Negotiating Cross-Cultural Trade in the Eighteenth Century: From the Atlantic Coast Markets to the Congo River Basin

Monday, 5 November, 2012 - 15:00

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The paper concentrates on the spaces in which cross-cultural trade encounters happen and the negotiations involved in those meetings. By focusing on the case study of slave trading on the Loango Coast (West Central Africa), it provides a micro-analysis of the mechanisms of the slave trade, the frequency of exchanges, and the functions of those African actors holding key political roles. By tracing the journey of slaves backward from the Loango Coast through the caravans to the slave markets, the paper examines the role which European commodities play in African markets and communities. It explores the relevance of knowledge accumulation in negotiating the barriers and the obligations of trade partners. It is only through the creation of a cross-cultural understanding of limits and expectations that the Loango Coast was able to sustain and expand its supply of slaves into the transatlantic system throughout the eighteenth century. Furthermore, the paper argues that it was the Mafouks (appointed trade officials), rather than the local rulers, who facilitated and controlled the Loango Coast slave trade. This official provided a barrier between European merchants and the local trade communities, slowing the impact of cross-cultural exchange on the local religious and cultural norms. However, this position also allowed the Mafouks to amass enough personal wealth and political influence to undermine the power bases of local rulers.


PDF icon Sommerdyk2012.pdf

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