"RELATIONS BETWEEN THE MAGHREB AND THE BILĀD AL-SŪDĀN AT THE TIME OF THE BERBER EMPIRES"
Mehdi Ghouirgate, Bordeaux-Montaigne University
Part of the Silsila Fall 2020 Lecture Series, Islam in Africa: Material Histories
For a Maghrebi author as well informed as Ibn al-Ġāzī al-Miknāsī (d. 1504) the Almoravid and Almohad period (11th – 13th cent. CE) is characterized above all by the transformations induced by the massive arrival of black slaves. Indeed, the intensification of relations between the Maghreb and West Africa (Bilād al-Sūdān) led to deep transformations on both sides of the Sahara. Unfortunately, historians since the 19th century have paid very little attention to tranSaharan links. We can see that it is rather the links between al-Andalus and the Maghreb that interested historians. This is regrettable insofar as people originating from Bilad as-Sūdān played an essential role in the Maghreb. We find them, in fact, present both in the messianic movements and in the rise of Sufism in the Maghreb. It is clear, for example, that the founder of the Almohad movement, Ibn Tūmart (d. 1130 CE), was of African descent on his mother’s side. It was the same with almost half of his companions. One sign of the numerical importance of settlement from the Bilād as-Sūdān is the fact that we find those from West Africa present at all levels in the Maghreb, from the entourage close to the Caliph to the rural and Berber world. This is the result of the diplomatic and economic ties forged between the two great powers which governed the Maghreb from Marrakech, and the Bilād as-Sūdān from Awdaġust. It should be noted that if gold and the slave trade motivated these exchanges, the fact remains that both societies, that of Bilād as-Sūdān and the Maghreb, were profoundly and durably transformed by them in ways that the lecture will analyze.
Mehdi Ghouirgate is Associate Professor of Muslim Civilization and Dean of the Department of Arabic Studies at Bordeaux-Montaigne University since 2014. After defending his thesis in October 2011, he joined the IGAMWI (Imperial Government and Authority in Medieval Western Islam) research team which aims to establish and translate sources relating to the history of Western Islam. He is the author of three books published in French : L’Ordre almohade : une nouvelle lecture anthropologique (1120-1269); (With Dr. Buresi) Histoire du Maghreb medieval; (With Dr. Buresi) Histoire des pays d’Islam (XVe–XXIe siècles). He also published in various Journals (Arabica, Annales, REMM, etc.). He also contributes to the Encyclopedia of Islam and the Encyclopédie berbère. In 2020 he submitted his habilitation (HDR) to the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris, with the title "Les Almohades après 1269 : construction et deconstruction d'un objet historiographique".