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Slave Trade and Textile Production


>>> Item number 683, dated 95/10/13 21:22:04 -- ALL

Date:         Fri, 13 Oct 1995 21:22:04 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      QUERY:  vSlave Trade and Textile Production

crosasposted froom H-WORLD (H-World@msu.edu)

Date:

From:           RICHARD ROBBINS, SUNY Plattsburgh
                <ROBBINRH@splava.cc.plattsburgh.edu>

Thanks to all of you who responded to my request for sources on the impact of the slave trade on African economies. I've checked some of the sources, and need to check some of the others. But in reading some of the material, another question (naturally) comes up.

Thornton, in *African and Africans...*, implies that there was an inverse relationship between textile production and the slave trade (page 110ff); that when textile production was a priority in African societies (as in Benin in the sixteenth century), slave trading was either reduced or prohibited.

Might this suggest that when textile production was profitable, slave trading declined, and, conversely, when textile production proved less profitable (e.g. in the face of competition from European--particularly English--textile products), slave trading would increase? Is this plausible, and, if so, is there any literature examining the relationship? Thanks again.

>>> Item number 688, dated 95/10/16 06:49:14 -- ALL

Date:         Mon, 16 Oct 1995 06:49:14 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: Slave Trade and Textile Production

Date sent:      Sun, 15 Oct 1995
From:           Martin Klein, University of Toronto
                <mklein@epas.utoronto.ca>

In large areas of the Western Sudan, textile production was slave work. This stimulated the slave trade, but directed many of those slaves to local markets. In general the male slaves wove while the female spun. Since it took about 8 hours of spinning to produce enough thread to keep a weaver busy for an hour, this also kept the price of women higher. A woman no longer sexually attractive or capable of heavy labour could still spin.

>>> Item number 693, dated 95/10/17 16:20:00 -- ALL

Date:         Tue, 17 Oct 1995 16:20:00 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: Slave Trade and Textile Production

Date sent:      Mon, 16 Oct 1995
From:           Ralph Austen, University of Chicago
                <wwb3@midway.uchicago.edu>

Thornton is of course right, that areas which exported textiles would need all the labor available to them and thus not export many slaves-- even import them. However on a Continent or Western-Africa wide basis, the textile industry supported the slave trade because African textile exports went almost exculively to other African regions, where they would be exchanged for slaves, gold or some other export which interested Europeans. Also, as Matin Klein implies, some textile-producing areas might even export male slaves while keeping feamles for spinning.

The interesting question is why Africans did not export textiles to any significant extent into the world market. Part of the answer lies in technology and demography. Thornton notes how the Kongo region equalled the textile ouput of Leiden in the seventeenth century, but there were very many Leidens in Europe and spinning wheels did overcome the labor bottleneck which Kelin describes.

Another issue (which has not been investigated to my knowledge) is that the form of African cloth was not as suitable to European tailoring as Indian cottons. Also, to get the variety of colors avaialble from India, Africans had to import Indian cloth and unweave it for the dyed thread, thus raising the price above the original Indian source. The patterns were not imitations of India and had an appeal to African markets, but evidently not enough to attract overseas consumers able to pay for it.

Since I am in the process of revising my book on *African Economic History*, I would be very interested of know of further work which has been done in this area.

>>> Item number 697, dated 95/10/19 08:14:03 -- ALL

Date:         Thu, 19 Oct 1995 08:14:03 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY:  Slave Trade and Textile Production

crossposted from H-WORLD (h-world@msu.edu)

From: Jack OwensIdaho State University

<owenjack@isu.edu>

Since John Thornton is not a member of H-WORLD, I sent him a copy of the recent query by Richard Robbins of SUNY-Plattsburgh about the relationship between textile production and the slave trade. Here is Prof. Thornton's response.

Date: Sat, 14 Oct 1995 09:35:32 -0400 (EDT)

John Thornton--a reply and elaboration re: textile production and the slave trade.

I don't think that we can really see a sort of inverse relationship between slave trading and textile production, at least at a grand macro-level. For a recent discussion on this for Kongo, it is worth taking a look at Anne Hilton, *The Kingdom of Kongo* (Oxford, 1985) which proposes the growth of textile production interacts with Kongo's participation in the export slave trade.

Part of my problem is that I don't think we can see "produciton" of slaves as simply some sort of economic activity, like hunting elephants for ivory. Certainly, at a low level brigands and robbers might seek to raid for slaves as a purely economic approach. But at the level of the state, slaving is always a part of war, and typically the wars are not easy matters from a military point of view.

A good corrective for that viewpoint is to see Werner Peukert's *Der Atantischen Sklavenhandel von Dahomey (Wiesbaden, 1978) which looks at military operations conducted by Dahomey in much of the eighteenth century. It is striking how many campaigns were failures or resulted in no captives. Obviously, in planning military operations African leaders were not unaware that success would bring captives and hence profits, and perhaps they even felt compelled to make war in hopes that captives' sales would recoup losses or shortfalls in foreign exchange, but most African states were not able to conduct sure fire campaigns.

The situation is even more complex in places like Kongo where a civil war determined the course of war. Factional leaders might be under even more pressure to hope that a successful campaign would bolster them financially and thus allow them to increase their personal stock of weapons through the sale of captives. But it would be wrong in my view to imagine that in these situations trade off decisions about textile produciton and warfare were being made. The best apporach is to understand the politics in all their complexity, informed by knowledge of the economic consequences of military decisions.

We're a long way from knowing the history of African textile production, and even the impact of the industial revolution. J. E. Inikori has a fascinating article in the Duke UP book on the slave trade (sorry that I can't call up the reference better) in which he shows how English merchants practiced and developed their products by selling to the Gold Coast market in the 1760s, precisely because there were no mercantilist protctions such as spoiled the European market. I'm not sure exactly what the implications of this were for the slave trade, however.

More discussion is certainly welcome.

John Thornton

>>> Item number 704, dated 95/10/19 17:08:54 -- ALL

Date:         Thu, 19 Oct 1995 17:08:54 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: Slave Trade and Textile Production

Date sent:      Tue, 17 Oct 95
From:           David Newbury, University of North Carolina
                <dnewbury.ham@mhs.unc.edu>

I respond to Prof. Robbins's query about the relation of textile exports and slave exports, as mentioned by Thornton.

There may be an interesting correlation suggested here between these two types of export commoditites, but I would caution against hasty conclusionss on such matters. Figures alone do not always suggest a direct causal relationship; often economic correlations mask much more complex forms of interactions. For example, Hogendorn traces out an interesting relationship between Hausa textile production and groundnut production.

First, the British assumed that local cloth production was an impediment to their purchase of raw cotton as an alternative to less reliable sources in the US and Egypt; they felt that flooding the market with iinexpensive British textiles would undercut the local textile industry, and consequently free up cotton fuppolies for Biritsh buyerrs. But local consumers did not see Euroepan cloth as a substitutte for local weaves--not in quality, colors, design, or cultural meaning. So western concepts of "cloth" were not applicable to a blind replacement.

But once the British had put in a railway to northern Nigeria, with the idea of subsidizing the cotton industry's export of raw cotton, Hausa farmers found that goroundnuts were a) more profitable per acre and per unit of labor; b) intruded less on the agricultural cycle than did cotton cultivationon a large scale, since groundnuts could be integrated into the food production cycles and inter-croped, fixing nitrogen to the soil (indeed they developed four different types of groundnuts specialized for different types of soils; and c) in a bad season, groundnuts could be eaten, and therefore provided a measure of risk-avoidance. The Hausa trading network quickly piced up on this preference and encouraged groundnut production, and the railheads were flooded with groundnut. So here, pushing one crop led insttead to an unexpected boom in another--unexpected because the British did not take in agarain factors into their calculation of profitability.

But--and here is the point for purposes of this discussion--while the British saw cotton and groundnut production as competative, and indeed they were for export produciotn, for the local industries these two crops were complementary. for withthe rise in disposable income as a result of groundnut sales, local Hausa peasants increased the demand for locally produced textiles, and therefore the weavers and dyers were able to offer higher prices to cotton producers. Since those areas of cotton production were now ablle to get higher prices for their cotton from Hausa textile producers, what cotton was grown went to the weavers/dyers in Knao and other cities rather than being exported at all. So while in export terms grundnut production soared at the expense of cotton, in terms of local production, they were complementary.

Just an example of how complex the relationship of economic production can become among two crops, and how dangerous it is to assume either that export figures represent produciton figures, or that an outside interpretation of competition among two commodities can be evaluated outside of local price and demands structures--in this case the demand structure being influence by the cutural perception that Lancastershire cloth was not equivalent to Kano cloth. This is exspecially true for certain culturally defined functions, such as funerary rites, bridewealth transfers, honorific gifts, etc.

So while outside figures can raise interesting problems, we make a mistake assuming that we can "think" our way through these problems by outside logic alone.

>>> Item number 708, dated 95/10/19 20:16:37 -- ALL

Date:         Thu, 19 Oct 1995 20:16:37 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: Slave Trade and Textile Production

Date sent:      Wed, 18 Oct 1995
From:           Pat Manning, Northeastern University
                <MANNING@neu.edu>

Ralph Austen is of course right in noting that African textile exports were not large by world standards. But there may have been more such exports than are shown by European statistics. Even European statistics reveal such exports -- see the references to textile exports from colonial Dahomey to Lagos and Brazil in my book on the economic history of Dahomey.

It does seem that Yoruba textiles went from Lagos and Porto-Novo to Yoruba-descended buyers in Brazil during the 19th century, carried by the Brazilian merchants who hung on to their declining trade (in palm oil, kola, and [up to a point] slaves) until the turn of the 20th century. I have often thought of trying to trace Brazilian import or shipping records on this trade, but have yet to get my hands on a good source.

So this is a footnote to the larger question of African textile production in the era of slavery and slave trade.

>>> Item number 709, dated 95/10/19 20:24:26 -- ALL

Date:         Thu, 19 Oct 1995 20:24:26 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: Slave Trade and Textile Production

Date sent:      Wed, 18 Oct 1995
From:           Gordon Thomasson, SUNY-Broome Community College
                <THOMASSON_G@sunybroome.edu>

Curious note: Weavers seem to be anxious to get different color yarns. Africans may have unwoven Indian textiles just as Navajo unwove some Spanish blankets (I've heard they also got a hold of some Hudson Bay Co. blankets!) and used the red yarn in decorations of their otherwise "natural" black and white wool creations of the early 19th century. (The "earth tones" of supposedly "traditional" Southwestern blankets are anything but traditional.)

While in West Africa I collected a sequence of blankets that seem to replicate the evolution of the southwestern blanket. Black and white wool, black and with with colored embroidery, and an "eye dazzler" of almost all European threads and the equivalent of the aniline dyes that revolutionized Navajo weaving a century ago.

I am no textilist. Has anyone done a comparative study of these (and other) weaving traditions?

>>> Item number 723, dated 95/10/21 14:01:31 -- ALL

Date:         Sat, 21 Oct 1995 14:01:31 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY:  Slave Trade and Textile Production

Date sent:      Fri, 20 Oct 1995
From:           Richard Lobban, Rhodes Island College
                <RLOBBAN@grog.ric.edu>

An excellent source on textiles is the fascinating book by Antonio Carreira, called *Panaria*. which deals with the Cape Verdean textile industry as it realtes to the slave trade in the Upper Guinea Coast.

In the Cape Verdean case of locally produced cloth to the coast for slaves...it had become so succesful for freelance traders that the Portuguese Crown finally passed legislation allowing for the death penality if Cape Verdeans traded to "foreigners" in cloth...this in order to reinstate the Crown monoply on the trade in slaves.


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