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Anatoly Uvarov
Anatoly Uvarov

The Impact of Slavery and Trade on the Development of Lagos: A Historical Perspective

Slavery And The Birth Of An African City : Lagos , 1760-1900


In this article, I will review and analyze the book Slavery and the Birth of an African City: Lagos, 17601900, written by Kristin Mann, a professor of history at Emory University. The book, published in 2007 by Indiana University Press, is a magisterial work that explores the history of Lagos, a port city on the West African coast, from its origins as a small coastal kingdom to its emergence as a major urban center in the nineteenth century. The book focuses on the role of slavery and the slave trade in shaping the economic, social, political and cultural development of Lagos and its people. The book also examines the impact of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and the imposition of British colonial rule on Lagos and its transition from a slave-based to a palm oil-based economy.

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The book makes a major contribution to our understanding of the history of West Africa and the Atlantic world in the era of slavery and abolition. It challenges the conventional view that the end of the slave trade led to the decline and marginalization of West African coastal societies and shows how Lagos adapted and thrived in the changing circumstances. It also provides a rich and nuanced account of the complex and dynamic relations among different groups of people in Lagos, such as slave owners and slaves, merchants and workers, elites and commoners, Africans and Europeans, men and women. The book demonstrates how these people negotiated, contested and transformed their identities, interests and power in the context of slavery, trade, colonialism and urbanization.

The book is based on extensive and meticulous research using a variety of sources, such as colonial records, court cases, newspapers, oral traditions, travelers' accounts, maps, photographs and census data. The author skillfully combines quantitative and qualitative methods to reconstruct the demographic, economic, social and spatial patterns of Lagos over time. The author also employs a comparative and interdisciplinary approach to situate Lagos within the broader regional and global frameworks of Atlantic history, African history, urban history and slavery studies.

The Rise of Lagos as an Atlantic Port, c. 17601851

In this chapter, the author traces the origins and development of Lagos as a coastal kingdom and a slave port in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The author argues that Lagos emerged as a result of its strategic location on the Bight of Benin, where it served as a gateway between the hinterland and the Atlantic. Lagos was founded by a group of Yoruba migrants from the interior who established a monarchy based on divine kingship and kinship ties. Lagos also attracted other groups of people from neighboring states, such as Benin, Oyo, Dahomey and Egba, who came to trade or seek refuge. Lagos developed a close relationship with European traders, especially the Portuguese and later the British, who supplied guns, cloth, rum and other goods in exchange for slaves captured or purchased from the interior.

The author shows how slavery and the slave trade shaped the social and political structure of Lagos. Slavery was not only an economic activity but also a source of status, wealth and power for the elite class of slave owners and merchants who dominated the town. Slavery also created a diverse and hierarchical society composed of different categories of people based on their origin, status, occupation or gender. These included freeborn Lagosians, royal slaves, domestic slaves, war captives, pawns or debtors, immigrants or refugees from other states or regions (such as Sierra Leone or Brazil), European traders or missionaries, and women who played various roles as traders, workers or wives.

The author also examines the impact of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade on Lagos and its economy. The author argues that although the abolition reduced the volume and profitability of the slave trade, it did not end it completely. Some Lagosians continued to engage in illegal or clandestine slave trading with other European or American partners or with other African ports. Others shifted to alternative sources of income, such as fishing, farming or trading in other commodities (such as ivory or gold). The author suggests that the abolition created new opportunities and challenges for Lagosians to adapt to changing market conditions and to diversify their economic activities.

Trade , Oligarchy , And The Transformation Of The Precolonial State

In this chapter , the author analyzes the emergence of a wealthy and powerful elite of slave owners and merchants in Lagos in the first half of the nineteenth century . The author argues that this elite class was not a homogeneous or stable group , but rather a diverse and dynamic one , composed of different factions based on their origin , lineage , occupation , religion or political affiliation . These factions included the Idejo (land-owning chiefs) , the Oloye (title-holding chiefs) , the Saro (returnees from Sierra Leone) , the Aguda (returnees from Brazil) and the European merchants (mainly British). The author shows how these factions competed and cooperated for trade, wealth and power in Lagos and how they influenced the succession of kings and the governance of the town. The author also highlights the resistance and agency of the slaves and commoners in Lagos who challenged the authority and exploitation of the elites and sought to improve their conditions and status.

The Original Sin: Anti-slavery, Imperial Expansion, and Early Colonial Rule

In this chapter, the author examines the British intervention in Lagos in 1851 and 1861 and its motives and consequences. The author argues that the British intervention was driven by a combination of anti-slavery ideology, imperial expansionism and economic interests. The British claimed to act on behalf of the legitimate king of Lagos, Akitoye, who had been deposed by his rival, Kosoko, for opposing the slave trade. The British also claimed to protect their trade and citizens from the harassment and violence of Kosoko and his supporters. The British bombarded Lagos in 1851 and installed Akitoye as king. However, after Akitoye's death in 1853, his son Dosunmu faced another rebellion from Kosoko's followers who resisted the British influence and interference in Lagos affairs. The British intervened again in 1861 and annexed Lagos as a colony under their direct rule.

The author analyzes the establishment of a colonial administration in Lagos and its policies towards slavery, trade and land. The author argues that the colonial administration was weak and ineffective in enforcing its authority and reforms in Lagos. The colonial administration faced opposition and resistance from various groups of Lagosians who resented its intrusion into their affairs. The colonial administration also faced difficulties in implementing its anti-slavery policy which aimed to abolish domestic slavery in Lagos. The author shows how slave owners, slaves and ex-slaves negotiated, manipulated or defied the colonial laws and courts to protect their interests or rights. The author also shows how trade and land became contentious issues under colonial rule. The author argues that the colonial administration favored the European merchants over the African traders by imposing tariffs, regulations and monopolies that restricted their access to the palm oil market. The author also argues that the colonial administration alienated the land rights of the Lagosians by claiming ownership of all land in Lagos under the crown.

Innocent Commerce: Boom And Bust In The Palm Produce Trade

In this chapter, the author explores the transition from slave trading to palm oil trading in Lagos and its hinterland in the second half of the nineteenth century . The author argues that palm oil trading became the main source of income and development for Lagos and its people after the abolition of the slave trade . Palm oil was a valuable commodity that was used for various purposes , such as soap , candles , lubricants or margarine , in Europe and America . Palm oil was produced from the palm fruits that grew abundantly in the forests and swamps of the interior regions , such as Ijebu , Egba , Ekiti or Ondo . Palm oil was transported by canoes or caravans to Lagos where it was sold to European merchants who shipped it to overseas markets .

The author examines the expansion and diversification of the trade networks and the involvement of different groups of traders in palm oil trading . The author argues that palm oil trading created new opportunities and challenges for Lagosians to establish or maintain their economic , social or political relations with other groups . These groups included the European merchants who dominated the export trade , the African traders who acted as middlemen or brokers between the producers and exporters , the producers who cultivated or collected palm fruits from their farms or forests , the workers who processed or transported palm oil from the interior to the coast , and the consumers who used palm oil for domestic or industrial purposes . The author shows how these groups competed or cooperated for profit , power or protection in palm oil trading .

The author also investigates the fluctuations and crises in the palm oil market and their effects on the Lagos economy and society . The author argues that palm oil trading was subject to various factors that influenced its supply , demand or price , such as weather , seasons , wars , diseases , taxes , tariffs , regulations or innovations . The author shows how these factors caused boom or bust cycles in palm oil trading that affected the income , wealth or welfare of Lagosians . The author also shows how these cycles triggered social changes or conflicts in Lagos , such as migration , urbanization , class formation , ethnic tension or political agitation .

Britain And Domestic Slavery

In this chapter, the author analyzes the persistence and transformation of domestic slavery in Lagos under colonial rule. The author argues that domestic slavery did not disappear or decline after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, but rather continued and changed in form and function. The author argues that domestic slavery was a complex and dynamic institution that served various economic, social, political and cultural purposes for Lagosians. Domestic slavery was a source of labor, wealth, power, prestige, security, loyalty, kinship or identity for slave owners and slaves alike. Domestic slavery was also a flexible and negotiable relationship that could be modified or terminated by mutual consent or legal action.

The author examines the legal status and rights of slaves and ex-slaves in colonial courts and legislation. The author argues that the colonial administration adopted a gradual and pragmatic approach to abolishing domestic slavery in Lagos. The colonial administration recognized the existence and legitimacy of domestic slavery in Lagos and did not interfere with it unless it involved violence, abuse or exploitation. The colonial administration also provided legal avenues for slaves and ex-slaves to seek freedom, protection or compensation from their owners or former owners. The author shows how slaves and ex-slaves used the colonial laws and courts to challenge, manipulate or escape their bondage or to claim their rights or entitlements.

The author also examines the strategies and struggles of slaves, ex-slaves and slave owners for freedom, protection and compensation. The author argues that slaves, ex-slaves and slave owners had different motives and methods for dealing with domestic slavery in Lagos. Slaves sought to improve their conditions, status or prospects by working hard, saving money, acquiring skills, forming alliances, converting to Christianity or suing their owners. Ex-slaves sought to secure their freedom, identity or livelihood by obtaining certificates, changing names, joining associations, returning home or seeking employment. Slave owners sought to retain their control, wealth or influence by buying more slaves, granting manumission, demanding services, offering rewards or resisting claims. 71b2f0854b


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