Using case studies extracted from primary sources produced predominantly in Brazil and Cuba, this article contends that West African military commanders and troops in both regions during the first half of the nineteenth century exhibited an ethical behavior associated with war, which was strongly tied to their cosmologies of the world. Since these actions were all staged against either slavery or enslavement, it argues that the central ethical issue of whether it was right to take arms and kill people they considered enemies (jus ad bellum), was a non-issue from the moment the protagonists’ and participants’ plans took shape. Further ethical issues that could and would arise once each of these armed movements was underway, which were more ambiguous, are also considered in this article.
In the years 1823, 1829–1830, and 1837, West and West Central Africa had to contend with three devastating yellow fever epidemics that affected both slave dealers who had settled along the coast and anti-slave trade officials tasked with bringing the slave trade to an end. In this paper I argue that these epidemics had a profound impact on the actions of both sets of actors, and eventually on the expansion and demise of the slave trade in the region. By focusing on the actions of a myriad of Atlantic actors, I explore the ways in which cyclical epidemics of yellow fever were dealt with, emphasizing how prophylactic measures, treatments, and more generally, medical knowledge, were challenged, affected, and changed by the arrival of each of them.
The Portuguese schooner Arrogante was captured in late November 1837 by HMS Snake, off the coast of Cuba. At the time, the Arrogante had more than 330 Africans on board, who had been shipped from the Upper Guinea coast. Once the vessel arrived in Montego Bay, Jamaica, the British authorities apprenticed those who had survived. Shortly after landing, however, the Arrogante’s sailors were accused of slaughtering an African man, cooking his flesh, and forcing the rest of those enslaved on board to eat it. Furthermore, they were also accused of cooking and eating themselves the heart and liver of the same man. This article focuses not so much on the actual event, as on the transatlantic process that followed, during which knowledge was produced and contested, and relative meanings and predetermined cultural notions associated with Europeans and Africans were probed and queried.