Role of guns in the slave trade reconsidered





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Uploaded on Aug 15, 2009

Dahomey as a specific case in turning the trade to European goods

Saint Mary Univerity website

http://stmarys.ca/~wmills/course316/7... "Economy

- Dahomey had a monetary system: cowry shells were the basic currency, but trade goods were used also—guns, bolts of cloth etc.

- Europeans tried to take advantage of this currency; they brought so many cowry shells that the shells lost value (inflation). As a result, European trade goods became the basic currency used in the purchase of slaves.

- farming was very important; agriculture was mostly carried out by men, usually in communal gangs of young men; this was different from most of the rest of Africa where women did most of the agricultural work. However, there were many artisans also who made products in addition to farming.

- the market economy mostly involved producers selling to consumers,but some women acted as middlemen. The latter would travel from market to market buying and selling goods.

- all trade with Europeans was a royal monopoly and guarded jealously by successive kings; kings never allowed Europeans to bypass and trade directly with people in the kingdom. As a military, predatory state, the costs of government and the military were high; thus,the king needed all the revenue from taxes and the profits of trade that he could get.

- Europeans and their influence were confined to one port on the coast—Whydah.

- permission to go inland, especially to the capital, was given only infrequently and as a special favour; because so few Europeans were allowed in, there were only a limited number of eyewitness accounts in spite of the long history of trade and contacts; no missionaries were allowed in."

I was unable to find the whole quote until just now. this is from "Wonders of the African World" at the back of the book in the notes section note 16 for chapter 6


William Bosman full quote:

"Perhaps you wonder how the Negroes came to be furnished with fire-arms, but you will have no reason when you know we sell them incredible quantities, thereby obliging them with a knife to cut your own throats. But we are forced to it; for if we would not, they might be sufficiently stored with that commodity by the English, Danes, and Brandenburgers; and could we all agree together not to sell them any, the English and Zeeland interlopers would abundantly furnish them."

Gun slave cycle reconsidered

The African Slave Trade by Basil Davidson page 242


"At the height of the eighteenth century commerce, gunsmiths in Birmingham alone were exporting muskets to Africa at the rate of between 100,000 and 150,000 a year.

European dealers on the coast might regret this flood of weapons, for it strengthened the bargaining power of their African partners: there was nothing they could do about it. Like the Africans, they too were caught in the chain of cause and effect. They had to have slaves, and to get slaves they had to pay with guns.

Even if European traders had wanted to refuse guns, they were far too distrustful of one another to operate any sort of common policy: as William Bosman observed at Elmina on the Gold Coast in 1700, the Europeans could never unite, and each European felt obliged to sell what Africans would otherwise obtain, if he should refuse, from his rivals. And the Africans, on their side, were generally in the same case although here and there, and notably in the delta, they sometimes found enough unity among themselves to apply a boycott on their European partners."

"Early Globalization and the Slave Trade"

Trips around the world were essential for sustaining slavery by Robert Harms


"So vital was the Asian trade to the slave trade that a consortium of merchants raised over a million livres to start a company to replace the defunct French East India Company. In requesting authorization from the French Council of Commerce, the merchants cited the difficulties they were having in obtaining the products of Asia that were vital for the slave trade. The slave trade could not function successfully, they argued, unless they had direct access to cowry shells and Indian textiles."

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