CANCELLED (because of corona guidelines) --- On Songhay: Why was there an empire and what does it tell us about West Africa

On invitation of the Rural and Environmental History Group, Dr. Rahmane Idrissa from Leiden University will give a seminar about Songhay. The seminar is rescheduled to March 24, 2020. To attend, please register via email

Organised by Rural and Environmental History

Tue 24 March 2020 11:00 to 12:30

Venue Leeuwenborch, gebouwnummer 201
Room to be announced
Though little-known outside of Africa – where it is part of history school programs in many parts of the continent – the Songhay Empire is an episode of West Africa’s past that remains extremely important for understanding that region today. Used especially in the Gulf of Guinea to name a budding West African utopia, Songhay is also key to understanding the historical sequences which have led to the conflicts currently raging in a swath of the central Sahel-Sahara. In this talk, Rahmane Idrissa asks the question ‘Why was there a Songhay Empire’ as a way to explore both the past and the present of a sizeable part of West Africa. The question is worth asking given the paradox of Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest ever state built by one of its smaller populations and lesser cultures. This ‘Why’ question – which historians have never really asked – is approached from both sides of the time-continuum, i.e., from the past (how Songhay was built, how it collapsed) and from more recent times, including the present.