Wednesday, February 9, 2011

African Mercenaries

It isn't well known, but there were also Africans, and their descendants  serving as mercenaries in Moghul and other Indian armies. Small numbers of Negro troops also served European powers.

Siddis are descendants of Africans who, generally, were bought to India as slaves by the Portuguese. Many escaped and started their own communities. The Siddis remain an identifiable group within modern India.

Many Siddis and native Africans rose to prominence under the Indian princes. Yakut Khan , a Siddi, rose to the rank of admiral under the Moghuls, beseiging the British in Bombay in 1690. He died in 1733.

High ranking Afro-Indian - thought to be Malik Ambar
 Malik Ambar was born in Ethiopia and sold into slavery in India. Nonetheless, he raised a personal army based in the Deccan which was hired as mercenaries to local Princes. He rose to the position of Prime Minister of Admadnagar, dieing in 1626. He is thought to have trained the Marathas in the art of war.

In 1833 three of the ruling Indian princes were of negro descent. As late as 1843 there were still prominent generals of African descent. Hoshu Sheedi commanded a native army against the British in the annexation of the Sindh.

The sources I have read indicate that the African mercenaries remained within their own communities and their descendants retained their customs for many generations. Based on that I thought I couldn't go wrong using Copplestone Miniatures Somali figures.

The number of African mercenaries was never great so I have limited numbers to one foot and one mounted unit (now where is that photo of the cavalry?)



  1. Great paint job, I like the basing, it looks very realistic.

  2. Thanks for a constant stream of particularly informative postings. I'm finding them fascinating - am learning a lot. You are also building a hell of a beautiful army(ies).