Environment factors in the rise of the west african empires. Parallel climatic/ vegetation zones that run across the continent from east to west. The river niger- flowing northeastward into the plains of the savannas and southward into the atlantic. Topography that allowed for the easy movement of peoples, languages, animals, crops, arts, and ideas. Diversity of ecological niches in close proximity encouraged economic specialization within each region. Emphasizes the role of the gold trade; the lace of islam and the cultural and political domination of libyco- berbers (ruling class) on the formation and consolidation of the early states of west africa. Focusing on antecedents to ancient ghana, challenges foundational assumption of goodwin. The trans- saharan trade: high valued goods governed by the elite. Was largely conducted and controlled by muslim berbers and arabs: owned the camels and organized trade from mediterranean to morocco, egypt etc.