Forgery and History in the Political Projects of Nineteenth-century Muslim West Africa: Aḥmad Lobbo’s Caliphate of Ḥamdallāhi and the Tārīkh al-fattāsh

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  Thursday, March 10, 2022
  4 - 5 p.m.
  340 Stephens Hall
  Mauro Nobili, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The Tārīkh al-fattāsh is one of the most important and celebrated sources for the history of pre-colonial West Africa, yet it has confounded scholars for decades with its inconsistencies and the questions surrounding its authorship. In this talk, based on his recently-published book Sultan, Caliph, and the Renewer of the Faith: Aḥmad Lobbo, the Tārīkh al-fattāsh and the Making of an Islamic State in West Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Nobili challenges existing theories of the chronicle. He shows that instead of a seventeenth-century text, it was written in the nineteenth century by a Fulani scholar named Nūḥ b. al-Ṭāhir, as part of an elaborate forgery to support a political project of a West African Islamic state known as the Caliphate of Ḥamdallāhi (in modern-day Mali) and its founding leader, Aḥmad Lobbo (d.1845). In telling this story, Nobili provides a new way of understanding the various ‘revolutions’ carried out by Muslim reformers in nineteenth-century West Africa.

Mauro Nobili is Associate Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A historian of pre-colonial West Africa, he has published widely on West African chronicles written in Arabic, and on the wider Arabic literary tradition in West Africa.

Center for Middle Eastern Studies
University of California, Berkeley
340 Stephens Hall, Berkeley, CA  94720-2314



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