How did West Africa trade routes affect the cultures of people along the way?

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The trans-Saharan trade network that was established between west Africa, Arabia, and Europe had dramatic cultural implications for people along the way. The most profound impact was the introduction of Islam to the peoples of Africa, both in the north and west.  Islam was also introduced to a lesser extent in Europe, primarily Spain.  Islam also helped to increase literacy in places that it was introduced due to the importance of reading the Koran.  

Muslim scholars and merchants also spread ideas to all parts of Africa during this period.  Universities were established in parts of west Africa and the Maghreb.  Learning and ideas were shared to an extent that was previously not witnessed.  

The economies of Europe and the Arab world were changed with the introduction of gold and other precious metals that were mined in west Africa. This was a period where many of those economies had moved to a monetary system and gold was necessary to sustain these economies and currencies.  Commodities were available for sale throughout the regions that were not previously available, which strengthened the way of life of all of the cultures involved.  

When different cultures come in contact with one another, a process that is called cultural diffusion takes place.  The process changes both cultures through the exchange of ideas. With the number of different cultural groups that participated in trans-Saharan trade, the variety of ideas shared would have impacted all the peoples involved.  For this reason, virtually all elements of culture would have been impacted at every city along the route.