Commercial Transitions and Abolition in West Africa 1630–1860


Commercial Transitions and Abolition in West Africa 1630–1860 offers a fresh perspective on why, in the nineteenth century, the most important West African states and merchants who traded with Atlantic markets became exporters of commodities, instead of exporters of slaves. This study takes a long-term comparative approach and makes of use of new quantitative data.

It argues that the timing and nature of the change from slave exports to so-called ‘legitimate commerce’ in the Gold Coast, the Bight of Biafra and the Bight of Benin, can be predicted by patterns of trade established in previous centuries by a range of African and European actors responding to the changing political and economic environments of the Atlantic world.

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Angus Dalrymple-Smith, Ph.D (2017), Wageningen University, is a lecturer and researcher on the impact of the transatlantic slave trade on West African economies and societies in the early modern period.
List of Figures, Maps and Tables
List of Appendices

Introduction: Historiography of the Commercial Transition
 1 From Slaves to ‘legitimate commerce’: Different Places, Different Times
 2 West African Trade with the Atlantic World
 3 Accounting for Regional Differences
 4 Organisation

Part 1

Trends in the (Non-Slave) Trade with West Africa Over the Eighteenth Century

1 Regional Patterns of (Non-Slave) Trade in the First Half of the Eighteenth Century
 1 The Commodity Trade in the Early Eighteenth Century
 2 Trade in Africa in the Eighteenth Century

2 Commercial Agriculture and Slave Ship Provisioning 1680–1800
 1 Did the Transatlantic Slave Trade Boost West African Commercial Agriculture?
 2 Main Results
 3 Changing Relative Prices and Trade Risks
 4 Revised Estimates of West African Food Exports, 1681–1807
 5 Why did British Provisioning Strategies Differ and What were the Impacts on Different Regions?

3 The Transatlantic Slave and Commodity Trades in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century
 1 Measuring the Volume and Value of the Commodity Trade
 2 Real Value and Structure of West Africa’s Commodity Trade
 3 Regional Trade
 4 Market Exchange and the Slave Trade

Part 2

The Long-Term Roots of the Commercial Transitions: Case Studies

4 The Gold Coast: Gold, Wealth and Power Amongst the Akans
 1 Long-term Trade Contacts
 2 A New Interpretation of the Impact of Abolition
 3 Economic and Political Considerations in 1808
 4 Gold and the Asante State
 5 Household Labour Decisions

5 The Bight of Biafra: From Export Slavery to Slave Production
 1 External Trade
 2 The Value of the Commodity Trade and ‘comey’
 3 Britain and Palm Oil Trading
 4 Institutional Development in Biafra
 5 The Demand for Labour and the Internal Slave Trade
 6 Household Production of Palm Oil

6 The Bight of Benin: Dahomey and the Dominance of Export Slavery
 1 Long-term Trends in Dahomey’s Trade
 2 Comparative Value of the Slave and Commodity Trades
 3 Trading Partners
 4 Dahomean Militarism
 5 Militarism and Labour

 1 Long-Term Patterns of Trade
 2 Diverging Trajectories
 3 The Real Impact of Britain’s Abolition Campaign
 4 Implications and Future Research

  Published Contemporary Sources
  Secondary Sources
  Online Sources

All interested in the impact of the transatlantic slave trade on the economies and societies of the Atlantic world in the early modern period.
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