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09/29/2010
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The fall of the Oyo Empire

  1. he political expansion and stability of the Oyo Empire was achieved through a powerful army and a complex balance of political power. Such a growth didn't go without consequences, and led to a change in the balance of power
  2. At about the same time, during the 18th century, Islam became more and more important in the Oyo Empire until it finally became one of the reasons of its fall

The Oyo kingdom is located in the south of the actual territory of Nigeria. It expanded from the 16th to the 18th century to become the Oyo Empire, reaching its peak (around 47570km2) in the middle of the 18th century. Less than a century later, in 1836, its capital, Oyo Ile, had been abandoned, and the new Alafin (literally "owner of the palace", the King, or the Emperor) was struggling to get his Empire back: The Oyo Empire had completely fallen. How did an empire, that was known to be the most stable and prosperous one in Western Africa for the preceding two centuries, fall so suddenly? History indicates that the beginning of its collapse took place just as the Empire was reaching its peak. Could this then be seen as just another case of over-expansion that was not viable in a traditional political system? The collapse also coincided almost perfectly with the arrival of a reformist, jihadist, Islam. Could it be that the empire fell because its traditional, simplistic, system of belief could not ever compete against the more complex and organized Islam? The third coincidence was the corresponding end of the Atlantic slave trade. At the first glance thus, everything seems to indicate, that the Oyo Empire was bound to collapse and that little of what they did had any real impact on their fate.

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