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All About the Morocco-Songhai Conflict for AP World History

Cate O'Donnell

3 min read

Jan 1

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The Morocco-Songhai conflict is an illustrative example in the Expanding Empires topic of both Unit 3 and Unit 4 of AP World History. Read more about the Morocco-Songhai conflict below!



map showing Portugal, England, Morocco, the Songhai Empire, and the Ottoman Empire


There is a long story leading up to the Morocco-Songhai conflict. It starts with Portugal wanting to increase its influence in North Africa to combat the power of the Ottoman Empire. Portugal invaded Morocco and the two countries fought at the Battle of Alcácer Quibir in 1578. Led by Sultan Abd al-Malik, Moroccan forces engaged the Portuguese army commanded by King Sebastian I near the town of Alcácer Quibir. In a fierce encounter, the Moroccan forces won, resulting in the death of King Sebastian I and altering the course of both nations’ histories. The consequences of this battle extended beyond the military sphere; it contributed to internal strife and a leadership vacuum in Portugal, leading to the Portuguese Succession Crisis and Spain taking over Portugal in the Iberian Union for the next 60 years. Meanwhile, Morocco maintained its independence, but at a high cost. They needed a new source of income, so they looked south to the Songhai Empire.


In the late 16th century, the Songhai Empire stood as a formidable power in West Africa, embodying the region’s rich cultural, economic, and intellectual heritage. The Songhai Empire boasted a complex and organized political structure, with key cities such as Gao, Timbuktu, and Djenne serving as vibrant centers of trade, learning, and governance. The empire’s wealth was derived from control over critical trans-Saharan trade routes, facilitating the exchange of gold, salt, ivory, and other commodities. However, internal challenges, including political rivalries and dissent, weakened the once-unified Songhai state. It was against this backdrop of internal strife and external ambitions that Morocco, under Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur, saw an opportunity to extend its influence southward and control the lucrative trade routes.


Morocco crossed the Sahara Desert with 4,000 troops and significant gunpowder weapons, including eight English cannons and a gun called an arquebus for each soldier. The Songhai Empire met the invaders with 40,000 troops, but they did not have gunpowder weapons. Morocco decimated the Songhai army at the Battle of Tondibi in 1591. It was the end of the Songhai Empire.


While the Moroccan invasion facilitated Morocco’s control over key trade routes and territories, the vastness of the acquired lands posed governance challenges. The occupation of Songhai territories by Morocco also triggered a series of consequences. Local resistance and uprisings emerged as Songhai nobles and communities resisted foreign rule. Additionally, the disruption caused by the invasion had significant economic implications, particularly on trans-Saharan trade routes. The decline of Timbuktu as a major trading and intellectual center reflected the broader shifts in the regional balance of power.

As the trans-Saharan trade routes declined, North African coastal ports, such as those in Morocco and Algeria, as well as Mediterranean ports like Algiers and Tunis, gained importance. These coastal areas became important nodes for trans-Saharan trade, linking North Africa with Europe and the broader Mediterranean world. European powers, including the Portuguese and later the French and British, played an increasing role in these maritime trade networks.


While Morocco couldn’t govern the vast lands of the Songhai Empire across the Sahara Desert, they benefited from the increased maritime trade along the coast. Morocco continued to be an important cultural and economic power between Europe and Africa.



Printable Reading Passage on the Morocco-Songhai Conflict


Morocco-Songhai Conflict Free Reading Passage


Would you rather watch a video about the Morocco-Songhai conflict?





Empires Expand

Maritime Empires Maintained and Developed

Unit 3: Land-Based Empires

Unit 4: Transoceanic Interconnections

AP World History



Morocco-Songhai Conflict

#Morocco #APWorldHistory #MoroccoSonghaiConflict #Africa #Portugal

Cate O'Donnell

3 min read

Jan 1

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0

0

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