Overview of Ibn Battuta’s West African Work

Looking at Battuta’s work, even a small excerpt like the one found in the Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History, it is understandable why he is seen as such an important source for medieval Africa.  He goes into fairly extensive detail on several different cultures and towns and covers a wide range of topics, like slaves, weapons, currency, trade, etc.  If I had not ever thought that he might have plagiarized or otherwise falsified his records, his works would have been a veritable gold mine of information.  However, that is not the case.

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Concluding Thoughts on Sub-Saharan Sources

Since my previous post last week, I have completed the remaining texts for this particular section of my research.  In looking at these texts, very little information has come to light that explicitly names any sort of disease or epidemic, with the exception of Holt’s Sudan of the Three Niles.  The overall information that one can derive from these texts is that death was a common occurrence in sub-Saharan Africa, often as the result of conquerors killing dissidents or taking over towns.  These are known as a result of the various chroniclers who wished to show their readers – present or future – that those men who had the backing of God would triumph over those who had not accepted him or his laws.  As such, epidemics were unlikely to be recorded unless they had something to do with the faith of Islam, such as the death of a major religious figure.  Holt’s translation makes note of three diseases: the Yellow Wind, or “plague” as it was called in the time “of the Children of Israel,” the “Mother of Seven,” and small pox.  However, using this information is difficult.

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Week 1 – Initial Findings Seem Promising

From this point on, I am planning on updating every Thursday at the very least.  At this point in my research, I have looked into two sources from medieval Africa.  This portion of my research consists mainly of looking into primary sources from the medieval era and looking for any note of the plague or any kind of event that could reasonably be seen as such.  Sources like these tend to cover long periods of time without following any sort of chronology, so long swaths of time are condensed and only the highlights, so to speak, are left.

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Searching for the Plague in Sub-Saharan Africa

Hello, my name is Sam Mancuso and I am a history major at the College of William and Mary.   History is my passion and the potential to impact the field of African history is too tempting a prospect to pass up.  This summer I will work under the guidance of Professor Gerard Chouin and help set up a foundation of research for future inquiries into the Black Plague in sub-Saharan Africa.

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