The Lost libraries of Timbuktu

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  • In the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu, thousands of scientific and religious texts-among Africa's oldest literature-have been hidden for centuries. This program examines the rich history and variety of Timbuktu's lost libraries and shows how they have recently garnered the world's attention. Viewers meet local scholars, as well as experts from across Africa and the Western world, who elucidate just how valuable these fragile treasures are to our knowledge of Africa, Islam, and the growth of literacy outside the Western tradition. The program also asks: how differently would Africa have developed if the libraries hadn't been forced underground by colonial interests?


  • Encoded with permission for digital streaming by Films Media Group on Aug. 19, 2009.
  • Films on Demand is distributed by Films Media Group for Films for the Humanities & Sciences, Cambridge Educational, Meridian Education, and Shopware.
  • Mode of access: Internet.
  • System requirements: FOD playback platform.
  • Closed-captioned.


  • Timbuktu: Africa's Seat of Learning (4:17) -- Mali Manuscripts: Scholastic History (2:48) -- Arabic Manuscripts: Islamic Theology (4:06) -- Africa's Hidden History (3:01) -- Africa's History: Oral Tradition (4:56) -- Origins of Timbuktu: Oral Tradition (3:48) -- Importance of Book in 14th-Century Mali (3:37) -- Timbuktu's Leader King Kanka Musa (2:34) -- Timbuktu: City of Scholars (3:26) -- Moroccan Invasion of Timbuktu (2:55) -- West Africa's Star Declines (1:28) -- Scottish Explorer of the Niger River (3:00) -- French Colonial Rule of Timbuktu (3:14) -- Texts in Languages Other than Arabic (3:02) -- Mali: Manuscript Treasures (4:49)
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