Social Studies - 2018-19

USI.4c - West African Empires

The student will apply social science skills to understand European exploration in North America and West Africa by 

c) identifying the location and describing the characteristics of West African societies (Ghana, Mali, and Songhai) and their interactions with traders. 

Blooms Level: Remember

Adopted: 2015


Big Themes/Concepts: Interdependence, Exploration, Civilization, Scarcity, Trade, Competition, Culture, Diffusion

Our society today includes elements of Native American, European, and African cultures. 

European countries had many reasons to send explorers to new lands. 

Explorers changed Europeans’ views of the world. 

Trade, cultural exchanges, and conflict can result when explorers reach new lands. 

The Age of Exploration had positive and negative effects on Europeans and on native peoples. 

Exploration has had a profound effect on world history. 

Events in history can be looked at from multiple perspectives.


Ghana, Mali, and Songhai each dominated West Africa in sequence from 300 to 1600 a.d.

African people and African goods were among the world resources that drew European interest.

What was the importance of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai?

Where were the empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai located?

When did the empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai exist in Africa?

How did West African empires impact European trade?


Ghana, Mali, and Songhai dominated West Africa one after another from 300 to 1600 a.d.

Ghana, Mali, and Songhai were located in the western region of Africa, south of the Sahara Desert, near the Niger River.

Ghana, Mali, and Songhai became powerful by controlling trade in West Africa.

The Portuguese carried goods from Europe to West African empires, trading metals, cloth, and other manufactured goods for gold.

Interpret ideas and events from different historical perspectives. (USI.1d)

Analyze and interpret maps to explain relationships among landforms, water features, and historical events. (USI.1f)

Distinguish between parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude. (USI.1g)


West Africa, motivations, obstacles, accomplishments, Spain, France, Portugal, England, explorer, empire, navigation, territories, Francisco Coronado, Samuel De Champlain, Quebec, Robert La Salle, Mississippi River Valley, John Cabot, Canada, American Indians, New World, trading post, Christian religion, farm tools, West Africa, Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Sahara desert, Niger River, Portugal

Vocabulary Sheets

Updated: May 16, 2018