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SYMHC Classics: Mansa Musa and the City of Gold

2018-06-23 | 🔗

Today's episode revisits a Sarah and Deblina episode that revisits a tale of incredible wealth. When emperor Mansa Musa went on a pilgramage from Timbuktu to Mecca, he gave away so much gold that he crashed the gold market in Cairo.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
The vote of stuff, you missed in history classes, brought to you by W W, formerly wait watchers it. They know that most people have already given up on their resolutions. Thirteen days and the new year. I am proud to say that is not me doesn't have to be you either great thing about the new. My deputy programme is that it really encourage you to stick with it. It is their most groundbreaking and customize proven wait lost land because its Taylor, just to you, which makes it easier to keep up with and stick to join W W to get matched with your very own. Customized proven weight loss plant had on overdue Debbie Debbie dot com. That's w w dot com to join Debbie Debbie today, with a limited time, offer happy add or day everybody. Today's episode is from twenty ten back when Sarah and Dublin were hosts of the show, it is about me, said the first of Molly Elsa known as Manson LISA, and it continues to be one of our most popular listener. Requests when folks,
I didn't to ask about african history. We do have a little update on this episode. Sarah, the Billina talk about UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Timbuktu that were threatened by desert encroachment and a lack of upkeep in the spring of twenty twelve. These sites were further threatened, several militant and extremist islamic groups which began strewing, some of them on the grounds that they were examples of idolatry, the french military Intervened and unrest has continued in the years since then work. To stuff you missed in history, class from Housetop works, dot com, Welcome to the pie, Cath, unfair, daddy and I'm going to talk about it and they were going to be talking about the city of gold. But this one existed long before anybody had heard about El Dorado with its ethical streets paved in gold.
was this city and Molly, and that this great west african empire that was supposedly so rich that slaves could carry staffs that were dusted in gold and even the most common objects like everyday things around your house would be made out of this precious metal. That was so, rare in most of the world. But the interesting thing is for most of the middle ages, european even paid much attention to Africa beyond its northern trading cities at all, but this gold really change things yeah, especially when, according to the british historian doktor Basil Davidson, the rulers of Molly were quote rumoured to offend the wealthiest men on the face of the earth, though I would say that would be worth checking out even going
The desert, for perhaps I should say so, and the most illustrious ruler of this empire was immense. A moose in he expanded territory is developed, great cities and most famously displayed his lands, wealth and a procession of thousands cross Africa, and he didn't do this to fight a battle. He did it to make a pilgrimage to MECCA. So, okay, we're going to be talking about the city of gold and we're going to be talking about this ruler, who made this famous pilgrimage so who was Mansa Musa and where did he come from? He came from the Sahel, which is this band of land that separates the Sahara from the forest of Southern Africa. And it's always ban and important bans. The important part of the world because of the trade that cross the FED and that we started and about seven fifty eight d and lasted until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when, finally,
Ships replaced overland caravans of camels. You could do your trading a lot easier by both yes, And the first great kingdom of this area was that of Ghana and that's different from the modern nation of God. that we know today, that's not even really in the same spot nearby, but not exactly the same, but while this kingdom splintered apart islamic proselytizing converted much of the region to Islam. In winning ruling families. In one of these families, the Kojata started up a new damn that replaced this empire of Ghana, that with the kingdom of Mali and its first major leader, the leader who brought the family to great power, was Cindy ATA and there is kind of a funny story about the sky from the oil. addition, supposedly he was a really strong child but kind of clumsy on his speech, but there was the rule kind of like a king Arthur and the
stone sort of. Nor ever there was a challenge. Whoever could knock down a fruit from a special tree in town and then swallow the pit of that fruit would become king and Phil This strong but clumsy boy, gave it a shot, and most people would try to knock down the fruit by throwing rocks sir some sort of object at it and it wouldn't work. Cindy Oughta picked up man and threw him at the free it knocked down swallow the fruit huh and for good measure. He plucked the tree out of the ground. Replanted it in his mother's yard, so other people can still the fruit wow, that's hard story to be valid. In king yeah, I mean I would make him king yeah, it's worth it. so the empire of Mali thrived because of its placement near the Niger River. This kingdom had a lock on all the goal that traveled north, but it wasn't just gold. There was also trade in copper slaves and saw
so imagine mostly gold and flares coming from the south and salt coming from the desert, and all of it going through this kingdom, where they can tax the merchants heavily and make a big profit. But we should think of it as to cohesive an empire because it had really distinct regions where different people. They spoke different languages. It it's not an empire, how you might think of an empire today in according to Timbuctoo the Sahara's fabled city of gold, which was a book. I reference for this episode after Cindy out his death there, There is kind of turmoil. There is a series of emperors one was fame and murdered by his courtiers. That's never good. Now in power is kind of juggled around. Until somehow it falls on this man of the servant class names. The Koran and power change hands a few times again after him and settled on a booby cure. The second be immediate predators,
Sir Launcelot, yeah and months. We will be talking about him more at length later, but he proved to be of very able administrator. He expanded the territorial lot its reputation, but he wasn't a shoe and for becoming king. In the least, the timing of his attention is kind of a fluke, as he later told the Son of the Sultan and Cairo. The only reason he earned his throne was because Alba cure refuse to believe that the ocean was infinite. So basically,
the sky was obsessed with what was across the Atlantic stare out at the ocean, just dying that there might be lands over there that he is not the emperor of right, so he finally launched an expedition of four hundred ships into this unknown Atlantic Ocean and only one came back, but the men spoke of a river on the ocean. To that must have been enough for him. He was intrigue of the river being an ocean which I I don't know if that's like a current or something. Perhaps he was interested and though he ordered two thousand new shop. A thousand. With man, a thousand with supplies, and this time he led the fleet out until a month.
You're in charge. Until I come back, unsurprising famous last words yeah, he never came back and if you want to compare this to some other transatlantic travel, this is one thousand three hundred and ten or one thousand three hundred and twelve. So it's kind of fascinating to imagine what if he did make it, I think you have a comic book or something has to be utterly. Fortunately, for on some issues that he's a lot more content with what he has and expanding the territory and land not selling off into the great unknown ocean. Yes, so his empire became one of the world's largest at the time. A lot of people said it supposedly took a year to travel
one end to the other, but that was probably a bit of an exaggeration, actually fourteenth century traveller Ibn, but to two said that it took him about four months to travel from northern Molly to nanny in the south. So still a very sizeable empire in the seventeen per year of his reign month. Moves the embarked on the most famous journey of his lifetime way is the reason why we are talking about today and the pod cast, probably that's pilgrimage to MECCA, and basically this pilgrimage, let the whole world knew how wealthy his kingdom was and what was beyond the desert and he travelled from have capital me Ani to Allah. Two too ought to Cairo and from there he went on to MECCA and he had a caravan of sixty thousand men, twelve thousand slaves dressed in brocade and the finest persian silk
one wife, he brought his senior wife with them her retinue of five hundred slaves, and then he himself rode on horseback with five hundred gold staff slave. That we mentioned in the beginning, riding in front of him and his entourage is baggage was carried by eighty camels. They each carried three hundred pounds of gold, so we just imagine thing like this passing through your tiny little desert town and that's a lot of baggage we'd be unbelievable, especially concerning elaborate one wife yeah. along his way he gave generously and he spent lavishly and his party was noted for their good behaviour and he was noted for his own pious in Cairo. It took a major convincing to make maximum use of pay. A formal visit to the mom Look Sultan, since he didn't wish to break away from his religious observances. Yeah basically took some one thing: you really have to
can meet with the salt and are you going to be in trouble and, according to the chronicler all amari, he said I came for the pilgrimage and nothing else. I do not wish to mix anything else with my pilgrimage, but probably the most amazing detail of this pilgrimage. Is that, twelve years later, all Murray found people still talking about the visit in Cairo and apparently Elvis is kind of a disputed fact. Apparently, he flooded the Cairo market with so much goal, just giving to every official all he could find and spending buying everything he could find. He infuse so much gold into the market that it basically crashed and remain deflated for years and twelve years later, that's unbelievable yeah, that's a long time.
This episode of stuff, you missed in history classes, brought to you by W W previously wait. Watchers did you know that most people have already given up on their resolutions, thirteen days and the new year, I'm really proud to say something does not have to be you either first Joint W W, because I really wanted a plan that was going to encourage me to make healthier eating choices and W W Formerly watchers has really done that great thing about the new. My deputy we programme is that it really encourage you to stick with it. It is their most groundbreaking and customize proven weight loss plan. When you join the my deputy programme, you'll take an assessment about you're eating habits in your behaviors and that will scientifically match you up to a customize weight loss plan, one that can make it here for you to stick to your head on over to debbie dot com. That's w w dot com to joint Debbie Debbie today, with a limited time offer thought the pilgrimage with all its,
in all of these play them camels and other people attending the pilgrimage with him. That's really impressive in itself, The truly amazing thing is the impression it leaves on all of the people who see him and how quickly the word spreads, not just through Africa and through the Middle EAST, but all the way and Southern Europe yet been he's not just spreading the word about himself in his wealth, but he spent or spreading the word about his home to other west african rulers had made pilgrimages before, but Manson uses really advertised Molly muslim kingdoms in North Africa, European Kingdom I wanted to see the place, though this wealth was coming from the area that that it originated yon, venetian and generalized trading firms that were based in Alexandria. Of course, heard about this great king, that was ever in Cairo and they started to spread the word around Southern Europe and by thirteen seventy five, which is
it's a long time later, but this is still of note: monster, move, made it onto Charles, the fifth of France's newly commissioned ATLAS, and if you look up month, I'm the the picture you got of him is gonna, be from this atlas. He's drawn, holding a ball of gold is wearing a crown and there's the caption. So abundant is the gold which is found in his country that he is the richest and most noble king and all the land and three cities in his empire listed on this atlas so clearly He's made a big big impression on people very far away from him get a big name for his homeland. Even though is the high roller. His riches aren't inexhaustible, though and for certain passionately, it would be a better story if they were, it would be. He over spends himself as you so often do in your travelling. You overspend yourself and then you have to get home and sono raise the money quickly, and so, during the trip,
home. He had to borrow at really high rates due to all that spending in Cairo in MECCA. Fortunately, though, while he was on his pilgrimage one of his generals like Monday at had expanded his empire's territory. So we had a lot of new perspectives. Sources of income, since he just incorporated to very wealthy, very prominent city states, Gallon Timbuktu, so yeah, it's it's looking like all the borrowing isn't going to be too bad. I think we're all looking up so on the way home, Mansa Musa stops by Cairo, not just to borrow money, but also to collect artisans, Mason's, ironworkers and an architect Abu shock, ESA Healy, I'll twanging, I'll Granada before swinging through his newly claimed city states and taking a couple of princes as hostages. This city states needed or about who is both. So
in exchange for these really extravagant payment, like hundreds of pounds of gold and slaves and food and river land, the architect, with the very long name, builds alive, great monuments to Monson LISA. He built a palace and a mosque in gaol and a now lost palace and Timbuctoo in one of one in neoteny and most famously he builds a great mosque in Timbuktu. In again, if you, Google, Timbuctoo This is probably the moss you're going to see it's the most famous landmark I'd say at the city, and it looks a lot like it did in one thousand three hundred and thirty, it's a UNESCO site. It's very and by the desert, and just being neglected in terms of upkeep. But it's a pretty impressive structure and the rich building projects that month a move that essentially kicks off started trend because all the wealthy merchants in terms
to want to sort of look like what the king is, do yeah, they start bringing in their own egyptian workers and making their own elaborate homes than we have killed. The masons WAR in iron workers formed and timber. To becomes this really cosmopolitan city in their people from all these different cultures in the fourteenth century, there are as many as one hundred fifteen thousand people, which maybe he doesn't sound lake whole lot nowadays. But let's compare that to London's population at the same time, which was only twenty thousand so pretty close to passing it's a it's a huge city with a lot going on and Timbuktu kept this sort of position as a cosmopolitan city. Even after me, Musa died in one thousand three hundred and thirty, two and gradually the states of the empire of Mali began to break off. After that, but Timbuktu you went on to become a major cultural and religious center of the world
and in a way ahead. Then it had been a pretty major trading city before among them is the took it under. Wing long long ago it had been this little crossroads town and I love the story of its naming. It was the place where a two hour, egg woman named buck, chew, ran stop on the edge of the desert near and Niger. Reroute, tributary and Timbuctoo means well of buck too so very go. We have a whole, but you know it: it had developed a lot. Since then, but it was undermine some who thought that it started to eat a. Could the great libraries develop the school developed, and it became the meeting place for some of the best poets and scholars and artists in Africa and the Middle EAST, and I just like to give a little run down of some of the stuff that people were working on at this time, just cause it. It seems
so much earlier than that you haven't, you would think in the fifteenth century, mathematicians and timber You knew about the rotation of the planet and the details of the eclipse, which were things Galileo in Copernicus calculated alot later, and we ve talked about both of them in recent episodes, though it's interesting to get a little pre, Galileo Copernicus background on astronomy here yeah. Definitely they also kind of tool ran a bit with some ideas from India
including creating Arabic, numerals yeah in their physicians, wrote about medicinal plants, nutrition and performed early operations on the human eye, which sounds of uncomfortable, but I guess you gotta start somewhere and emphasis debated, polygamy and tobacco, so the mean just a very small life of all of the ideas that were floating around in Timbuktu and, of course, a lot of ideas on Islam too. It became a great centre of Islamic Study, So finally, in the city did reach a decline at some point, even though it was long after the empire of Molly fell in that came when a moroccan sultan invaded and killed the scholars, and that ended the educational reputation of Timbuktu somewhere in its commercial success, ended not too long after that when the ocean trade routes opened up and nobody had any reason to go on
it attempts to anymore, but luckily none of it did not go away. Now there are many thousands of books that we're stashed away and they were hidden in caves and storage rooms or buried and trunks, and in that way there are sort of protection from invaders, if not from the elements necessary. and today, there is a major effort to save these ancient books, with many of which were handwritten and classic Arabic on Linen base, paper, inks and dies that were from desert plants and they had covers, were the skins of goats and sheep yeah and enough go. I've been working on protecting a lot of these tax alma sense, Molly's independence from the nineteen sixties and there are numerous libraries that have been established in Timbuktu support, by not only enough go by the Board Foundation or the professor Henry Louis Gates, Junior, who has promoted the libraries and the tax of Timbuktu Alot pillar.
Focusing on for one thing, finding them rounding them up, getting them out array the trunks, their varied in the desert and getting the dust off of them, but also digitizing the library so that they can be used around the world. You don't have to go to Timbuktu. To look at this important manuscript at and I think you'd mentioned that some of them are pretty bad shape. Yeah a lot of them are rotten at this point is obviously a dry climate, but dryness isn't always
four box and there the rainy season. So you end up with insects and mould and mildew. So a lot of em. It's amazing that there they ve survived this long according to town tomorrow is a historian at the National Centre for scientific research in Paris. What's in the books is likely going to shock the world if its ever all compiled till to Morrow is quoted as saying these discoveries are going to revolutionize. What one thinks about West Africa, though, is really a rush to to get this onto computers or at least preserved before they disintegrate yet saunter really challenging effort.
I got one this episode of stuff you missed in history class is brought to you by Norton, three hundred and sixty with Lifelock. Let's just say, you're shopping online with your smartphone. I do it all the time that sure feels like your personal info is right there in your hand, but that's not always the case, as soon as you hit submit, your personal information could start going other places. In fact, when you shot bank or browse online. Your personal info can get out of your control, which can leave you vulnerable to cybercriminals. More threats demand more protection. That's why Norton and Lifelong are now part of one company Norton three Stay with lifelong is an all in one membership for your cyber safety that gives you device security, identity theft, protection and of e p m for online privacy. No one can prevent all cyber crime and identity theft, but three sixty with life. Lock is your ally in today's connected world, because your info is out there sign up for Norton three sixty with lifelike today and say.
twenty five percent or more of your first year, go to Norton dot com, slash history, that's Norton, DOT, com, slash history for twenty five percent off. If you want to learn a little bit more about the preservation effort in Timbuktu, there's a really good Smithsonian article by Joshua Hammer just on how these libraries were forms and what people are doing to try to save all these old manuscripts, Yeah then it would be good for them to do that too, because it's not that easy to visit Timbuktu anymore. As I know, it's not. The Euro State Department cautions against all travel in northern Molly, including Timbuktu, because of threats from the terrorist group. A cue. I am an torrid unrest in banditry, so
Yeah, unfortunately, going from here to Timbuktu, really isn't like an impossibility now, unless you're seriously willing to risk some major personal danger in this unfortunate. If it seems like there's so much there still and, of course, the city is also being threatened by the desert itself. There. I think they're trying to keep it at bay and protect the mosques in the monument from just being swallowed up. Either they end again. So that's about all you have to say about timber to and mournful moves so today, but it was really interesting to learn about this king who and I never really heard about it before he's been suggested few times. But it is interesting to learn about how a whole continent is partly opened out to another part of the world and about Timbuctoo, which I think has almost taken on kind of a mythical persona yeah timber to use ailing
talking you wanna, say like something as the farthest place here and imagine it's just a catchphrase. I think play a lot of people. Don't even realize it city, let alone that that catchphrase would have been so wrong for most of its trade, like the centre of thing Thank you so much for joining us for this Saturday classic, since this is out of the archive you heard an email address or a facebook, U R, L or something similar during the course of the show that may be obsolete now. So here is our current contact information we're at history podcast at Helstone start com and then we're at missed in history all over social media. That is our name on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, pinterest and Instagram. Thanks again for listening
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