History ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-15-2021


Following the advent of the North African Almoravids into West Africa during the late eleventh century, the region experienced a prolonged period of political instability, resolved only after the legendary victory at the battle of Kirina in 1235 by Sundiata Keita (r. 1235-55), ruler of Mali. Despite this turmoil, West Africa—the premodern world’s major supplier of gold—is still largely imagined in historiography as producing and exporting gold into the global market during this time at or above pre-conquest levels. Concurrent to these developments, however, Western Europe experienced a prolonged gold famine. By utilizing world systems theory and synthesizing high medieval West African history alongside history of the Latin West, I argue that West African gold exports into Western Europe significantly declined during the eleventh, twelfth, and early thirteenth centuries. Applying actor-network theory, I further argue that the cashless systems of pay that developed in the Latin West as a consequence of the bullion shortage (and the theologies developed to rationalize them) thus had their ultimate origins in the West African historical events that prevented gold from being exported in a reliable manner. Indeed, it was only after the battle of Kirina and the development of political stability that the Empire of Mali brought to the region that gold reached the Latin West in great quantities, most notably evidenced in Genoa and Florence’s ability to begin minting gold currencies in 1252.

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Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Michael A. Ryan

Second Committee Member

Dr. Sarah Davis-Secord

Third Committee Member

Dr. Nahir Otano Gracia




Global Middle Ages, gold trade, West Africa, world systems, purgatory, Mansa Musa

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