ABSTRACT

The Hausa of Northern Nigeria and Niger evidently have a long history, much of which is obscure. Arab travellers who visited these peoples during the European middle ages left important notes. Local chronicles supply additional data which can be checked with one another and against the chronicles of nearby states. Linguistic analyses yield other evidence of contacts between certain groups. Archaeological discoveries on the borders of Hausaland suggest certain hypotheses. Historical inquiries by administrative officers have added a mass of details about particular local and descent groups. Several scholarly officials have devoted years of careful study to these various bodies of data, debating and refining chronologies and hypotheses. There are also widespread oral traditions and the more specialized information of old courtiers and Hausa savants. Studies of Hausa institutions are also of value for the light they shed on Hausa history. Studies of the institutional structure of large states which border on Hausa also illuminate this history. I shall draw on these various bodies of data to sketch the outline of Hausa development during the ‘Dark Age of Hausaland’ which may be said to end with the fifteenth century. The account presented here is both a selective synthesis and an interpretation. Its tentative nature is evident and should always be kept in mind. It includes numerous extrapolations which may be of use as hypotheses, but cannot be regarded as facts.