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This is very much a cold question as I have found no writings on any link. However, I do know that there was West African and European trade links long before colonialism and quite a bit of Mali gold found it's way to Europe. I also know the early Hungarian Kingdom did also control a substantial amount of gold mines in Europe but most of them had been quite depleted in antiquity.

I'm asking this based on legends, myself, of Magyar decent had heard passed down. It goes; As Magyar gold dwindled down in the second half of the middle ages the Kingdom began trading with the Mali empire at it's height providing cash crops like Hemp (still Hungary's largest cash crop) as well as textiles, paprika and lumber for Mali gold and some advanced iron worked products.

I don't know if there is any truth to this but it seems to specific and random for a story passed down through folk for it to not have something to it. If Anyone can answer or provide any information supporting or debunking the story I would be very appreciative. Thanks.

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  • This book looks very relevant, but I can't find any detail in it that would support this. – Brian Z May 4 '20 at 22:50
  • Almost all your facts are random. Hemp and lumber had no large scale export at that time in hungary, paprika became a thing in late XIXth century. The gold mines were actually not depleted in the antiquity (most didn’t even existed in antiquity), and up to discovering America Hungary was one of the major sources of gold in the old world: “ Gold and silver mines opened in his reign produced about one third of the world's total production up until the 1490s” (en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Hungary_(1301%E2%80%931526)) – Greg Dec 16 '20 at 13:39
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Well, there was trade between the Mali Empire and the rest of the world via a Sahel camel-borne trade route established and run by the Berber tribes of that region. We know at least a few non-Berbers traveled that route as well as travelers or pilgrims, but all the direct trade would almost certainly be carried out by the Berbers, not Europeans.

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The challenges that jump out at me about this story are:

  • Hungary is a long ways away from Mali, with a lot of states in between. Sure, some Malian gold would have ended up there, just because commodities (like gold) tend to travel towards where they are more valuable. But there's no way an individual shipment of gold is going unmolested through all those states and territories in the late middle ages or early modern period.
  • Hungary and Mali both for most of their history (but not all) were land-locked countries. So they can't really cheat the above by using sea trade. Europeans did eventually set up trading posts on the mouths of the rivers the Malian cities were on, but I believe those were dominated by the Portuguese.
  • Paprika is a New World herb. While the English word for it is indeed Hungarian in origin, the plant itself didn't reach Europe until about the 16th Century. While the Malian empire did still exist then, it was in decline starting around 1500, and disintegrated completely sometime after 1670. So if Hungarians were to be sending it paprika, they had a very narrow window in which to be doing that.

A more likely story to my mind is simply that what you've listed were Hungary's typical imports and exports of the period. Sure, a lot of the gold it imported (did Hungary have a native industry of goldsmiths? I could see that) would have ultimately come from Mali, and stuff that Mali couldn't easily make itself might find its way back there as a really lucrative way to pay for that gold, but that doesn't mean Malians and Hungarians were directly exchanging those goods with each other.

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  • Great answer and upvoted. It's really difficult to say, whether Hungary being in some form of Union with Croatia since the High Middle Ages until 1918 might or might not have been landlocked. It could even be argued that under Suleyman I, Hungary as part of the Ottoman Empire did border Mali or at least the more or less stateless Berber without any in-between states. – R.K. May 6 '20 at 8:36
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There may have been an indirect trade link.

During the Middle Ages, western Europe got "most" of its gold from what was then "Hungary, but some of it came from Africa, including Mali. So it is possible that European merchants back from a trip to Hungary traded some Hungarian products for Mali gold in their home country (or less likely the reverse, Malian goods for Hungarian gold). If there were any direct trade relations between the two countries, it would likely have been through such connections.

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