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Elizabeth Heath

Ahmad Baba was one of the best-known Islamic scholars and writers of his time. Born into the prestigious Aqit family near Tombouctou (Timbuktu) in 1556, he was educated in Islamic theology and law. After completing his studies, he began writing books and treatises on theology, Islamic jurisprudence, history, and Arabic grammar. Over the course of his life he wrote more than fifty-six works. More than half of these are still in existence, and several are still used by West African ulama (scholars). Ahmad Baba also was a great collector of books; he amassed a library containing thousands of volumes. At this time, Tombouctou, ruled by the Songhai empire, was renowned throughout the Islamic world as a center of learning.

In 1591 the sultan of Morocco invaded Tombouctou. Ahmad Baba and other scholars refused to serve the Moroccan rulers and, by some accounts, instigated a 1593 rebellion against ...

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Trevor Hall

was born Thommaso Parentucelli in the Ligurian region of Italy, around Genoa in 1397. The son of an unknown physician, he received a classical education at the University of Bologna. He was a learned man who read the thousands of books in his extensive private libraries.

Although he was not a member of the Italian aristocracy, he used his intellect and diplomatic skills to navigate through the complex maze of Vatican politics, which culminated with his papacy in 1447. His reason for renown in the history of transatlantic slavery is that in 1455 he issued the papal bull Romanus pontifex giving Portugal the right to reduce West Africans to a status of perpetual slavery.

Pope Nicholas V came from a humble background and after his father died he left university to support himself He worked as a tutor for rich Italian families who brought teachers and professors into ...