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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Military defense of the Sokoto Caliphate in the nineteenth century
Author:Marjomaa, RistoISNI
Periodical:Hemispheres: Studies on Cultures and Societies
Geographic terms:Nigeria
Northern Nigeria
Subjects:Sokoto polity
armed forces
Abstract:This article is mainly based on the author's 'War on the savannah: the military collapse of the Sokoto Caliphate under the invasion of the British Empire 1897-1903' (Helsinki, 1998). The Sokoto Caliphate was the largest independent State in Africa south of the Sahara in the nineteenth century. It was born under the leadership of the charismatic Uthman dan Fodio in the early decades and emerged as a result of reformist Islamic movements in the territory of Hausa kingdoms in present-day northern Nigeria. Encompassing regional uprisings, the Caliphate soon engulfed large areas of the Central Sudanic savannah and consisted eventually of twenty major emirates, which had their own independent armies. The article offers an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the defensive system and strategies of the Caliphate until its demise by the British. Special attention is given to the prestigious role of the Fulani nobility and their cavalry; the recruitment and maintenance of the armies; the nature and quality of firearms; the importance of slave raiding; and the use of fortified towns and garrisons. Caliphate warfare was characterized by constant but inconclusive fighting consisting of raids and counter-raids. The strategic concept of attrition combined with a static defence by fortifications secured the survival of the Sokoto Caliphate for a century. Bibliogr., notes, ref.