The Bamana Empire by the Niger: Kingdom, Jihad, and Colonization, 1712-1920

The powerful Bamana state emerged in 1712 and centered around the Middle Niger, where most inhabitants were Bamanas with their own language and religion. It was a sophisticated society with nobles, casted groups, and slaves. The Bamanas built an empire based on a strong professional army. The author provides a colorful picture of this state, which for centuries was a solid commercial, military, and agricultural society formed by ideologies other than imported religions.

This book is also the story of conquests and efforts by two alien powers to assert hegemony over the Bamana of Segu: the first was an African jihad, led by al Hajj Umar Tal (1861) in the name of religious reform, and the second was European (1890), for the cause of French imperial expansion. The objects were similar: to dominate the rich agricultural lands and commercial routes in the Middle Niger.


Sundiata A.K. Djata (University of Northern Illinois) is the author of Blacks in Tennis.