Dark Crescent Rising - A timeline of the Mande Empire

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Ibn Chaldun, Oct 21, 2018.

  1. Ibn Chaldun Commander of the Bolivian Navy

    Oct 21, 2018
    That’s actually a good comparison.
  2. SwampTiger Well-Known Member

    Aug 14, 2016
    Please keep writing this timeline. Remember, the perfect is the enemy of good enough!

    Here are some resources:

    The qanat system appears useful in several areas of the Mali empire. In addition, wells were used throughout the area with shallow groundwater. Mineral and salt contamination is a problem for some areas.

    You can probably use well/cistern combinations northward along part of the Trans-Saharan trade route, encouraging greater trade. If you can provide waterwheel/windmill/Archimedean screw water lifting technology, you may be able to use groundwater for irrigation north of the rivers. Some of this ground water is replenished during the rainy season.

    Boat technology in the period was primarily poled and paddled dugouts, some of substantial size. Contact with the Mediterranean and Red seas and Indian Ocean technologies allows larger boats/barges, adds sails and rowing oars. Boat sizes on the rivers is limited by the depth of the rivers. The best I can find is somewhere around 1.6 meters/5.25 feet through a good part of the Senegal, though I cannot get much real info. The Upper Niger has little info out on the web. The Middle to Lower Niger were very busy trade and raiding routes.

    The qarib available in the Algarve and Maghreb by the early 13th century C.E. grew into the caravel. Similar boats were used on the Nile and in Oman from the 10th century C.E. for ferrying cargo to larger ships, coastal and river trade, and as offshore and coastal fishing craft. These used oars, sweeps (long oars) and either the lateen or settee sails.

    Also, sugarcane and bananas were known to Arab traders from the Indian and East African trade.

    Again, keep writing!
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2018
  3. Wolttaire Well-Known Member

    Aug 4, 2018
    Also,@Ibn Chaldun it says in the table of contents that there a 5th update when there is not?
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2018
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  4. SwampTiger Well-Known Member

    Aug 14, 2016
    Yes, we are addicted to your timeline, and growing impatient.:D
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  5. Wolttaire Well-Known Member

    Aug 4, 2018
    I am getting withdrawal systems
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  6. Ibn Chaldun Commander of the Bolivian Navy

    Oct 21, 2018
    Sorry for the delay guys. Been pretty busy the last weeks.

    Im using that as a signal that a new chapter is about to be published. Had expected to get it finished by last Weekend, but in the end could not agree on a definite, fleshed-out theological doctrine for the newly founded Tariqa. Guess im gonna postpone that and write a bonus chapter about it in the future.

    Expect an update in the next few days at latest.
  7. Threadmarks: 5. The Old Man Speaking

    Ibn Chaldun Commander of the Bolivian Navy

    Oct 21, 2018
    5. The Old Man Speaking

    After the civil war in the West and the “genocide” - as some later historians would call it – in the East, Ouali and Mukhtar finally had the level of control over the empire they needed for the reforms they desired. When the two men first met again after almost two years in the royal gardens however, Mukhtar was furious. He had heard of the cruelty the Mansa had employed in the East. “They may be heathens, but they are human beings”, the usually calm-mannered scholar roared, “Do I really have wasted more than a decade on you?”. Something had to be done. Any weakness and the Songhai would have taken up their arms, too”, the enraged Mansa replied. For almost two hours the two men screamed at each other. Ouali even came close to using physical force against the scholar when Oualis older twin son Mukhter came by. “Father”, the six-year old shouted from quite a distance, “father, what is so interesting about water?”. Ouali followed the boy’s outstretched arm with his eyes and saw the younger twin, Abubakari, staring at the little pool in the garden. “He is doing that for over an hour now,” Mukhter explained. Seeing his little boys, he realized that he should rather honor his adviser than punch the elderly man. Without Mukhtar´s cool intellect, his wisdom and his advise he probably would never have been Mansa. He even had named his firstborn after him.
    After the little boy had rushed off to confront his brother directly, Ouali sincerely apologized to Mukhtar. The Andalusian accepted, yet could not not forget the events entirely. Anyway he was ready to lay out the plan for reform he had worked on for the past years:

    Government – A new division of power

    The military and – therefore – executive power had already shifted to the royal military loyal to Ouali. Most local commoners in the provinces were not unhappy with this development. In fact, the jonow were quite well liked overlords. While the former governors had usually ruled to the advantage of their own tribe and kin, the jonow were more impartial. As foreigners, they did not have an affiliation to any group. Also there was a lot less corruption among them, simply because they did had less kinsmen to embezzle for. Result was a decrease of the effective tax burden on the locals.

    Mukhtar however was dreading the possible consequences of this. With the military firmly under the control of the Mansa, and the Gbara being more and more marginalized by the military dominance, there would be no possibility to stop a tyrant ruler. After the massacre in the East, he had realized that rulers like Ouali would require some institution to reign them in. While he himself saw the necessity to break up tribal structures, giving absolute power to a single man could not do well long term. Therefore he proposed to redesign and expand the Gbara. “This will appease the local elites, help to preserve internal peace and promote your legitimacy.”, he argued to Ouali.

    While the 30 clans kept their seats, now each province would contribute a further two members[1]. Together, this assembly was set to be the sole body of legislature in the realm. Included was also the oversight over taxation and budgeting of the resulting revenue. The notable exception to this system however was the influential gold trade. All revenue from that business was still under direct control of the Mansa.

    Another important technique he introduced, was a communication system he had seen in Persia. Invented by the Mongolians, it consisted of stations on the routes between administrative centers lined up in regular distances. These stations were equipped with messengers, horses and supply goods. A messenger would always carry a letter only to the next station. While quite expensive to maintain, this system could transport messages (like important letters or orders) at unprecedented speed.

    Religion – The Oualiyya
    To keep tribalism down and forge a truly united empire, there had to be an alternate pillar of loyalty for commoners and nobles alike. So Mukhtar founded a new Sufi tariqa with Ouali at its head called the Oualiyya. It sought to give all Muslims south of the great desert a home and protect them and their interests. While the doctrine of the Tariqa was very inviting and well-suited for the integration of ancestral religions, conservative Muslim scholars would often consider it to be borderline heretic.

    Even though the first decade of Mukhtars presence had seen a notable percentage of key figures converting to Islam, the majority of the commoners were still pagan in many provinces – especially in the West. To let Islam take further root, he did not really approve the fire-and-sword method Ouali applied to the East. More so, he proposed peaceful methods. He had his best students found lesser centers of learning devoted to the new Tariqa in major cities. Using the decentralized organization of the Sufi orders, the local centers would ideally take root and establish minor branches in the rural regions surrounding the centers. Also a minor, yet noticeable Jizya [2] was introduced giving more prosperous individuals a financial incentive to convert. In contrast to other taxes it was to be paid to the Tariqa, therefore staying under the control of the Mansa.

    And finally, he encouraged major families around the realm to send their first born sons to his academy in Timbuktu in order to teach them as much as their mind could grip. Ouali sent both of his twin sons and many nobles followed swift, creating a number of literate future civil servants, well educated in logic, sciences and the Arabic script.

    Learning – Breaking the theological yoke

    One of the biggest flaws with Islamic teaching and scholarship, Mukhtar had already realized during his time in Syria was the dominance of religious studies and arguments. Too often he had seen reasonable arguments being dismissed because they were not based on the Quran. While classic theological studies still had their place in the Madrasah of Sankhore, there was an at least equally important secular branch.

    Also the Scholar kept propagating a culture of preserving knowledge by writing it down. Knowledge passing away together with his discoverer was easily available and still a real problem. Measures to prevent this included for example a written form of the Constitution in Arabic and programs to spread literacy in the population, especially among the cultural institutions such as the Djeli [3].

    Maybe most importantly, however, were attempts to lure scholars and specialists from around the Islamic world to Mali in order to introduce their knowledge and make use of it.

    Economy – Giving Money to the rich (literally)

    The Mande empire in many places was still a backwards place compared to the Andalusia Mukhtar came from. It did not even have a currency. People were trading on gold dust, copper and salt. Nothing was standardized and the economy was severely hindered by it. To remedy that, Mukhtar proposed a royal mint. Coins would be made from Gold and Copper in various weights and alloys.

    Also he decided to allow civil use of the new communication system. Merchants could for example now order goods at unprecedented speed, could transfer property through the new currency or even send small, but valuable items. This helped trade and increased economic activity in the realm, while the government profited from the fees the merchants paid.

    Another crucial point was tax policy. Under the previous local powerholders merchants and farmers often had to pay relatively large tax rates. This decreased their incentive to invest and expand economic activity, and thus long term tax yields were falling as production dropped. Mukhtar conclusively argued for lower tax rates in order to let the local economy flourish and that way increase the tax yield long term.

    His last proposal was the consideration that a higher population meant higher labor force and therefore equaled economic growth. Prerequisite for a population growth however was increasing agricultural capacities. To archive that, he proposed to extend agricultural use of the Inner Niger Delta. Another issue he saw were the unpredictable rainfalls in the region. Having visited some arid regions in Persia and the Maghreb he knew of different approaches to the seasonal lack of water. Acquiring experts for water management was another key point of his agenda.

    At this point Mukhtar was well into his fifties. He had aged pretty fast and both his hair and his beard were white. Actually he didn’t feel the same energy anymore he had had 20 years ago. Yet finally he would be able to implement his ideas about society and politics. His last years would his most busy, he realized. When other men would retire, his work would only begin. And rightfully so - this ideas, this realm would be his legacy. Never had he married, not fathered any children. His ideas, he was convinced, were the only things the world would remember of him after his death.

    1] 15 Provinces at the time, putting the Gbara at 60 members.
    [2] special Tax for non-Muslims
    [3] Also known as the Griots. Pretty important guys at this time and place. (Wiki) Next chapter gonna include more on them.

    Outlook for Chapter 6:
    We will see another jump in time and also see my favorite character die. At least he will see the fruits of his work.

    Last edited: Nov 23, 2018
  8. SwampTiger Well-Known Member

    Aug 14, 2016
    I like the direction you are going. The legislature is uni-cameral. Will the Mansa have a veto, or will he have limitations on his veto powers? Will the military and new bureaucrats become major players in government? Will we see a secular judiciary form to serve the non-Muslims?

    I guess I will have to wait for this to coalesce.

    Question on Islamic agriculture. Where does animal manure stand in Islamic tradition for fertilizing edible crops? Is there any religious concerns? Much of the Sahel and Saharan zones need additional fertilizer and organic matter added to improve fertility and water retention in the soils. Pasturing herds over fallow land can help improving the addition of biomass to soil. I am assuming such practices continued after the Islamization of civilizations.
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  9. Wolttaire Well-Known Member

    Aug 4, 2018
    We could see one of the first democracy of sorts arise here
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  10. SwampTiger Well-Known Member

    Aug 14, 2016
    Actually we are getting ahead of the author and history in general. Centralization of power into the newly evolving empire will not allow anything we would see as democracy for another century or two. The ink of the Magna Carta is still wet, and Italian Republics are still oligarchies.
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  11. Wolttaire Well-Known Member

    Aug 4, 2018
    This is the equivalent of the English parliament though and this is there many carta bassicilly
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  12. Ibn Chaldun Commander of the Bolivian Navy

    Oct 21, 2018

    Interesting question on the manure. I think it could depend on wether the animal it comes from was halal? But I’m gonna look this up for sure.

    In the end I can’t expect them to be stupid enough to stop fertilizing with manure. After all - I’m not aware of large-scale effective alternatives at the time and place.

    Regarding religion, the ruling class is essentially Muslim by now (or at least accepting the superiority). Most pagans are living in the rural area and settle disputes according to the tradition of their clan or village. I think though that we will have to break up these structures in the future. Currently however it’s easier to not stretch the beaurocracy further and let them do as they please in these matters.

    Regarding Executive influence in the Gbara, the Mansa as head of the (nominal) Keita clan has a voice and vote in the Gbara. No veto rights are currently available.

    Regarding Military influence, formally there is none. Practically however, I would not rule out some kind of - at least temporary - influence by them

    Regarding Bureaucracy, as the sons of important families/nobles some will be affiliated with the Gbara.
    Gbara is not elected. While there are examples of a tribal “direct democracy”, using such a system in an extended region is not practicable under given circumstances (logistics, spread of information for example) imo.

    Pretty much that. It basically gives a little seperation of power to compensate imbecile or cruel Mansas. Mainly it extends and solidifies what the Gbara did IOTL.
    Longterm I expect a system vaguely similar to the English monarchy - with comparable advantages and issues.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2018
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  13. Wolttaire Well-Known Member

    Aug 4, 2018
    I assume next he is going to have to build infrastructure
  14. Ibn Chaldun Commander of the Bolivian Navy

    Oct 21, 2018
    Reworked Chapter 5 quite a bit. It had issues ranging from bad style to typos and bad grammar.

    Please never hurry me again into publishing something before it’s due haha :D
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  15. SwampTiger Well-Known Member

    Aug 14, 2016

    Good luck with the writing.
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  16. markus meecham Marxism-Leninism-Bricksquad thought Banned

    Mar 6, 2018
    *puts cattle prod back into drawer*
    Well i would never!
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  17. Threadmarks: 6. Reminiscence

    Ibn Chaldun Commander of the Bolivian Navy

    Oct 21, 2018
    Chapter 6 – Reminiscence
    The summer of 1333 was particularly hot and long, even by the standards of Timbuktu. The water level of the Joliba [1] was one of the lowest in recent memory and the realm was on the brink of a serious drought. The heat was even noticeable in the usually cool study chamber of Mukhtar, where the old scholar had lived the past years. His body had continuously gotten weaker, his mind had stayed astute as always. While leaving his chamber had already been a rare effort in the last months, even now he could have quoted entire chapters of Aristotle or Ibn Arabi. Now however, he was bound to his bed and convinced he had not much time left. “Do want some water?”, he heard Mukhter say. Lost in his thoughts he only nodded.

    Government - The Foolish Genius
    Now an adult the young crown prince had become his closest associate, the old scholar thought. Not only did the two men share a name, they seemed to share a mind. Gifted with an even higher intellect than his father, he lacked almost all of his vices. No cruelty whatsoever, no selfish desire for wealth. Yet still Mukhtar was afraid the young man wasn’t suited to become a ruler. While he possibly was one of the brightest minds in the known world, he lacked dedication. He could just disappear in his thoughts for a few days. Also he clearly was not strong willed or decisive. He could argue for an entire hour over which dinner he preferred. By the time he decided, his brother would already have eaten all of it, Mukhtar thought. Abu, as Abubakari usually had his name shortened, was quite the opposite. A strong, quick-tempered rascal of mediocre intellect, the Andalusian hadn’t really appreciated his presence in Timbuktu. Fortunately, he had gotten close to a shipwright Ouali had brought in from Andalusia. In the end, he married his daughter and went to the West with his new family, nominally overseeing the development of Malian vessels for river and sea travel. This marriage, however made him widely unpopular with the nobility and the influential clans. Subsequently, Mukhter could not proceed with his initial plan to succeed his namesake in Timbuktu and have his brother take the throne.

    The Grand Embassy
    While the fleet project Abu was overseeing may be revolutionary south of the desert, only had a minor impact on the reforms. By now, the Mande nobility considered themselves essentially equal to the great dynasties of the Muslim world and their land kept evolving rapidly. It all really began after Ouali went on the Haj in 1317. With thousands of men and hundreds of camels in his caravan he had traversed the great desert and taken the locals by shock due to their wealth. The resulting expenditure was a lot even by Ouali´s standards, but he deliberately choose his appearance for propagandic reasons: Tales about his power, wealth and genoristy spread and effectively the Hajj put Mali on the maps of Muslim states as a power equal to the mightiest of them.
    Among the fame his wealth spread were some books and Ideas of Mukhtar. Especially the “Treatise on Islam, conversion and peaceful coexistence” made quite a few eyebrows rise. Conservatives demonized it and called for the head of the author, while more progressive scholars called it the biggest theological revelation since Ibn Arabi. Before he even reached Makkah, the book was one of the most important topics in the local Madrasahs.

    All along the way through the Maghreb, Egypt and Arabia proper Ouali and his emissaries actively recruited local talent. Promising Individuals, for example Administrators, scholars of all kinds, architects, shipwrights and especially water experts were targeted and lured into joining the caravan either by the desire to get to know Mukhtar, the perspective of a state actively supporting their studies or simply wealth. Ouali even went further. He sent emissaries to most of the important Muslim courts further spreading the word and clandestinely recruiting talent. They traveled to Andalusia, Anatolia, the Levant, Oman and Jemen. Some even went all the way to India. These emissaries were the apex alumni of the Timbuktuan academy. Aged around 25 to 30, they were perfect in Arabic, had knowledge of theology and science alike and excessive diplomatic and rhetoric training. Training and supporting them had cost a fortune but the gold of Bambuk had paid for it and the results were showing. Within a few years, Mali was semi-legendary among the educated classes of the Muslim world and a steady influx of further talent would result, putting a growing number of specialists at the disposal of Ouali.

    Religion & Learning
    Both incoming theologians and Sufis and scientists reinforced the Academy of Timbuktu further, increasing the discourse and broaden the ideas available in the realm. By 1333 it had turned into one of the most prominent places of learning in the entire Muslim world. However, with the influx of different people new challenges arose. Confessional differences rivalries between the Sunni majority and the few Shia and Ibadi scholars occasionally arose and sometimes conservative elements criticized the liberal manners in wide parts of the realm.
    However, these liberal manners were a huge part of the success Islam had in the region. Allowing some syncretic elements through the mystic tendencies of the Oualiyya eased former pagans into the religion for example. In effect, the Oualiyya more and more equaled Islam in the realm. And already had it spread beyond its borders: It had a sizable number of followers among the independent Songhai clans and some preachers were going south into the forests. Islamisation had been rapid and most of the Northern and Western provinces were dominated by Muslims. Major pagan inlets were only still present in the Western coastal provinces and the rainforests south of Niani.

    Wealth and Inequality
    With the spread of literacy the demand of paper increased and its own industry slowly established itself on the outskirts of Timbuktu. In result to falling price due to increased production, paper became more affordable to properous individuals. Already written communication was the sole form of administrative communication and also become streadily more poular with the upper classes and merchants. It was also the upper class to benefit from the economic policies: Both the new currency and the messenger system benefited them. Also they received most of the tax breaks and the new education options were primarily open to them.
    In contrast, many of the rural peasants did not profit of these changes. Quite the contrary, tensions started to spring up because of the growing inequality. The elite's way of life – including the members of the Gbara – kept diverging more and more from the rural peasant. It did not help this matter that most of the arriving specialists were used in the centers of the realm. For example, most water experts were deployed in the Macina region [2]. While their presence and innovations boosted the agricultural output of the region, many other regions stayed backwaters. Where the knowledge of specialists was deployed however, it had the power to transform the local economy. Where geological factors allowed it, caverns were dug out and water was stored during the rainy season only to use it for irrigation later. This greatly increased the arable land along the Niger and especially the Macina region. In many ways the axis from Niani to Timbuktu and Gao became the center of the realm.
    To counter that dynamic atleast partly, Mukhtar had implemented a policy to train apprentices from all regions of the realm. Goal was to have them spread technology to their home once they had learned their craft. It was a slow process at best and not adapt to combat short-tern inequalities, but better than nothing.

    Naval development

    The maybe most underdeveloped region were the Western provinces. Yet especially the course of the Bakoye was considered strategically important. It essentially connected the West to the Eastern core of the realm. To strengthen control over the region Ouali and Mukhtar had realized that it needed a center of sorts to attract loyal subjects from the East. Abu, while generally not considered the brightest fish in the pond, had become really fond of all things involving ships and water and proposed a naval academy. In the end, this idea had seemed rather good to Mukhtar and Ouali. However, the far west was still rather underdeveloped in terms of infrastructure. There were no cities comparable to the Timbuku or Gao on the coastline, so Ouali finally decided they had to build a city from scratch. This new city was set to be founded on an Island near the mouth of the Senegal. The island was chosen for two reasons: first, it was easily defended in case the West would ever rise again and secondly, the entire life of the residents should be centered around the water and the ocean in order to generate naval tradition.
    So in 1320 the island was settled by around 3000 hand-picked men from all around the realm and their families. The settlement itself was built under the Guidance of Andalusian architect as-Sahili, while Abubakari nominally oversaw the entire and project and his father-in-law, an Andalusian shipwright by the name of Sa’ad al-Ahmer, would be in charge of the shipyard.

    By 1333 the growing city known as Ndar in local Wolof had already developed to a local center of commerce and education. Building and using ships, however had proven much more tedious. Soon as-Sahili, al-Ahmer and Abu had realized that every single craft had to be taught from scratch first. At first the carpenters had no idea how to sow planks for a hull and finally, even after a ship was built, there were no sailors to sail it. Another issue was the shortage of trees in the region. While the city was located perfectly for communication and general strategic purposes, it did not have enough timber for a steady production. All these issues made the project lag behind other measures, while not yielding any major gains...
    This naval experiment, Mukhtar concluded, might very well be the weakest part of the grand reform scheme.

    "Your water", the crown prince said as he came back. Mukhtar thankfully drank some and then said: "Send for your father. I need to see him once again."
  18. Wolttaire Well-Known Member

    Aug 4, 2018
    Hmm well they will need more than one city on the coast to do trade with
  19. Sceonn Peace at a Bargain Price

    Jun 23, 2014
    Rough start, but nothing time won't patch up. But eventually the South and the West will become more influential than the arid Northern regions.
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  20. Ibn Chaldun Commander of the Bolivian Navy

    Oct 21, 2018
    It’s a start. So far no one native in that entire realm has ever sailed anything bigger and more complex than dugout. And apart from the ocean the west so far has not a lot to offer compared to the east.
    We will see the shipbuilding technique either develop or die off. I have so far not decided.
    Maybe we’ll see Abubakari fulfilling his destiny, maybe not.

    Yeah they got no expirence with complex ships.
    Definitely the desert regions will lose more and more relevance. Also Gao should longterm lose out to Timbuktu. Regarding Djenne, so far I have not decided.

    But I agree - Incase Mali Starts sea trading the west will become very important.

    However - right now I feel like I have to create artificial obstacles to prevent this ending ina wank haha
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