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The Girgam (also tranliterated as Diwan) is the royal chronicle of the Kanem-Bornu Empire, written in Arabic. Girgam is also used as the name for written historical records in some kingdoms west of Bornu, including Daura, Fika and Mandara.

The Girgam was discovered in 1851 by the German traveller Heinrich Barth in Kukawa, the nineteenth century capital of Bornu.[1] It provides the names of 69 rulers of Kanem-Bornu and some supplementary information concerning the length of their reigns, their ascendancy, and often some events of their reigns.[2] The information given by several Arab authors (Ibn Sa'īd, al-Maqrīzī and al-Qalqashandī) confirm the validity of the data provided by the Girgam.[3] On the basis of these sources, a nearly accurate chronology of the rulers of Kanem-Bornu can be established between the tenth and the nineteenth centuries. After the fall of the Sefuwa dynasty in 1846, the supporters of the succeeding Kānemī dynasty tried to obliterate the memory of the Sefuwa as much as possible. Hence they destroyed all copies of the Girgam they could lay their hands on. The two copies of the chronicle obtained by Barth are the only ones that are known to have survived.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barth, Travels, II, p. 16.
  2. ^ Palmer, Bornu Sahara, 89–95
  3. ^ Levtzion/Hopkins, Corpus, pp. 188, 347, 354-5.


  • Barth, Heinrich (1857): Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa. Vol. II, New York, pp. 15–35, 581-602.
  • Palmer, Herbert R. (1936): The Bornu Sahara and Sudan. London 1936 (English translation of the Dīwān S. 89-95
  • Lavers, John (1982): "Review of 'Le dīwān des sultans du Kanem-Bornu', Journal of African History, 23, 122-3.
  • Nehemia Levtzion und John Hopkins (1981): Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History, Cambridge.
  • Palmer, Richmond: The Bornu Sahara and Sudan, London 1936 (a rough English translation of the Dīwān, pp. 89–95).