The Journal of African History

Research Article

Archers, Musketeers, and Mosquitoes: The Moroccan Invasion of the Sudan and the Songhay Resistance (1591–1612)

Lansiné Kabaa1*

a1 University of Minnesota

This paper reinterprets the invasion of Songhay by the Sa'did Sultan Mulāy al-Mansūr's mercenaries led by the Pasha Judar. The battle of Tondibi in March 1591, and the subsequent defeat of the Askiya Isxs1E25āq II, marked a turning point in both Moroccan and West African history. The paper assumes a strong relation between the invasion, the Mediterranean problems and the commercial needs of the Sa'did. Al-Mansūr wanted to regain control of the gold trade to stimulate the economy of his kingdom. However, his expeditionary forces got bogged down in the fly-infested southern swamps because of an unexpected protracted war of resistance led by the Askiya Nūxs1E25u. Revolts in the cities and the countryside led to repression and the exile of a group of prominent ‘ulamā’ in 1594. The Moroccans also suffered from a lack of administrative coordination as demonstrated by the competition between the governor and the treasurer. All these problems culminated in a disaster. By 1612, unable to match the mobility of the resisters, the musketeers refused to do battle with the Songhay archers. Finally, the qā' id AH al-Talamsānī deposed the Pasha, and the Sultan began to lose control of his troops. As Songhay and Morocco experienced serious crises in the seventeenth century, Europe's domination of international trade became uncontested. The invasion swallowed up both the conqueror and the conquered.


* I wish to thank Professors Sékéné-Mody Cissoko of Dakar, Jean-Louis Triaud of Paris, Immanuel Wallerstein of SUNY at Binghamton, Tom Jones, Stuart Schwartz, Angus McDonald and John Modell of Minneapolis for their valuable comments and suggestions; and Jerome B. Weiner of Old Dominion University, Norfolk, for sharing his materials on Morocco with me.