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Agonglo  

Robin Law

king of Dahomey (in modern Benin), was the son of Kpengla, his predecessor as king of Dahomey (r. 1774–1789). His official “Queen Mother” (kpojito), appointed as such after his accession to the throne, was a woman called Senume, but it is not clear whether she was also his biological mother. Contemporary European sources give his name as Wheenoohew, but this is not recognized in Dahoman tradition. He was also alternatively called Adarunza, but this seems to be a generic surname which (also in other variants, such as Adahoonzou) was applied by Europeans to all kings of the dynasty (Agonglo being counted as Adarunza VIII).

Agonglo s accession to the throne was contested with two other princes presenting themselves as candidates and his political position at the beginning of his reign appears to have been insecure requiring him to conciliate his senior officials and the populace more generally ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

king of the Merina state of central Madagascar and a pivotal figure in its eighteenth-century expansion, was born around 1745 in the northern Malagasy town of Ikaloy. His father, Andriamiaramanjaka, was a member of the Zafimamy royal family of the northern independent kingdom of Alahamadintany. His mother, Ranavalonandriambelomasina, was the daughter of Merina monarch Andriambelomasina, who ruled Merina from roughly 1730 to 1770. He also was the nephew of Andriambelomasina’s successor, Andrianjafy, who was the king of Merina from 1770 to 1787.

He stayed with his father in Ikaloy until he was roughly twelve when he moved to the Merina court As a young man Andrianampoinimerina became a wealthy merchant and probably engaged in slave trading At the same time he presented himself as a defender of ordinary commoners fearful of slave raiding threats from neighbors like the Sakalava kingdom and unjust officials Supposedly Andriambelomasina had stipulated that ...

Article

Ari Nave

Oral traditions recorded by Jesuit missionaries in the late eighteenth century suggest that Andriambélomàsina, ruler of the Imerina (the territory of the Merina ethnic group) from 1730 to 1770 , directed that his eldest son Andrianjàfy succeed him, followed by his grandson Ramboàsalàma, son of his eldest daughter. Andrianjàfy, however, intended for his own son to take his place and plotted to kill Ramboàsalàma, who, fearing for his life, fled to the north. Supported by a dozen Merina chiefs, Ramboàsalàma returned in 1787, overtaking the city of Ambohimànga and exiling his uncle, who was later killed.

Ramboàsalàma was crowned Andrianampoinimerina, “the prince in the heart of Imerina.” After consolidating power through treaties and marriage alliances and establishing a capital at Antananarivo in about 1795 Andrianampoinimerina also known as Nampoina began to expand the Merina Empire Eventually he controlled much of the island conquering and consolidating the Betsileo Sihanaka ...

Article

Dingane  

Together with other members of his family, Dingane took part in the assassination of the increasingly despotic Zulu chief Shaka on September 24 1828. Dingane subsequently murdered his co-conspirators and became king of Zululand.

As king, Dingane tried to end the ten years of continual war, but to keep the kingdom from splintering he was forced to continue Shaka’s repressive policies. In 1837 Dingane was asked for a grant of land by Pieter Retief, one of the leaders of the migration of Boers known as the Great Trek (1835–1843). Fearful of the encroaching Boers, Dingane hedged and asked Retief to show good faith by capturing some cattle which had been stolen by a Tlokwa chief. Retief retrieved the cattle and returned them to Dingane in February 1838 By then the Boer pioneers were already coming over the Drakensburg Mountains with their wagons and cattle and news ...

Article

Michael R. Mahoney

king of the Mthethwa people in southeastern Africa and patron of Shaka Zulu before the latter’s elevation to the Zulu kingship, was born uNgodongwana (the correct Zulu spelling of his name, which is more commonly but inaccurately rendered as “Godongwana”), the son of the Mthethwa king Jobe. As a young man, uNgodongwana got involved in a dispute over Jobe’s succession with his brother Mawewe, whom Jobe had named as heir to the kingship. In the course of the conflict, another brother, Tana, was killed, and uNgodongwana became a fugitive, eventually taking up the name Dingiswayo, which means “he who is banished” in Zulu.

Dingiswayo s life as a fugitive is shrouded in myth most of it concocted by early white settlers in the region Most notably Dingiswayo is supposed to have encountered a white explorer named Dr Cowan and possibly even traveled as far as to the Cape Colony There ...

Article

Kpengla  

Jeremy Rich

king of Dahomey, was born sometime in the middle of the eighteenth century. European diplomatic and travel accounts contend Kpengla was a son of his predecessor as king of Tegbesu, while some oral traditions from Benin declare that he was a younger brother of Tegbesu. He engaged in a short battle for the throne after the elderly Tegbesu died in 1774.

Kpengla was popular with European slave traders stationed in the southern Beninese port city of Ouidah a vassal of Dahomey because the new king promised to restore the kingdom s economic and political might that had suffered some setbacks in the last years of Tegbesu s reign In particular he wished to ensure that only prisoners of war were sold for export and that Dahomey finally would break free of its subordination to its rival kingdom of Oyo to the east Kpengla made overtures to Dahomey s western ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

king of the Asante kingdom (in present-day Ghana), was born sometime between 1762 and 1765. His mother was most likely a woman named Akyaama, although later official royal histories claimed Kwame’s future opponent Konadu Yaadom was his parent. His father was the powerful Safo Katanka, the king of Mampon, one of the founding states of the Asante union. As the closest Asante state to the Muslim north, Mampon was an entry point for Islamic influences into Asante. Kwame was only about twelve years old in 1777 when he was placed on the throne of Asante with his father s soldiers to protect him Osei Kwadwo the previous king died and left no adult heir He had proclaimed the very young Opoku Kwame as his heir but the royal councillors and family members chose not to follow Kwadwo s wishes The influential official Atakora Kwame led an army to ...

Article

Born in Menkwaneng the son of a Sotho leader Moshoeshoe began to gather together refugees from the upheaval in southeastern Africa known as the Mfecane in the early 1820s Retiring to an impregnable mountaintop known as Thaba Bosiu Sotho for Mountain of the Night he fought off several attacks but more often used his formidable diplomatic skills to defend his growing number of Basotho people In the early 1830s French missionaries arrived in the region While continuing to support the traditional customs and religion of the Sotho Moshoeshoe welcomed the missionaries and sought their advice in dealing with the British and the Afrikaner groups or Boers who were seeking to colonize southern Africa Fearing Afrikaner settlement on his lands he asked for British protection but an alliance with the government of the Cape Colony was not enough to prevent armed incursions by settlers into Basotho territory Fighting between the Basotho ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

king of the sultanate of Wadai (located in present-day eastern Chad), was born in the late eighteenth century. He was the brother of Sabun, the extremely successful sultan of Wadai between 1804 and 1815 who greatly expanded his monarchy’s commercial ties with the North African bey of Tripoli. Some ascribed Sabun’s death in 1815 to poison, and his demise brought on two decades of infighting between various court factions. ʿAbd al-Aziz, a sultan who managed to hold power for several years in Wadai, died around 1836 He left behind his infant son Adam as his heir Muhammad Sharif himself actually lived in the Darfur kingdom east of Wadai He seems to have married a Fulani woman from Darfur which may have led him to leave Wadai The reigning sultan of Darfur Muhammad al Fadl decided to launch an invasion to install either Muhammad Sharif or Adam as the new ...

Article

Walima T. Kalusa

the ninth or tenth Litunga (king) of the Lozi people of precolonial Zambia, was born around the 1750s. Little is known about Mulambwa’s parents and early life, but he most likely ascended to the Litungaship in the 1780s. He ruled the Lozi kingdom for the next fifty years, up to the early 1830s, when the Bulozi flood plain was invaded by the Kololo under Sebitwane from South Africa. Memorialized in local oral tradition as the greatest Lozi sovereign, he is said to have completed the conquest of the plain with its surrounding areas, bringing the Totela, the Subiya, the Kwangwa, and several other ethnic groups under his political hegemony. He also raided the Ila, the Tonga, and the Toka-Leya of what is now southern Zambia for cattle and slaves.

During his early reign Mulambwa faced rising opposition to his authority from other Lozi royals and bureaucrats determined to ...

Article

Orombo  

J. C. Winter

Mangi (king) of Keny in the southern Rombo region of Kilimanjaro (in present-day Tanzania) from c. 1800 to 1837, also known as Horombo and Rombo, was famous for having initiated a socio-military revolution and religious reformation in Chagga that brought it in line with the western world at the time, thereby ending Mamba’s rule over eastern Chagga. He unified by conquest all of eastern Chagga under his rule, then met with Mangi Rengua of Machame at the Nanga River between Mochi (Old Moshi) and Kiruwa in 1823, and they agreed that each should rule unmolested over his own half of Chagga.

When Orombo became the Mangi of Keny his realm was tiny and insignificant as for the past one hundred years Mamba succeeding Ugweno had dominated eastern Chagga Each mangidom consisted of localized patrilineal clans having noble warrior and cattle keeping lineages whose male and female youths passed ...

Article

Ari Nave

The son of Andrianampoinimerina, Radama I distinguished himself at a young age, leading two military operations against the Betsileo and the Boina when he was only fifteen years old. Upon his father’s death in 1810, Radama took the reins of power and continued the campaign to extend the Merina Empire over all of Madagascar, conquering the Toamansing in 1817. Mistakenly predicting that the seventeen-year-old king would be unable to retain control of his father’s extended domain, the Bezanozano and Betsileo peoples rebelled. But with a clear military superiority over all other Malagasy kingdoms, Radama’s army quickly quelled the uprisings.

Shortly after England took control of Mauritius in 1810 the newly assigned governor Robert Townsend Farquhar established diplomatic relations with Radama The English crown sought to eliminate the slave trade in Mauritius for which Madagascar was the primary supplier as well as to limit French influence in the ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

king of the Chadian sultanate of Wadai, was born in the late eighteenth century. His father, Salih Derret, had briefly reigned over the kingdom from 1798 until his death in 1804. Whereas Salih Derret had a bad reputation among Muslim scholars for leaving the bulk of daily governance to his free and slave court officials, Sabun proved to be a far more dynamic and ambitious authority. He launched a successful revolution against his father with the approval of many members of the army and Muslim scholars. Soon after his coronation in the middle of 1804 he launched a reform program that placed a great deal of power into his own hands Rather than allow some officials to judge legal cases Sabun himself supervised trials every Friday when he was not away leading military campaigns against rival states He also created a group of inspectors that reviewed the activities ...

Article

John Wright

first king of the Zulu in present day South Africa was the son of Senzangakhona kaJama d mid 1810s ruler of the Zulu chiefdom and of Nandi d 1827 daughter of Mbhengi ruler of the eLangeni chiefdom It is not clear whether he was born in his father s or his mother s chiefdom both were situated south of the middle White Mfolozi River in what is now the KwaZulu Natal Province of South Africa Shaka is one of the most famous figures in African history and one of the most mythologized Much of what has been written and told about him has little if any basis in historical evidence Usually he is presented either as a bloodthirsty tyrant or as a heroic warrior leader Only in the last twenty years drawing on newly published oral histories have historians been able to move much beyond colonial era stereotypes of this ...

Article

Betty Sibongile Dlamini

king of the Swazi and founder of modern Swaziland, was born with the name Somhlolo to King Ndvungunye and Somnjalose Simelane, the younger sister of King Ndvungunye’s principal wife and Inkhosikati (Queen) Lojiba. King Ndvungunye was the son of the Dlamini chief Ngwane III, who according to oral tradition had founded the Swazi kingdom around 1750 at Lobamba. Queen Lojiba, who had no male children, adopted Somhlolo. When King Ndvungunye died about 1815, Somhlolo became king and his royal name became Sobhuza I. He started ruling circa 1818 at the royal residence in Shiselweni At that time the king of the Ndwandwe people Zwide was increasing his military power in the region and he came into conflict with Sobhuza over the fertile maize lands in Pongolo Sobhuza wisely avoided a direct challenge to Zwide and led his people to the interior of what is present day Swaziland Sobhuza ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Umar Tal’s religious movement popularized the Tijaniya Sufi order and influenced religious reformers throughout nineteenth-century West Africa. He was born in Halwar, in what is now Senegal. The son of a prominent Tukulor cleric, Umar was influenced by the teachings of the Tijaniya brotherhood at an early age. In 1826 he made a pilgrimage to Mecca and on his return home visited several West African Islamic states, including the Sokoto Caliphate in northern Nigeria, then ruled by Muhammad Bello. He moved to the Fouta Djallon region after Bello’s death in 1837.

For the next decade Umar divided his time between religious and commercial pursuits Having already accumulated considerable wealth abroad he acquired firearms by selling non Muslim captives to the French He also gained renown as a religious scholar Umar s greater ambition however was to convert the non Muslim Bambara and Mandinka and to unite the peoples ...

Article

Edmund Abaka

Fulani Muslim scholar, led an important intellectual reform movement that culminated in the creation of the Sokoto Caliphate (present-day northern Nigeria), one of the largest states in Africa in the early eighteenth century. Born in Gobir in 1754, Uthman Dan Fodio channeled the political, social, and economic grievances of the Fulani into a movement for reform that dismantled the traditional power structure of the Hausa and led to the emergence of a new political and religious elite, the Fulani, in the Sokoto Caliphate. He was a chain in a link of reformist leaders in the Western Sudan who had stressed a return to orthodox Islam, in contradistinction to what was perceived as a “syncretic” form of Islam that tolerated certain African religious elements.

As a young man Uthman Dan Fodio studied under many learned Muslim men in Hausaland and Agades He was most of all influenced by Jibril ibn Umar ...