The Ghana Empire in Africa (830-1235 CE)

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: The Mali Empire in Africa (13th-16th Centuries)

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Ghana Empire
  • 0:48 Iron Smelting
  • 1:25 Wealth & Trade
  • 2:16 Taxation & Decline
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson explores the Ghana Empire of West Africa. In doing so, it highlights the gold and salt trade of the region, which made the empire wealthy. It also discusses the importance of iron smelting and taxation.

Ghana Empire

Growing up in the West, my history classes were full of tales of Rome, Greece, and the mighty British Empire. However, we spent very little time discussing the rich histories of places like China or even Africa. Today's lesson is going to buck this trend a bit by exploring the Ghana Empire of Africa, a trading empire that ruled in West Africa from about 830 to 1235 CE.

When discussing the empire of the Ghanians, one thing we need to keep in mind is that much of what we know of them has come from legend or has been passed down orally. In other words, giving specific dates and lots of factual tidbits can be a bit difficult. For this reason, we're going to stick to the generally accepted things about their way of life and their rule.

Iron Smelting

For starters, legend holds that the Kingdom of Ghana was established sometime around the year 200 to 300 CE. However, it didn't really begin to take off until about the year 350 CE when the Ghanian people learned the art of iron smelting. For those of us unfamiliar with this term, iron smelting is the act of melting down raw ore in order to extract metal. Using smelting to make iron swords, Ghanian warriors were able to conquer the people around them and spread the boundaries of their rule to include much of the Western Sudan by about the year 830 CE.

Wealth & Trade

With this surge of power, the Ghana Empire took control of West Africans' major trade routes, which carried salt and gold throughout the region and even into Asia and Europe. Of course, this, along with their iron-wielding warriors, made the kingdom extremely powerful and wealthy. In fact, the name Ghana actually means both 'warrior king' and 'king of gold.'

Speaking of kings, the Ghanaian kings were very adept at using the trade routes to turn a profit. Tradition tells us that the Ghanian kings taxed all goods that entered Ghana. This made the king so wealthy that legend holds all the gold nuggets in the land belonged to him, while everyone else had to settle for trading gold dust. One tale even speaks of a Ghanian king using a huge piece of gold as a hitching post for his horses.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account