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The Songhai (sometimes spelled Songhay) Empire was located in western
Africa. The empire began developing in the city of Gao around 800 A.D. (9th
century); its major expansion began in the 1300s; and its peak occurred
during the 1400s through the mid 1500s. The Songhai Empire primarily
encompassed parts of the Ghanaian Empire, the Mali Empire, Niger and
As one of the greatest empires of West and Central Africa, the Songhai was
highly advanced in the fields of education, trade, commerce and law.
Scholars at the empires' chief university, Sankore University, were charged
with developing a system to educate all the citizens of the Songhai, which
included initiatives such as launching schools and learning centers in
The decline of the empire was due to multiple factors. Environmental changes
brought about droughts and diseases; a widening gap between the general
masses and the wealthy sparked a civil war in the late 1500s; and the
Moroccans engaged in successful invasions in their efforts to take over the
empire's corner of the market on the sub-Saharan gold trade.
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