18th Century Africa

10 June 2021 - 11 June 2021

Online

The conference takes place on 10 & 11 June and 17 &18 June 2021

What did the eighteenth century look like, smell like, sound like? And how different would those answers have been for different parts of the world? Historians and theorists of globalization have both identified a convergence of social, cultural, and political forms in the modern period. But how different would people have really found each other in the eighteenth century?

Historians have often struggled with the legacies of the nineteenth century in shaping the views of earlier African pasts. Travel writing, ethnographies, abolitionist literature, and colonial archives were as interested in painting a picture of modernity in Europe as they were in telling their readers something about Africa. As new historical research questions arising from Atlantic, economic, and global historical approaches have revived broader interest in pre-colonial African histories, the nineteenth century continues to cast a long shadow on how pre-colonial Africa is understood. The “compression of history” problem has been identified in African economic history, but it also shapes how the imagination of an African past infuses writing about the African diaspora and slavery in the Atlantic World, or the dynamics of historical change as a development towards colonial history.

How can forms of cultural history and interdisciplinary methodologies help us to access an eighteenth century African experience? How can a grounding in a particular century change the shape of our narratives of change over time? Does a fuller picture of life emerge through a different kind of story telling? This virtual workshop series seeks to bring together scholars and students working in a wide variety of fields and geographies ranging from music history, the history of art and architecture, fashion, literature and performance, food, material culture, religion, landscape archaeology, economic and business history, historical anthropology, gender, intellectual history, and political thought working on any part of the eighteenth century African continent. Most broadly, the workshop series will ask us to think about time, narrative, and chronology as they shape how African historical change is discussed in relation to global histories.

 

Supported by:

10 June 2021

5 - 5.15pm UK time

Welcome

Bronwen Everill (Cambridge)

5.15 - 6.45pm UK time

Panel 1: Europeans at the Edge

Allegra Ayida (Cambridge): 'Reading African Agency in an 18th century French Trader’s Memoirs'

Christopher Brown (Columbia): 'War and Trade on the West African Coast'

Johan Fourie (Stellenbosch) and Frank Garmon Jr. (Christopher Newport University): 'The Settlers’ Fortunes: Comparing Tax Censuses in the Cape Colony and Early American Republic'

Rafael Thiebaut (Musée du Quai Branly/Sciences Po Reims): 'Intermediaries in the European Slave Trade to Madagascar during the Eighteenth Century'

6.45 - 8.15pm UK time

Panel 2: War

Lindsay O’Neill (University of Southern California): 'Maputo to Jamaica to London and Back'

Paul Grant (University of Wisconsin): 'Soldiers Dream of Home, Officers of Glory: Clan and King in the 18th Century Akan Moral Imagination'

Kenosi Molato (South African Theological Seminary): 'The 18th Century’s Scramble for the Okovango Delta: An Autochthonous Framework'

11 June 2020

5 - 6.30pm UK time

Panel 3: Consumption and the Slave Trades

Lila O’Leary Chambers (NYU): 'Against Timelessness: Alcohol and Power in the Middle Passage 1670-1713'

Liza Gijanto (St Mary’s College of Maryland): 'Living on Atlantic Time: Commerce and Daily Life on the Senegambia Coast'

Philipp Hofmann (University of Lisbon): 'Religious Orders, Slavery and African Agency in EighteenthCentury Angola'

Phillip Emanuel (William & Mary): 'Age and Gold Coast Enslavement'

Abigail Moffett (University of East Anglia): 'Patterns of Circulation and Valuation in 18th Century Africa: A Case Study of Cowrie Shells in East Africa'

6.30 - 8pm UK time

Panel 4: Language, Sounds, and Ritual

Sara Johnson (University of California, San Diego): 'Hearing the Vocabulaire Congo'

Roger Blench (Cambridge/University of Jos/Kay Williamson Educational Foundation): 'Reconstructing the Pattern of Settlement and Social Structure of Central Nigeria prior to 1800'

Mary Caton Lingold (Virginia Commonwealth University): 'Jangle, Buzz, and Rattle: African Instruments, European Ears, and the Birth of 'Black Musicality''

Timothy Soriano (University of Illinois, Chicago): ''An end to their days'': The Use and Perceptions of the Red Water Ordeal in Early Sierra Leone'

John Thornton (Boston University): 'The Kingdom of Kongo and Palo Monte: Reflections on an African American Religion'

Reading African Agency in an 18th Century French Trader’s Memoirs
Allegra Ayida

This paper is a reading of African agency in a published account written by a French trader and naval commander Jean-François Landolphe. Landolphe was stationed at the port in Warri for eight years in the late 1790s, where he had multiple interactions with the Olu (king) of the Warri kingdom located in the Bight of Benin. A close reading of his memoirs is done with the aim to ‘read against the grain’ of these encounters and challenge assumptions about the history and culture of Africans in these encounters between Africans and Europeans.

Allegra Ayida is an MPhil Candidate in African Studies at Cambridge University. She holds an MA in World History from Kings’ College London and a BA in History from Wesleyan University. Her research focuses on the Warri kingdom, which is in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria.

 

 

Martial Geographies: The Landscapes of Power in 18th Century Gold Coast
Sarah Balakrishnan

When British imperial state-builders entered the southern Gold Coast in the nineteenth century, they discovered a world of internal boundaries. Every tree, every river, and “every square yard of land [ha[d] its owner.” This situation, which the British called the discovery of private property, would shape the development of the colonial state in Ghana. Chapter 1 of my book manuscript steps back from this moment to study the history of property boundaries and territoriality.  I argue that, beginning in the eighteenth century, societies in the Gold Coast became reorganized as “martial geographies.” Constant wars wrought by Atlantic commerce, combined with internal immigration, made communities rely differently upon the land. From the choice of physical environment to the geometric arrangement of houses, roads, boundaries and fences, societies organized around the material and sacred protections offered by their landscapes. By examining communities’ interactions with rivers, lagoons, rocks, mountains, fences, pathways and shrines, this chapter studies an indigenous history of borders and property boundaries. It shows how sacred relationships with the land led to new understandings of space and power in the Atlantic age. This subsequently shaped the growth of both colonialism and anticolonialism.

Sarah Balakrishnan completed her PhD at Harvard University in 2020 and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Carter G. Woodson Institute at the University of Virginia.

 

 

Reconstructing the Pattern of Settlement and Social Structure of Central Nigeria prior to 1800
Roger Blench

By the time external written records begin, settlement patterns and economic structures in Central Nigeria had been drastically altered by the incursions of Hausa slavers from the north. Minority peoples had been forced to settle montane regions, or to build complex defensive architecture. Patterns of trade and exchange had been disrupted and complex social and marital arrangements restructured to respond to these security challenges. The paper aims to explore how we can reconstruct society and economy in the period immediately before the ramping up of the slave trade, which was driven both by increased demand from North Africa and greater access to guns and horses.

Roger Blench is a Research Fellow at the University of Jos, Department of History and a Visiting Researcher at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge.

 

 

"I am Your Slave and Servant:" Friendship and State Formation in 18th-century Ottoman Tunis
Catey Boyle (she/they)
This project examines the trope of 'friendship' in Tunisian palace chronicles and European travelogues from the 18th century to address how royals, travelers, enslaved, and free individuals deployed the concept in their interactions in the Ottoman Regency of Tunis. From advice-giving and secret-keeping to promises of manumission, I frame 'friendship' and dependency in wider transregional contexts, for 18th century Tunis was a node in both Trans-Saharan and Mediterranean trades in people. I argue that 'friendship' informed shifts in governance, and that later state formation in Ottoman Tunis cannot be understood without an examination of reciprocity between the governing and the governed.
 
Catey Boyle is a PhD candidate in the History Department at Harvard University with a secondary field in the studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. As a social and cultural historian of North Africa and the French Empire, I am interested in transregional slave trades in Tunis in the 18th and 19th centuries. I hold an M.A. in History from Harvard University, and a B.A. in History and Middle Eastern Studies from Tufts University. My research has been supported by fellowships from the American Institute of Maghrib Studies (AIMS) and the Frederick Sheldon Travelling Fellowship at Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). I was the co-facilitator of this year's Harvard Graduate Student Conference in International and Global History (Con IH): Gender and Empire.
 
 

 

"War and Trade on the West African Coast"
Christopher Brown

European powers competed for commercial influence on the West African coast across the history of the Atlantic slave trade, from its inception in the late fifteenth century down to the era of its suppression in the early nineteenth.  As things stand, though that history remains largely unwritten, particularly for the middle decades of the eighteenth century, the years when the Atlantic slave trade reached its apex.   The paper therefore will propose and explore three questions.  First, what was the history of European warfare in Atlantic Africa between the Treaty of Utrecht and the French Revolution?  The chronology and geography of that history remains unfamiliar except to specialists.  Who fought whom, where, and when, and with what consequences for the Africa trade during the short eighteenth century?  Second, how did rivalry and competition manifest in times of peace?  How did the threat of violence between the various European powers shape the character of trade to and from Atlantic Africa on the Gold Coast, in Senegal and Gambia, and on the Atlantic Coast of Mauritania?  This question acquires new importance with the welcome arrival of new scholarship on Intra-European cooperation in the Atlantic African trades.  Third, how did West African political elites respond when Europeans went to war with each other?  When and in what ways did they exploit those conflicts to further their own strategic interests?  To what extent did war between Europeans in West Africa result from European entanglements in West African politics? It is easy enough to see that there was no ‘Scramble for Africa’ in the early modern era.  That observation, though, leaves open the question of just how we should characterize European competition on the West African coast across the era of the Atlantic slave trade. It is the purpose of this paper, then, to indicate a new framework for the history of war and trade on the West African coast.

Christopher Leslie Brown is Professor of History at Columbia University. He specializes in the history of eighteenth century Britain, the early modern British Empire, and the comparative history of slavery and abolition, with secondary interests in the age of revolutions and the history of the Atlantic world. He is now at work on two projects, one on British experience along the West African coast in the era of the Atlantic slave trade, and a second on the decline and fall of the British Planter class in the era of abolition and emancipation.

 

 

The Settlers’ Fortunes: Comparing Tax Censuses in the Cape Colony and Early American Republic
Johan Fourie

Europeans at the end of the eighteenth century had settled across the globe, from North and South America to Australia to the southern tip of Africa. While theories of institutional persistence explain the ‘reversal of fortunes’ between settled and unsettled regions, few studies consider the large differences in early living standards between settler societies. This paper uses newly transcribed household-level tax censuses from the Dutch and British Cape Colony and the United States shortly after independence to show comparative levels of income and wealth over four decades both between the two regions and within them. Cape farmers were, on average, more affluent than their American counterparts. There was little indication of an imminent reversal of fortunes.

Johan Fourie is professor of economics and history at Stellenbosch University, where he teaches economic history to graduate and undergraduate students. He is the author of more than 60 peer-reviewed articles and, in April 2021, published ‘Our Long Walk to Economic Freedom’, an accessible introduction to global economic history from an African perspective. He blogs at johanfourie.com.

 

 

Jangle, Buzz, and Rattle: African Instruments, European Ears, and the Birth of "Black musicality"
Mary Caton Lingold

This presentation examines musical production and listening practices across spaces key to the development of the Atlantic slave trade. In particular, I focus on sound qualities that attracted the attention of Europeans authors of travelogues and missionary accounts. Understanding these iconic sounds, and how they were interpreted by outsiders exposes the roots of lasting stereotypes about Black musicality. The sounds also illuminate musical aesthetics shaping many early modern traditions. The presentation centers on scenes from Richard Jobson’s 1623 narrative of travels along the Gambia River. Jobson’s portrayals loom large in Western histories of the region and they have also influenced the way scholars understand African-European musical encounters during the period.

Mary Caton Lingold is Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is a scholar of the early modern Atlantic world whose research and teaching bridge the fields of sound studies, African diaspora and Caribbean studies, music, colonial American literature, and digital humanities. This presentation derives from a book in progress, “Sound Legacy: Music and Slavery in an African Atlantic World,” which is under contract with UVA Press. Her articles have appeared in Early Music, Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture, and Early American Literature, and she is the co-editor of Digital Sound Studies (Duke 2018), and co-creator of Musical Passage: A Voyage to 1688 Jamaica.

 

 

The Grand Detour: James Bruce of Kinnaird (1730-94) as an Agent of Ethiopian Antiquarianism
Antonia Dalivalle

James Bruce of Kinnaird has often been dismissed as an eccentric Scottish laird; the knowledge he brought back from Ethiopia as false and unreliable. Bruce’s ‘Grand Detour’ to Ethiopia from 1768 to 1772 provides an insight into how practices of European antiquarianism – the dissemination and study of material culture – were rejoindered by 18th century Ethiopian rulers to promote the history and culture of Ethiopia to a European audience. By focusing on an Ethiopian manuscript – the Kebra Nagast – gifted to Bruce by the Ethiopian Governor of Tigray, this paper reveals a hidden chapter of Ethiopian-European collaboration at the Ethiopian royal court.

Antonia Dalivalle is a PhD candidate in History at University College London. She currently works in the London African art market, and holds a BA in History of Art with Material Studies from UCL and a MA in Museum Studies and Digital Archaeology from Leiden University, the Netherlands. Her research interests include the history of British-Ethiopian relations – as mediated through material artefacts – the physical preservation of cultural heritage, and the incorporation of alternative points of view into cultural institutions. Antonia has researched, written and recorded short audio productions about objects relating to Ethiopia for the British Red Cross Museum and Archives’ ‘150 Voices’ exhibition, and her research about James Bruce of Kinnaird is the subject of a podcast for Pod Academy. In November 2020, she wrote about James Bruce for Historic Environment Scotland, an article which captured attention in The Scotsman and contributed towards a revived campaign to restore Bruce’s monument in Larbert, Scotland.

 

 

The Catholic Clergy and the Portuguese Project of "Civilizing" Angola
Hugo Ribeiro da Silva

 In the second half of the 18th century, Portuguese authorities, both in Lisbon and in Luanda, started to develop new strategies of colonization of the Angolan territory. The aim was to implement a colonization program that could give more solidity to the colonial powers. That would imply a territorial expansion in order to overcome the discontinuity originated by the dispersed colonial enclaves. Moreover, the new model of settlement should allow a more efficient control of circulation of people in the sertoes (hinterland). However, this was more than a program of territorial expansion and definition of political borders. It was a project to build a new cultural frontier according to a European model. In order to doing that the Portuguese colonial powers recognized the central role that the Catholic Church should have in all the process. In this paper, I will argue that the weak presence of the Church and its structures of governance in Angola was one of the reasons of the failure of the control of the “Angolan” territory in the late-18th century.

Hugo Ribeiro da Silva received his BA and Master from the University of Porto (Portugal) and his PhD in History and Civilization from the European University Institute, Florence (Italy). After completing his PhD, Hugo studied different aspects of the History of the Catholic Church in Portugal and Brazil (mainly the period of "Counter-reformation"), with a particular focus on the secular clergy. Currently he is Lecturer in Lusophone Studies in the departments of History and Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American Studies at King’s College London.

 

 

'[H]is Boy Ampa Will Take his Fitish Upon Itt’: Intercultural Child Slavery on the Gold Coast
Phillip Emanuel

My paper argues that enslaved African boys explicitly understood as children were essential to the conduct of trade on the Gold Coast, many of them given as gifts to establish relationships and demonstrate power. In presenting/accepting and subsequently employing those whose age made them subservient, Europeans adopted and adapted a practice rooted in African ideas of wealth in people, but also of life stages. The practice ultimately explains the well-documented presence of many enslaved children in English portraiture, but until now little work has been done on the importance of child slavery in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century West Africa.

Phillip Emanuel received a BA (Hons) from the University of Sydney and an MPhil in Early Modern History at the University of Cambridge. Following this he had a six-year career as an art handler at two international auction houses. He returned to graduate study at William & Mary and is now in the writing stage of his dissertation “‘Great weights hang by small wires’: Households, slavery, and knowledge performances in the making of the British Empire, c.1650-1713”.

 

 

The Settlers’ Fortunes: Comparing Tax Censuses in the Cape Colony and Early American Republic
Johan Fourie

Europeans at the end of the eighteenth century had settled across the globe, from North and South America to Australia to the southern tip of Africa. While theories of institutional persistence explain the ‘reversal of fortunes’ between settled and unsettled regions, few studies consider the large differences in early living standards between settler societies. This paper uses newly transcribed household-level tax censuses from the Dutch and British Cape Colony and the United States shortly after independence to show comparative levels of income and wealth over four decades both between the two regions and within them. Cape farmers were, on average, more affluent than their American counterparts. There was little indication of an imminent reversal of fortunes.

Johan Fourie is Professor of economics and history at Stellenbosch University, where he teaches economic history to graduate and undergraduate students. He is the author of more than 60 peer-reviewed articles and, in April 2021, published ‘Our Long Walk to Economic Freedom’, an accessible introduction to global economic history from an African perspective. He blogs at johanfourie.com.

 

 

Living on Atlantic Time: Commerce and Daily Life on the Senegambia Coast
Liza Gijanto

The Senegambia was one of the first regions of West Africa to be fully incorporated into Atlantic Commerce.  By the early 18th century, the French and British were entrenched on the two major waterways (Senegal and Gambia rivers) following over a century of Portuguese settlement and intermarriage amongst prominent traders as the region reoriented itself from the interior to the coast via prominent Luso-Africans and their ties to Portugal.  One of the commercial centers to emerge as pivotal to the regional trade was Niumi at the mouth of the Gambia River. By the early 18th century new settlements had emerged along the entirety of the Gambia riverbank linking commercial voyages based out of the British-held James Fort to the caravans from the interior.  This local trade network was continuously realigning as different goods came in and out of demand in West African markets and British attitudes to the slave trade shifted from one of condemnation in the early Atlantic era as seen in the writings of Richard Jobson on the river trade (1620) to engagement in the middle Atlantic era as seen in the Royal African Company activities, to abolition and condemnation again bringing about the decline of the Atlantic era in the region.  While Europe and the Americas began to pivot away from enslavement through the course of the 19th century, internal conflicts erupted in the Senegambia as sources of wealth via global markets dried up and domestic slavery persisted.  The resulting Marabout wars of the 19th century, are directly linked to the regions’ swift prosperity and equally swift decline over the course of the 18th century.  These local, regional and global shifts are visible in the landscape and material record of the different settlements.  Drawing on archival and archaeological data, I demonstrate how the long 18th century on The Gambia River, cannot be understood without examining the intensity of the region’s connection to different points across the Atlantic from the 15th to late 19th century.  Specifically, I focus on changing settlement patterns, foodways, and public displays of wealth.

Liza Gijanto is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at St Mary’s College of Maryland.

 

 

Soldiers Dream of Home, Officers of Glory: Clan and King in the 18th Century Akan Moral Imagination
Paul Grant

The precolonial Akan military state—the ɔman, pl. aman—figures prominently in postcolonial historiography as an autochthonous Ghanaian polity, but aman were often fissile, riven by internal social tensions. This paper examines the disintegration of an 18th century ɔman in the crucible of transatlantic slavery. Twenty-five years after enslavement, surviving officers continued to assert loyalty to the organization, while most other soldiers named their matriclans. This difference tells us a great deal about the intellectual history underpinning the ɔman: as a contingent superstructure, it could not meet all its constituents’ moral needs.

Paul Glen Grant is Lecturer in History at the University of Wisconsin, where he also received his PhD. In 2020 he published Healing and Power in Ghana: Early Indigenous Expressions of Christianity (Baylor University Press).

 

 

Approaching the eighteenth cent. of a region without written sources (Dendi, Niger River Valley, West Africa)
Anne Haour, Olivier Gosselain, Alexander Livingstone Smith, Didier N’Dah
Anne Haour

"How different would people have really found each other in the eighteenth century?" is a compelling call to arms. We deploy archaeological, ethnographic and historical data to put forward some hypotheses relating to Dendi, the part of the Niger River Valley at the border of present-day Bénin and Niger, and its neighbours downstream. In our work in the region (2011-present), we took an approach that focused on sites which hold significance to historically-minded local residents. The traditions, which seem to us to be hybrid aggregates combining legendary and historical facts, can relate to a network of communities over tens, even hundreds, of kilometres – as such, we term these places ‘regional sites of memory’. The traditions point, in particular, to the existence of an important economic pole in the region, a source of considerable wealth in the eighteenth century – and perhaps earlier – due to its position on along a major caravan route. One of the complex historical groupings which we investigated is that of Torouwey, a place-name near unknown outside the immediate region but reputed locally to have been engaged in services to caravans crossing the Niger River. Connections with the Yoruba area, and in particular Old Oyo, and with networks of salt traders and dyers reaching into present-day Burkina Faso and Mali, can be suggested on the basis of our work. This regional prominence has been erased by later traditions; these, combined with a lack of interest for the history of local populations by the first European visitors to the area, led to the past significance of Dendi being forgotten.

Anne C Haour is Professor in the Arts and Archaeology of Africa at the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, University of East Anglia.

 

 

Religious Orders, Slavery, and African Agency in Eighteenth Century Angola
Philipp Hofmann

Historiography on nineteenth-century missionary activity in Angola, and Africa in general, has the tendency to regard missionaries primarily as agents of the Church and the colonial state who helped consolidate colonial dominion through proselytization. This view overlooks the economic dimension that underlay the relationships between Africans and ecclesiastics in earlier periods. By exploring religious orders’ involvement in slavery and the slave trade in eighteenth-century Luanda and along the rivers Bengo, Dande and Kwanza, this presentation examines the complex links between clerics and local African populations that these economic activities entailed.

Philipp Hofmann is a doctoral student in African History at the Centre for History of the University of Lisbon. His PhD research focuses on the role of the clergy in eighteenth-century Angola.

 

 

Zanzibar and Shifting Globalisation During the 18th Century
Mark Horton

With the fall of Portuguese Fort Jesus to the Omani Yarubs in 1698, power relations on the East African coast shifted to competition between different Arab families, with Portuguese influence limited to Mozambique coast. On Zanzibar, this was reflected in competition for control of the islands - Pemba and the Mazruis and Unguga and the Bu’saidis. Both established forts at strategic locations, and attempted to control the rural hinterland and Swahili population. However the reasons behind control were different - on Pemba was the need to obtain food supplies for Mombasa and the developing plantations on the coast, while on Zanzibar, it was a base for slave trading along the coast, to supply the Gulf with manpower to run the date palm and pearling industries. The paper will take this larger historical picture and examine how it is reflected on the groundin the archaeology of the islands, in terms of shifting settlement patters, the development of fort architecture and patterns of trade and imported goods. The results will be based on recent fieldwork conducted in Zanzibar Stonetown, and in northern Pemba island.

Mark Horton is Professor of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage at the Royal Agricultural University.

 

 

Sara Johnson

Sara Johnson is Associate Professor of the Literature of the Americas. Her research and teaching areas include literature, theory and history of the Hispanophone, Francophone and Anglophone Caribbean and its diasporas; hemispheric American literature and cultural studies; the Age of Revolution in the extended Americas; and music and dance of the African Diaspora.

 

 

Travelling Manuscripts in an Early Modern Knowledge Network: The Library of the Sufi path al-Nāṣiriyah in Tamgrūt, Morocco
Natalie Kraneiß

The history of libraries in the Islamicate world prior to the 19th century has been little examined, and it is only in recent years that scholars begin to study the structure, organization and function of libraries in Muslim communities. The paper explores the library of the Sufi path al-Nāṣiriyah, which was established in Tamgrūt, Southern Morocco by Maḥammad b. Nāṣir (1603-1674) and his son Aḥmad al-Khalīfa (1647-1717). By examining the regional, thematic and temporal emphases of the collection, I intend to demonstrate the material and intellectual connections between different regions of the Islamicate world and to place the al-Nāṣiriyah within a transregional network of knowledge flows.

Natalie Kraneiß completed her bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies at Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany with a thesis on the changing role of religious scholars during the early French protectorate in Morocco. Since 2019, she is pursuing a master’s degree in Islamic and Arabic Studies at the University of Münster, Germany. For her master’s thesis, she is studying the formation of the early modern library in Tamgrūt, Morocco and its place within the network of the Sufi Brotherhood al-Nāṣiriyah.

 

 

Patterns of Circulation and Valuation in 18th Century Africa: A Case Study of Cowrie Shells in East Africa
Abigail Moffett

Communities in East Africa were networked to various regions of the continent and the wider Indian Ocean rim. One way of gleaning evidence for the nature of these networks and entanglements is through the analyses of objects through time. In this paper, we explore evidence of the exchange and use of cowrie shells, a hitherto under researched object, in the 18th century in East Africa. Our analyses bring to the fore a diversity of actors and networks that underpinned the circulation of Monetaria annulus shells to different regions of the continent and further afield.

Abigail J. Moffett is a British Academy Newton International Fellow at the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, University of East Anglia. Her research explores material evidence of frontiers and entanglements in southern and East Africa.

 

 

18th Century’s Scramble for Okavango Delta: An Autochthonous Framework
Kenosi Molato

18 Century is historically known, as an invasion of Southern Africa by European countries. This is based on the idea that it was a time in history whereby colonizing countries were invading African continent. These invasions of European countries caused wars in African soil not only among the colonizing countries but also among the African indigenous ethnic groups. This made the powerless ethnic groups to flee to the places where they will find refuge such as the Okavango Delta. Consequently, the arrivals of the Bayei, Bahambukushu and the Basubiya ethnic group in the Delta and the emergence of the Batawana led to fights and subjugation of minor ethnic groups in the Okavango Delta. The main point of the contentions was who belong to the Okavango Delta and which ethnic group should rule over other groups? This paper seeks to examine and investigate the 18-Century subjugation, which took place in the Okavango Delta. Moreover, this paper objective is to demonstrate that the subjugations, which began in the 18 century, still exist at this present moment in Okavango Delta.

Kenosi Molato is a scholar from the northwest district in Botswana. He holds an MA (Humanities) in theology, Religious studies and philosophy from the University of Botswana and he is currently a PhD candidate in systematic theology at South African theological seminary. He has published articles in peer-reviewed articles, chapters in Books, published a Book and attended international academic conferences. His research interest includes environmental preservation, honour and shame, Atonement theologies, and the history of Okavango Delta.

 

 

The Barolong and Smallpox, a 18th-century Crisis in Southern Africa
Ettore Morelli

This paper investigates a smallpox epidemic that hit central Southern Africa in the mid-to-late 18th century and proposes that the spread of the disease played a role in the final crisis of the kingdom of the Barolong. Due to the remoteness of the region from the Cape Colony at that time, both the history of the Barolong and of the epidemic is still very little known. The paper is based on a broad review of European travel accounts, incling unpublished notes, but most importantly is built on the unpublished scholarship of Seetsele Molema, historian of the Barolong. Reconstructing the history of the epidemic, the paper highlights the long-distance connections that African communities of Southern Africa had built with the rest of the continent.

Ettore Morelli is a historian of Southern Africa. He works on the period before colonialism in the region of the interior known as Highveld and comprising parts of modern Lesotho, South Africa, and Botswana. Currently, he is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pavia, Italy, and was previously a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and a PhD student at SOAS, London. He is now writing a book on the political history of the Highveld between c.1500 and c.1850 and is a member of the public history project Five Hundred Year Archive, based at the University of Cape Town.

 

 

'Thus I Came By My Name': A History of Eighteenth-Century African Life-Writing through Broteer Furro’s Narrative (1789)
Daniele Nunziata

Born in the late eighteenth-century near modern-day Ghana, Broteer Furro published his life story in 1789, creating one of the earliest examples of print life-writing by an author from West Africa. Across his life, Furro was abducted many times and, in the process of being enslaved, he was forced to move to Barbados and then to Rhode Island where he was coerced into changing his name to Venture Smith. In the last years of his life, he committed this story to print and published A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa (1789). The very title of work places his Africanness at the forefront of his identity and life-writing; yet the use of the name imposed upon him by white colonialists signals the ways in which his existential freedoms were limited. This paper will examine how Broteer explores his individual, familial, cultural, and continental identities through literature. Of particular interest is the way in which the text, divided into sections preceding and following his forced transatlantic movement, shifts from expressing a localised identity based around his birthplace (Dukandarra), to a pan-continental reframing as an African. It is his forced separation from the continent that emphasises his sense of self as belonging to, or originating from, (West) Africa. This paper will also draw attention to the auto-ethnographic elements of the Narrative, including his detailed observations on the coast of ‘Guinea’. His text presents brilliant, meticulous accounts of the history and culture of West Africa by a West African writer. It is important to consider the ways in which Furro reclaims agency in contrast to the colonialist travel-writing about Africa being published conterminously.

Daniele Nunziata is a Lecturer in English Literature at St Anne's College, University of Oxford. He is the author of Colonial and Postcolonial Cyprus: Transportal Literatures of Empire, Nationalism, and Sectarianism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). His other research into postcolonial literature has been published widely in journals such as PMLA, FORUM, and the Journal of Postcolonial Writing. He has also contributed regularly to the online projects, Writers Make Worlds and Great Writers Inspire.

 

 

Against Timelessness: Alcohol and Power in the Middle Passage, 1670-1713
Lila O’Leary Chambers

Historians have typically accepted alcohol as a ubiquitous component of Atlantic voyages, slaving or otherwise. Rather than take this phenomenon for granted, this paper argues that British traffickers used alcohol to commodify and control bound Africans during the foundation period of English slaving. For the West Africans enslaved on board, alcohol transformed from a means of mediating spiritual connection, forming social ties, and demonstrating political acumen into a substance that aided English attempts to convert their bodies into commodities. Grounded in work on alcohol in Afro-Anglo relations on the Gold Coast from 1672 to 1713, this paper demonstrates the importance of considering what it meant for captive Africans to be both forced and former consumers in the Middle Passage. Instead of a “universal tragedy,” confining this study to a discrete historical period allows for a greater specificity in understanding how both the enslaved and their enslavers might have made sense of this new context of alcohol consumption.

Lila O’Leary Chambers is a PhD candidate and Quinn Fellow at New York University. Her thesis argues for the political, cultural, and economic importance of alcohol in the rise of chattel slavery in the British Atlantic. Her work has been supported by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the Huntington Library, and the Folger Library, among others.

 

 

Maputo to Jamaica to London & Back: The Travels of Two African "Princes"
Lindsay O’Neill

In 1716 two men, from what is now Maputo, boarded an English ship as free men. They would be enslaved, freed, arrive in England, and one would return home. Their story takes us to an area of Africa not often studied by scholars, where European power was muted, but surfaced enough to be a tool of influence. Their travels reveal how these men manipulated European understandings of Africa to gain sway in London. However, the journey would not end with links between England and Maputo, but rather with the reputation of such a connection.

Lindsay O’Neill is an Associate Professor (Teaching) at the University of Southern California. Her first book was The Opened Letter: Networking in the Early Modern British World and she is now working on a book detailing the travels of two African princes from what is now Maputo who arrive in London in 1720. 

 

 

Urban Morphology of Open Spaces in Ancient Nigerian Kingdoms, Cities, States
Orinayo Ayotemi Odubawo

Urban morphology started out as an aspect of human geography in the 1900s. It studies the form of human settlements and the process of their formation and transformation – entails the spatial analysis of urban structures, land use, street patterns, buildings, and open spaces. (Barau et al.,2015) This chapter attempts to explore the urban morphology of public spaces in Nigeria from an historical perspective. The well-defined urban design and planning of ancient cities across Nigeria dating as far back as the 10th century has invoked an investigation into public spaces that existed in these cities. (Barau et al.,2015) The cities of Benin, Kano and Ile-Ife known for their impeccable urban design and planning (boundary walls, well laid out street pattern etc.) also boasts of public spaces that graced these kingdoms and are unfortunately disappearing or completely gone in the present age. It is imperative to understand the importance of place making although a recent development in urbanism in the design of these cities. Unfortunately, public spaces in Nigerian cities today are either non-existent or becoming obsolete- despite its great importance centuries ago.  Urban public spaces constitute a major environmental resource of an urban landscape and Nigerian cities as we know it today lack the amount of public open spaces needed for proper and high quality urban life. Most of the present public spaces are not user friendly or not accessible. The aim is to investigate the In order to assess the structure of a city, whether it be a western or non-western model, there has to be an investigation of how the people use and enjoy (recreation and social interchange) the city. The study establishes the traditional character of the city. Through the investigation of literature through journals, books and relevant literature, this chapter will highlight the evolution of public spaces in historical Nigerian cities, the factors that contributed to its decline and propose a strategy of assimilating the culture of keeping and using public spaces 

Orinayo Odubawo is currently undertaking a Master’s degreein Environmental Design at the University of Lagos.

 

 

Stout Mistresses, Scrawny Slaves: Women in the Social, Economic and Cultural Life of the Bight of Biafra
Mary Ononokpono

This paper explores the role of Biafran women in the Atlantic economy. Owing to the lack of primary sources written by said women, their role is considered through the prism of evolving social relations, specifically gender relations, in addition to relations between enslaved people, their mistresses and masters at the onset of Atlanticisation through this moment, almost twenty years post abolition. The first half of the chapter will be dedicated to an analysis of the ways in which African women were centred in the European imagination throughout the Atlantic age: primarily, as objects of desire, and secondly, as economic devices, predominantly at the point of purchase.[1] The second half will examine the role of women in the economic, social and cultural life of the Atlantic age Bight of Biafra. Central to this is an analysis of the ways in which financial devices in this location mediated social relations and the impact this had on the autonomy of African women in this part of the coast and further inland. The chapter also explores how expansion of Trans-Atlantic markets facilitated the rise in consumerism and the peculiar gendered ways this manifested in the cultures of this and neighbouring locations. Furthermore, the chapter examines the extent to which African women participated in the literary culture which flourished in the Bight of Biafra, particularly in Old Calabar and Bonny, during the eighteenth century.  In analysing the above, the chapter aims to discover the degree to which Atlanticisation altered the fortunes of these women —as wives, as daughters, as mothers and slaves— and more importantly, how they adapted to their fluctuating circumstances.

Mary Ononokpono is an AHRC funded PhD Candidate researching Atlantic and Colonial West Africa. Her research examines gendered socioeconomic and cultural transformations across the Bight of Biafra (Coastal Nigeria) in the long nineteenth-century. She holds an MPhil in African Studies from the University of Cambridge where she graduated top of her cohort with distinction.

 

 

Thinking about the Socio-political dynamics of Ilorin, Kwara State, Northern Yorubaland, Nigeria in the 18th Century: Historical and archaeological Assessments.  
Bolaji J. Owoseni

Ilorin, in present-day Nigeria, was a city famed for its intricate craft production, such as the pottery and red stone beads, war and jihad in the precolonial period. However, these accounts, which stem from nineteenth century writers and European visitors have obscured earlier events. This paper presents some thoughts on 18th century Ilorin. The major event of this century was the transatlantic slave trade. My research considers how these events would have played out and shaped the socio-political dynamics of Ilorin due to its positioning on trade routes to areas north, beyond the Niger river, and south, towards the coast.

Bolaji Owoseni is a lecturer in archaeology at Kwara State University, Nigeria, and a PhD student of Art History at the Sainsbury Research Unit, University of East Anglia, UK. She specialises in the archaeology of West Africa with a focus on the case of Ilorin, North-central Nigeria. Her research investigates the development of this historically-significant city prior to the 19th century through its associated material culture. Her major focus is on understanding what information pottery studies can provide on the past people of Ilorin, in relation to regional social and political interactions. To this end, she is investigating the abandoned settlement of Okesuna. Her other areas of interest include ethnoarchaeology, community engagement, and heritage related studies.

 

 

"An End to their Days" The Use and Perceptions of the Red Water Ordeal in Early Sierra Leone
Tim Soriano

The red water ordeal performed by the Temne in Sierra Leone through the early 19th century was used as an evidentiary procedure in trials. The drink, made from an infusion of tree bark, had an emetic effect and if the defendant responded to it, they were not found guilty. The British, when observing these trials, believed that it was part of African customary law that evolved from an Anglo-Saxon legal tradition. With British intervention, more modern legal practices, based upon English Common Law, would be given to the Temne, placing them on the path to becoming a "civilized" society.

Tim Soriano is a PhD candidate in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is also a Scholar-in-Residence at the Newberry Library, Chicago.

 

 

The Christian Saints in Vodou:  Kongo Christianity in the Atlantic World
John Thornton

Explores how understanding African understandings of the Cosmos underlies the transit of those understandings to the Americas, and how regionally specific cosmologies including the religious traditions of Kongo and the Yoruba-Fon can explain the juncture of the Kongolese Catholic Saint, Fon deities, and the religious environment of Saint Domingue and Haiti.

John Thornton was educated at the University of Michigan and UCLA where he received his PhD in 1979.  He has taught at Millersville University and since 2003 at Boston University.  He specializes in the history of pre-colonial Africa and the African Diaspora, his most recent book is A History of West Central Africa to 1850 (Cambridge, 2020).

 

 

Intermediaries in the European slave trade to Madagascar during the eighteenth century
Rafaël Thiebaut

Foulpointe was a buzzling port on the East Coast of Madagascar. During the second half of the Eighteenth Century, it was home to a small French merchant community that was heavily involved in the slave trade to the Mascarene Islands. In order to cope with the “choc of cultures”, the Europeans relied on local Malagasy in order to maintain their activities. Traitant Nicolas Mayeur explains in 1788 that he has a Malagasy interpreter to be able to interact with local slave traders and that he married a Malagasy woman to strengthen his ties with his business partners. Finally, he relied on Malagasy workers, called marmittes, to assist him in his day-to-day activities.

For too long the slave trade has been depicted as an unequal exchange between the European merchant forcing his will on the ignorant African. The reality was different and certainly much more complex than this. Europeans were not only dependent on the local sovereigns in order to effectively trade there. To maintain a foothold there, they had to integrate the local society on different levels. Thus, the slave trade could not have taken place without the help of these local Malagasy.

This paper will explore the relations between these European merchants and the local Malagasy population during the eighteenth century. Madagascar is an interesting case study. As opposed to West Africa, Europeans did not possess any strongholds on the coast. Also, the presence of African and Asian traders, its role as refreshment station on the route to the East Indies as well as the proximity of European destinations of slaves like the French Mascarenes and Dutch Cape Colony makes that the this study gives an unique insight in this phenomenon.

Rafaël Thiebaut is a Lecturer at Sciences Po Reims and a Postdoctoral researcher at Musée du quai Branly.

 

 

Urban Planning Of 18th Century Kano
Adefolatomiwa Taiwo Toye

The ancient city of Kano Nigeria has since the 10th century established itself as a commercial centre for trans-Saharan trade. It is a significant case study in understanding the urban morphology of pre-colonial cities of West Africa. The 18th century is crucial to Kano’s history as this was the last century of sovereignty of the Hausa kingdoms before the jihad reforms of the 1800s and British colonial domination decades after. Through literature reviews and mapping techniques this study explores the urban morphology of Kano as a Hausa state, an emirate in the Sokoto Caliphate and a part of the British Colony.

Adefolatomiwa Toye is a postgraduate architecture student at the University of Lagos. Her research interests include: architecture and urbanism of precolonial African cities, the perception of the built environment in African literature from the 19th century to contemporary times, and post-independence infrastructure in West Africa. She is a recipient of the 2020 A3-ARCHNET Prize for African architecture and a 2021 Society of Architectural Historians Student Diversity Fellow. She is currently the Grants and Public Programmes Assistant at A3: (Archives of African Architectures), an organization documenting the built environment of Africa.

 

 

Origins, Authority, and Enslavability: Making African Community on Eighteenth-Century Gorée Island
Sarah J. Zimmerman

At the 2018 inauguration of the “Place d’Europe,” Gorée’s mayor, Augustin Senghor, claimed that “Gorée is European.”1 This authoritative assertion results from a narrow reading of the island’s history and effaces the African origins of the island’s historical elite and enslaved populations. Signares were renowned women of eighteenth-century coastal Senegambia known for their entrepreneurialism, property accumulation, and multi-raciality. Gorée Island’s signares are often situated within historical debates relevant to the francophone Atlantic world. These women are made exceptional to, and often decontextualized from, broader historical trends in Senegambia. Additionally, their historiographical prominence overshadows the histories of enslaved women, who made up the demographic majority of Gorée’s eighteenth-century residential population. In order to better understand signares’ origins, as well as the conditions and institutions that produced and sustained them on Gorée, this paper anchors these island women to their Senegambian context. The first decades of eighteenth-century Gorée are not well-documented. Through a careful reading of travelers’ accounts from the turn of the eighteenth century and attention to Wolof, Serer, and Mandinka oral traditions, this paper will examine gendered traditions of power and enslavability in kingdoms and communities stretching from the Senegal River to the Bissagos Islands. Gorée’s residential African population came from coastal or inland communities engaged in transatlantic commerce. The customary practices dictating how Senegambians became enslavable or worthy of emancipation combined with gendered conventions of authority and dependency to inform the sociocultural order of Gorée’s early-eighteenth-century African residential community. Senegambian women and men—including slaves and slaveowners—relocated to the island with their traditions of social order. This paper will show that African customs formed the basis of signareship and continued to inform gendered traditions of authority and slavery on Gorée throughout the eighteenth century.

Sarah Zimmerman is Associate Professor of History at Western Washington University and author most recently of Militarizing Marriage: West African Soldiers’ Conjugal Traditions in Modern French Empire (Ohio University Press, 2020).

 

 


[1] Owing to the paucity of primary sources examining the Bight of Biafra during early onset Atlanticisation, the analysis in part one will broadly concern the way African women across the West African coast presented in the European imagination during this period.