This article analyzes the ways in which the Sierra Leone Company, a chartered trading company, attempted to persuade Africans to relinquish the slave trade in favor of an export trade in crops and other natural commodities. Company efforts to reform African economic activity led to increasing levels of travel and investigation on the upper Guinea coast in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The article examines how abolitionists constructed their case for reform in Britain, as well as the strategies deployed to implement their plans on the coast of West Africa. With scant first-hand knowledge of Africa, the directors of the Sierra Leone Company relied on the testimony of European rather than African informants. As a result, Company plans devised in London were misinformed and misdirected. From the early 1790s, Company employees based at Freetown undertook a series of short and long distance journeys to gather intelligence on the potential for cultivation and trade. Although Company ideas for the development of a "just and honourable commerce" were unsuccessful, their policies continued to influence debate on West Africa in the nineteenth century.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 1-45
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.