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Slavery and the Birth of an African City

Lagos, 1760--1900

Kristin Mann

Publication Year: 2007

As the slave trade entered its last, illegal phase in the 19th century, the town of Lagos on West Africa's Bight of Benin became one of the most important port cities north of the equator. Slavery and the Birth of an African City explores the reasons for Lagos's sudden rise to power. By linking the histories of international slave markets to those of the regional suppliers and slave traders, Kristin Mann shows how the African slave trade forever altered the destiny of the tiny kingdom of Lagos. This magisterial work uncovers the relationship between African slavery and the growth of one of Africa's most vibrant cities.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

This book draws on data collected over a long period of time, beginning with my dissertation research in Nigeria and England during the 1970s and continuing to the present. Financial support from a number of government agencies and private organizations...

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pp. 1-22

This book investigates the relationship between long-term changes in the economy and culture of the Atlantic world and the history of a small but globally significant portion of the West African coast. The slave trade, which in the roughly 350 years of its existence forcibly exported approximately...

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1. The Rise of Lagos as an Atlantic Port, c. 1760–1851

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pp. 23-50

In the second half of the seventeenth century, Europeans began arriving on the coast of West Africa’s Bight of Benin in significant numbers to buy slaves for use on New World plantations. The rapid growth of this new international trade...

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2. Trade, Oligarchy, and the Transformation of thePrecolonial State

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pp. 51-83

The rise of the slave trade at Lagos increased the income of its obas and a number of its leading chiefs. These individuals used their new wealth to expand their commercial activities and augment their military and political power, which strengthened their position within the kingdom and made the state a...

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

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pp. 84-116

In 1851, Britain bombarded Lagos, drove Kosoko into exile at Epe on the northeastern shore of the lagoon, and replaced him as oba with Akitoye, whom the Foreign Office believed would make a more compliant local ally. A decade later, Britain annexed the kingdom, commencing a century of...

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4. Innocent Commerce: Boom and Bust in the Palm Produce Trade

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pp. 117-159

Abolitionists and policymakers in mid-nineteenth-century Britain expected that the production and trade of cotton to supply Britain’s burgeoning textile industry would rescue the peoples of the Bight of Benin from the slave trade. Yoruba farmers had in fact long grown cotton for use in domestic cloth weaving....

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5. Britain and Domestic Slavery

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pp. 160-199

The abolition of the external slave trade formed an essential part of the program of reform that drew Britain into Lagos. From the time of the bombardment in 1851, British officials and Christian missionaries in the town worked steadily to end the foreign commerce in slaves from the Bight of Benin...

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6. Redefining the Owner-Slave Relationship: Work, Ideology, and the Demand for People

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pp. 200-236

Although Britain did little to emancipate the many thousand slaves in Lagos, economic, political, and legal changes occurring in the colony created new opportunities for some of them to begin to redefine their relationships with their owners. The abolition of the foreign and, more slowly, the domestic...

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7. The Changing Meaning of Land in the Urban Economyand Culture

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pp. 237-276

Commercial development and population growth in Lagos, fueled by the importation of gradually diminishing numbers of slaves as well as by the influx of runaway slaves and free immigrants, combined in the second half of the nineteenth century to increase the demand for dwellings, stores, and...

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8. Strategies of Struggle and Mechanisms of Control: QuotidianConflicts and Court Cases

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pp. 277-312

Slavery was such a sensitive subject in Lagos during most of the second half of the nineteenth century that Europeans and Africans were both normally disinclined to discuss it. Their reticence has left historians with a dearth of records that illuminate the institution’s gradual demise. Silences on the subject...

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pp. 313-325

The slave trade and abolition, slavery and emancipation were closely related themes in the history of nineteenth-century Lagos. In the second quarter of the eighteenth century, the Atlantic slave trade on the Slave Coast of West Africa began...


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pp. 327-421


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pp. 423-457


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pp. 459-473

E-ISBN-13: 9780253117083
E-ISBN-10: 0253117089
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253348845

Page Count: 488
Illustrations: 1 b&w illus., 3 maps
Publication Year: 2007