Peter Thonning and Denmark's Guinea Commission

A Study in Nineteenth-Century African Colonial Geography

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Several years before Denmark legislated against the Atlantic slave trade in 1792, the government, anticipating the decline of production in the Danish West Indies as a consequence, embarked on a policy of agricultural colonization in West Africa. Peter Thonning, a young natural historian of the highly economic and geographical Linnaean school, spent three formative years in Africa and then for decades administered Denmark's African colonial undertakings. The international movement of colonial news and ideas can very usefully be traced in his unpublished writings, especially among the Guinea Commission's extraordinarily wide-ranging records. These rich archives and contemporary published opinion in this cosmopolitan Scandinavian society open fresh perspectives on the broader history and geography of European colonialism.
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Biographical Note

Daniel Hopkins, Ph.D. (1987) in Geography, Louisiana State University, is an Associate Professor at the University of Missouri—Kansas City. He specializes in archival studies of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century historical geography of Denmark’s tropical colonies.

Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgements
Abbreviations
Introduction: on the geography of colonialism

EARLY COLONIAL EXPERIMENTS
1. The Guinea Commission commences its investigation: Isert’s colonial expedition of 1788
2. Denmark’s abolition of the Atlantic slave trade, 1792: the African colonial alternative
3. Africa in the Atlantic world: Guinea plantations on the West Indian model

SCIENCE AND COLONIALISM: PETER THONNING'S EXPEDITION
4. Peter Thonning’s African sojourn and the formation of his colonial views
5. Reports and reverberations: responses to Thonning’s early African writing
6. The Atlantic triangle stood on its head: African undertakings after the cessation of the Danish slave trade in 1803

COLONIAL DEVELOPMENTS DURING THE NAPOLEONIC WARS AND THE ENSUING DEPRESSION
7. “For colonization, a more desirable country cannot be found”: plantation experiments during the war years
8. An eye to the future: colonial ambitions in a time of retrenchment

RENEWED INTEREST IN AFRICAN COLONIALISM IN COPENHAGEN
9. Fresh colonial momentum in the early 1820s
10. Conflicting colonial schemes in the late 1820s
11. The literary impulse: a young colonial officer's essays on Denmark's African future

CONFLICTING VIEWS OF THE COLONIAL WORLD: THE GUINEA COMMISSION AND THE CLOSING OF AN ERA
12. Plumbing the archives: the Commission frames its debate
13. The Guinea Commission in a changed colonial climate
14. The tide again turns: new African colonial impetus
15. The colonial dénouement, Denmark’s withdrawal from Africa, and the colonial upshot

Bibliography
Index

Readership

Scholars, students, and all others interested in the history and geography of Africa and the Atlantic world, historical geography in general, Enlightenment-era science, the history of cartography, and colonial writing.

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