandikans doing the majority of the assimilating?
     
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  3. Hendryk Banned

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    Well, in OTL, you have people who in Mesoamerica who speak Nahuatl to this day, so it's hardly implausible.

    BTW since germs have been mentioned, I have to ask the obvious question: what about the other two elements of Diamond's equation, guns and steel? By the 1300s gunpowder had reached the Muslim world, and Dar-al-Islam boasted fine ironsmiths indeed. Then, of course, there's horses, which I don't think a Malian king would think of doing without. Perhaps dromedary camels as well? If either of both feral specimens of those animals reach the Andes, this may have quite an impact on the long-term prospects of the Inca.
     
  4. Cockroach Lagrangian Particle Tracking... Now in the Arctic.

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    Rather an interesting TL... just one thing I'm rather skeptical of:
    The cost in building such a large ocean going fleet in such a short time period renders this questionable... Perhaps stick to a few smaller initial expeditions.
     
  5. carlton_bach Member

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    I wonder where the shipbuilding know-how comes from and what strings come attached. I'd been playing with similar ideas, though more eurocentric, and I'd say a lot depends on how quickly and where news of this discovery would spread. Who else goes to America, and what do they do once they get there?
     
  6. pa_dutch Member

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    Well, in OTL the Old Tupi language became the lingua franca in early colonial Brazil, among both the white settlers and the natives.

    ...Of course, there's a big difference in motives between the Portuguese and the Mandinka. The Portuguese were only there to exploit, and the Mandinka are settlers, more in line with the English. The Portuguese neglected the Brazil in its early years, so there weren't many Portuguese speakers there in the first place. You might be right.
     
  7. pa_dutch Member

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    I'm just going by what the legends say. It does seem rather implausible, but then, the Malians were one of the wealthiest societies of that time period. I believe I read that Mansa Musa spent so much gold during his hajj that it caused a huge inflation in Egypt that lasted for over a decade? Realistically, the preparation probably began much earlier than that, and only set off in 1310.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2007
  8. Garbageman Member

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    RE:

    Does Musa still go bankrupt on his spending spree during the hajj?
     
  9. pa_dutch Member

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    The few scholars who take the legend of Abubakari seriously claim his ship-building came from the Mediterranean and Egypt... Of course, there's no real historical basis for that... My POD is based on what I see as the most optimistic result of if this actually happened.

    As of now no one else has much motivation to go to the new world... The Europeans are the closest, but they aren't quite there yet. They'll probably know about Boure Bambouk soon enough... In OTL they became aware of Timbuktu's wealth following Mansa Musa's hajj, and they knew about the Norse expedition to Vinland centuries earlier, but they were still some ways away from the age of discovery. Arab merchants are another story... Perhaps ibn Battuta or some other explorer would make the journey.

    Thanks for everyone's feedback so far, I really appeciate it. :)
     
  10. pa_dutch Member

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    Actually, Mansa Musa was remembered as being the greatest ruler of medieval Mali... He did spend a lot of gold in Egypt by Egyptian standards, but Mali had a lot of gold to be spent. He wasn't nearly as wasteful as his successors.
     
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  11. pa_dutch Member

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    Horses definately would make the cross to Boure Bambouk. I would question the practicality of camels in Brazil... They would certainly be useful in the Andes, but they'd have travel quite some ways to get there.

    Steel weapons will make it across the ocean, but I'm not too sure about gun powder. I believe it was partially the lack of guns that led to Timbuktu's defeat by the Moroccans, wasn't it?
     
  12. carlton_bach Member

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    Lack isn't absence. AFAIK Sub-Saharan Africa was at the fringes of Western military development, not outside of it. With enough contact to Egypt and Morocco, guns can easily come, and they will come in handy across the sea. I suspect they'll be more popular than OTL once the terror effect becomes obvious. They needn't even be very modern or advanced guns.
     
  13. corourke Member Donor

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    This is awesome! Is 250 years enough time for the native population to begin to bounce back from the epidemics?
     
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  14. Max Sinister Retired Myriad Club Member Banned

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    IIRC three quarters of the Aztecs died from smallpox and other diseases. Population would have to grow very fast to recover completely.
     
  15. carlton_bach Member

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    A population won't have to recover to pre-epidemic levels to offer significat resistance, just recover a tsype of order and sustainable density. Europe probably didn't recover the Black death losses until the sixteenth or seventeenth century, but it regained its balance within a decade or two. The Amerindian epidemics were worse, so it will take longer, but it could be done.
     
  16. Darkest Banned

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    I like it. Can't wait to see what you do with it. I will say, that unless other butterflies pre-empt it, the Portuguese, Spanish, and other European imperialists will send expeditions west much sooner than in OTL, say, ther 1460s when the Portuguese came into contact with the Mali Empire (then disintegrating). I question the ability of the Bamboukian population to continue as a stable nation-state in the long-term without contact from the east, as well as be able to fund mostly frequent expeditions to set up trading posts.

    Which comes first: Europeans seize New World crops from the Americas, or the Europeans gain New World crops from merchants? When?
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2007
  17. Gonzaga Well-Known Member

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    In the area were Boure Bambouk is being formed camels would be very useful. The countryside of Northeast Brazil is under a semi-desertic climate. In the 19th century the imperial government imported some camels from Algeria to the province of Ceará, but they were considered too unconfortable by the "test drivers"... I think the people from Sahel wouldn't have the same opinion.

    About horses and camels going to the Andes from, it would be possible, but hard. They would need to cross different kinds of enviroment, first the semi-desert, then the savanna, and the swamps of Mato Grosso and Chaco before reach the beggining of the mountains. The faster way should be going through OTL Argentina, crossing the pampas, but for it the Malians colonizers would need to reach at least the regions of OTL states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, in South Brazil. But, even if the camels and horses reach the Andes, you still have one problem: what would the people there do with them? The Andean civilizations could only eat them, instead of using as beasts of burden.
     
  18. JP_Morgan is gone(for good?)

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    It's great to see another sub-Saharan african TL. Many other people neglect, probably because of it's general lack of world importance, but also because the average knowledge of civilizations in this region is less than the average knowledge of india or the far east. It'd be nice to see an african power with at least some influence in world affairs, but Iadmit the whole idea of "African superpower" is quite intriguing. But in this specfic case, I think the spanish might be able to claim a little more of the atlantic coast that was held by the british, if a bigger butterlfly could be allowed here
     
  19. DominusNovus Humbled by Fate

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    I wonder how 'interested' these muslims will be in peaceful coexistence with the Maya. You know, that grand civilization that performs human sacrifices to a lizard god.

    I think the Mali will want to do the same thing the Spanish did, conquer them (and the Aztecs). They might not necessarily be as lucky as the Spanish, but they'll definitely not look kindly on the Mesoamerican religions.
     
  20. pa_dutch Member

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    That's a good point. I'm still trying to decide whether or not I want to try and have the Mali Empire itself survive until modern times. The point of my timeline isn't necessarilly to create a "Maliwank", but to show a scenario of African New World colonization that is within reason. In OTL, the Jolof of Senegambia eventually broke free from Mali, taking away Mali's ocean access. Not long after, Songhai emerged from the east and conquered Mali itself. Are those events still going to happen, or is this ATL Mali significantly strong enough that those have been butterflied away? After all, this Mali does have the added luxury of New World crops much earlier than the Europeans, but so do the Jolof and the Songhai.