West African Slavery and Atlantic Commerce: The Senegal River Valley, 1700-1860 (African Studies)
James F. Searing
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The author shows how the societies of West Africa were transformed by the slave trade. The growth of the Atlantic trade stimulated the development of slavery within the region, with slaves working in the river and coasting trades or producing surplus grain to feed slaves in transit. A few held pivotal positions in the political structure of the coastal kingdoms of Senegambia. This local slave system had far-reaching consequences, leading to religious protest and slave rebellions. The changes in agricultural production fostered an ecological crisis.
in 1811 during early British abolitionist efforts on the African coast, believed that the "superior condition of African slaves," compared to plantation slaves in America, derived from their occupations as mechanics, sailors, and artisans, in the case of men, and their employment in food preparation, childcare, and spinning thread, in the case of women, "as there is no labour in the field to be performed." He also noted that relations of familiarity existed between masters and slaves which
women's work. Women were responsible for the entire management of the household. They fetched water and wood, tended small gardens, took care of the animals, spun cotton into thread, dyed clothes, cleaned clothes, took care of children, cleaned the houses, and prepared all the food and drink that was served.109 In the distinct labor market in which women slaves could be rented out to the French, the terms pileuse ("pounder of millet") and blanchisseuse ("washerwoman") are those most frequently
this fear extended to "those Slaves near the sea coast, who are in the habit of seeing Europeans, and who are acquainted with them."132 Whatever the social sanctions against the sale of slaves, the threat of sale to the slave merchants was undoubtedly the greatest incentive to accepting the status of a slave on the islands. 128 Famine, civil war, and secession 1750-1800 The second half of the eighteenth century was a period of crisis for Atlantic commerce and for the societies of the region.
between slave raiding and famine. The most horrifying aspect of merchant calculations in the second half of the eighteenth century was the growing concern about famine and the slave trade, and the risks of profiting from hunger and starvation. Merchants weighed their grain supplies against the flood of emaciated captives thrown onto the market in times of famine. By encouraging warfare in years of hunger and starvation Atlantic merchants believed that they could procure an abundant harvest of
complicated the problem of succession, because the slaves who reproduced the power of the political system were a form of property which had to be inherited. State investment in slave property was held by the royal matrilineage and passed on within it. In theory this put a standing army of royal slaves at the disposition of the legitimate successor chosen by the council of electors.54 But there were inherent tensions in the system from the beginning. Although the matrilineal system meant that