Tuesday 22 August 2023


Did you know that in the 14th century, the city of Timbuktu was 5 times larger than London? And even that it was then the richest city in the world? Nearly 200 years before Columbus, Malian sailors land in America.

The Malian city of Timbuktu had a population of 115,000 people in the 14th century;  five times more populated than medieval London.

National Geographic recently described Timbuktu as the “Paris” of the medieval world, due to its intellectual culture.  According to Professor Henry Louis Gates, 25,000 scholars studied there.

 "Many old families in West Africa have private library collections that date back hundreds of years. The Mauritanian towns of Chinguetti and Oudane have a total of 3,450 hand-written medieval books.

There are believed to be 6,000  other books in the city of Oualata Some date back to the 8th century AD There are just over 11,000 books in private collections in Niger.

 Finally, in Timbuktu, Mali, there are approximately 700,000 surviving books.  They are written in Mande, Suqi, Peul, Sudani.  The contents of the manuscripts relate to mathematics, medicine, poetry, law and astronomy.

This work represents the very first encyclopedia, in the 14th century, long before the Europeans had the idea of ​​it later, in the 18th century…

A collection of one thousand six hundred books was considered a small library for a West African scholar in the 16th century.  Professor Ahmed Baba from Timbuktu claimed to have the smallest library of all his friends - he only had 1,600 volumes.

Regarding these old manuscripts, Michael Palin, in his television series "Around the Sahara", said that the imam of Timbuktu "has a collection of scientific texts which clearly show the planets orbiting the sun".

They date back hundreds of years. Palpable proof that the scholars of Timbuktu knew much more than their European counterparts.

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