Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History

From the eighth century onwards, the Muslim townsfolk of North Africa were well aware that fifty stages away across the desert to the south lay a land inhabited by black people which was the source of gold, ivory and slaves. It was no mere rumor stemming from occasional journeys of special daring, as it had been in the time of Herodotus. For the Muslims, the black slaves were in their midst as laborers and soldiers, servants and concubines. And soon the passing caravans began to be swelled by black students and pilgrims, showing that the religion and civilization of Islam were spreading across the Sahara into the western and central Sudan.The main sources for the medieval history of West Africa are to be found in Arabic writings. … Here, in 372 pages of clear English translations, is the sum of what Islamic scholars wrote about West Africa between the ninth and the fifteenth centuries, together with the notes necessary to its evaluation and the detailed indexes and glossaries which facilitate comparative use … [T]he work of Levtzion and Hopkins … has been supremely well done.” — Times Literary Supplement

J.F.P. Hopkins, who both co-edited and translated this volume, is also editor of Letters from Barbary 1576-1774: Oriental Documents VI.

Nehemiah Levtzion (editor), of Hebrew University, is one of the world’s leading experts on the history of Islamic peoples and the author of numerous books including Medieval Ghana.