The Wolof Empire

The Wolof Empire was a powerful state or nation that controlled parts of present-day Senegal and Gambia from the 15th to 19th centuries. It was founded in the 13th century by the Wolof people, and pre-dated the Islamic invasions of West Africa, allowing the Wolof people to practice their traditional beliefs.


The origins of the Wolof Empire can be traced back to the 1290s, when two Wolof states emerged in what is now Senegal: the Jolof Empire and the Cayor Kingdom. The Jolof and Cayor kingdoms fought for dominance for many years before the Jolof emerged victorious and established the Wolof Empire in the beginning of the 15th century.

Economic Development

The Wolof Empire was highly developed and prosperous, relying mainly on agriculture and trade. Agriculture was important to the empire, providing rice and grains as well as livestock such as cows and horses. This agricultural produce was then traded with other African nations and the Atlantic World.

Culture and Religion

The empire was highly religious, with numerous shrines and temples dedicated to various ancestral spirits. Animism and ancestor worship were also important aspects of the Wolof belief system. The Wolof people were also known for their proficiency in art and music.

Decline and Legacy

The Wolof Empire was eventually weakened due to threats from neighbouring empires and French colonial rule, which took control of the empire in the 19th century. However, the Wolof Empire’s legacy still lives on in present-day Senegal, Gambia, and the wider West African region.

Key Facts:

    • Founded: 1290s


    • Location: Present Day Senegal and Gambia


    • Dynasty: The Jolof Dynasty


    • Language: Wolof Language


    • Religion: Animism and Ancestor Worship