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8 - Who Was the Richest Man Ever to Live?

The Spread of Islam in Africa and the Crusades

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 August 2022

Johan Fourie
Affiliation:
University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
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Summary

Around 1300 CE, so the legend goes, the king of the Malian empire in West Africa hatched a plan. He believed that the earth was round and wanted to prove it, so he equipped 200 boats full of men and another 200 full of gold, water and victuals, and sent them west. After a long time only one boat returned, reporting that ‘we have navigated for a long time, until we saw in the midst of the ocean as if a big river was flowing violently’.1 Not happy with the answer of the only boat to escape the danger, the king doubled down, and equipped 2,000 boats for a second voyage. This time he travelled with them. Just before he left he put his deputy in charge. The king and his fleet never returned. In 1312 this deputy became the tenth ruler of the Mali empire. His name was Mansa Musa.

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Chapter
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Our Long Walk to Economic Freedom
Lessons from 100,000 Years of Human History
, pp. 43 - 47
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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