Kanem-Bornu Empire

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Kanem-Bornu Empire


a medieval state in central Sudan.

The Kanem-Bornu Empire came into being in approximately the ninth century; its center was orginally located in the Kanem region northeast of Lake Chad. In the 11th century, Islam came into the area. The Kanem state was at its peak in the early 13th century, when it subdued a number of neighboring territories. In the 14th century, the center of the state was moved to Bornu, west of Lake Chad. Peasant communalists who paid rent to local feudal lords made up the bulk of the population. The use of slaves brought to the area was also a fairly widespread practice. The Bornu state maintained active trade links with North Africa and the cities and states of the Hausa peoples. The heyday of Bornu occurred during the government of the mai (emperor) Idris Alooma, who ruled from 1580 to 1617. In the early 20th century, the Kanem-Bornu territory was divided between Great Britain, Germany, and France; most of it was included in British possessions (in 1910 it became part of Nigeria’s Northern State).


Urvoy, J. Histoire de l’Empire du Bornou. Paris, 1949.
Cohen, R. “The Dynamics of Feudalism in Bornu.” Boston UniversityPapers on Africa, 1966, vol. 2.
References in periodicals archive ?
Historically, Kanem Borno was one of the great kingdoms of Central Sudan, otherwise known as Bilad al Sudan (the land of blacks) described by historians as the area stretching from Dafur in Sudan to the Lake Chad Region in the east, and the great bend of River Niger and the Western Coast of the Atlantic Ocean on the west.
The period between the 16th and 17th centuries was the glorious period of Kanem Borno when its identity as an Islamic state manifested in various regions in the Western Sudan, the Maghrib and the Nile valley.
The status of the Ulama in Kanem Borno was like in any other Islamic society where they were highly respected.