Kanem-Bornu Empire

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.