A series of transformations, reforms, and attempted abolitions of slavery form a core narrative of nineteenth-century coastal West Africa. As the region’s role in Atlantic commercial networks underwent a gradual transition from principally that of slave exporter to producer of “legitimate goods” and dependent markets, institutions of slavery became battlegrounds in which European abolitionism, pragmatic colonialism, and indigenous agency clashed.
In Slavery and Reform in West Africa, Trevor Getz demonstrates that it was largely on the anvil of this issue that French and British policy in West Africa was forged. With distant metropoles unable to intervene in daily affairs, local European administrators, striving to balance abolitionist pressures against the resistance of politically and economically powerful local slave owners, sought ways to satisfy the latter while placating or duping the former.
The result was an alliance between colonial officials, company agents, and slave-owning elites that effectively slowed, sidetracked, or undermined serious attempts to reform slave holding. Although slavery was outlawed in both regions, in only a few isolated instances did large-scale emancipations occur. Under the surface, however, slaves used the threat of self-liberation to reach accommodations that transformed the master-slave relationship.
By comparing the strategies of colonial administrators, slave-owners, and slaves across these two regions and throughout the nineteenth century, Slavery and Reform in West Africa reveals not only the causes of the astounding success of slave owners, but also the factors that could, and in some cases did, lead to slave liberations. These findings have serious implications for the wider study of slavery and emancipation and for the history of Africa generally.
An assistant professor of African history at San Francisco State University, Trevor R. Getz has published articles on slavery and emancipation in West Africa, on the state of Akyem Abuakwa, and on the Atlantic slave trade. More info →
Save 20% ($26.36)
Save 20% ($52)
US and Canada only
Availability and price vary according to vendor.
Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center
Between 1880 and 1920, Muslim Sufi orders became pillars of the colonial regimes and economies of Senegal and Mauritania. In Paths of Accommodation, David Robinson examines the ways in which the leaders of the orders negotiated relations with the Federation of French West Africa in order to preserve autonomy within the religious, social, and economic realms while abandoning the political sphere to their non-Muslim rulers.This
Slavery, Emancipation and Colonial Rule in South Africa examines the rural Cape Colony from the earliest days of Dutch colonial rule in the mid-seventeenth century to the outbreak of the South African War in 1899.For slaves and slave owners alike, incorporation into the British Empire at the beginning of the nineteenth century brought fruits that were bittersweet.
This study examines the complex history of slavery in East Africa, focusing on the area that came under German colonial rule. In contrast to the policy pursued at the time by other colonial powers in Africa, the German authorities did not legally abolish slavery in their colonial territories. However, despite government efforts to keep the institution of slavery alive, it significantly declined in Tanganyika in the period concerned.
Sign up to be notified when new African Studies titles come out.
We will only use your email address to notify you of new titles in the subject area(s) you follow. We will never share your information with third parties.