Historically, the Askiya Dynasty established the Songhai Empire, a vast Islamic state that stretched across Western Africa. Despite the decline of the empire, for three hundred years from 1591-1901, Niger remained under Askiya rule. France occupied Niger in 1890 and defeated the ruling Nigerien dynasty in 1901. Thus from the late-19th century until full independence in 1960, Niger was under French authority.
Since then, Niger's periods of drought, combined with political volatility, has led to its remaining one of the least developed countries in the world. Desertification is a major problem as the Sahara threatens Niger's agricultural development. In the north, simmering tensions exist between the Nigerien government and Tuareg groups seeking greater autonomy. In 2003, Niger officially abolished the traditional practice of slavery. Indeed, the case of Hadijatou Mani Koraou who grew up as a slave in the household of a Hausa tribal chief before being freed in 2005, then imprisoned for bigamy, drew international attention.
French is the dominant language in Niger, thus much of Nigerien literature remains untranslated. In addition, along with neighbouring sub-Saharan countries, Niger has a rich griot tradition in which storytelling is combined with music. Oum Ramatou is a writer born in Niamey whose works include Le Regard and Désiré. Other francophone African writers include Abdoulaye Mamani, Boubou Hama, Tuareg poet Hawad, and French-born Andrée Clair whose children's books are set in Niger.
Several sociological studies have also been published with regards to traditional practices of Niger. Feeding Desire discusses African ideals of body image for women. Nomads Who Cultivate Beauty focuses on the traditional ceremonies of the Wodaabe nomads that centre around the display of male beauty. The spreading influence of Islam on traditional Niger societies is explored in Prayer Has Spoiled Everything, which explores the impact of Islam on traditional Nigerien cultures.