People of northwestern Nigeria and southern Niger. Their language, also called Hausa, is an Afroasiatic language of the Chadic group. The Hausa, numbering some 32 million, are the largest ethnic group in the area. In the mid 14th century a confederation of Hausa states was formed, influenced by the spread of Islam from the Mali empire. Hausa society traditionally was, and to some extent continues to be, organized on a feudal basis. The head of an emirate is surrounded by titled officeholders who hold villages as fiefs, from which their agents collect taxes. The economy has traditionally rested on agriculture, though craftwork and trade are also important. Hausa society is markedly hierarchical; the ranking, both of offices and social classes, is expressed in an elaborate etiquette. See also Fulani.
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