The Changing Markets for Non-slave Products in Pre-abolition West Africa

ABSTRACT: Using a newly constructed dataset on the quantities and prices of African commodities over the long 18th century this paper provides new insights into the changing nature of the non-slave trade with West Africa in the era before the abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade. We find that previous estimates of both the volume and value of the commodity trade have been underestimates and fail to account for region variations in output. Our data shows that after the American War of Independence there was a significant expansion in what would later be called ‘legitimate commerce’. This growth was centred around the Bight of Biafra and that the vast majority of these goods were purchased by slave ships, not the specialist bi-lateral traders who had dominated the trade earlier in the century. We argue that slave merchants were motivated by both rising prices in European markets and by the relative stability of prices on the African coast. Furthermore we suggest that both European and African merchants faced increasing levels of risk in the latter decades of the 18th century. Some of them reacted by diversifying their portfolios of goods through investment in the commodities trade to better manage these risks.

AUTHORS: Angus Dalrymple-Smith and Pieter Woltjer

» DOWNLOAD FULL PAPER «

Download

Available at: African Economic History Network
Journal: AEHN Working Paper Series, No. 31
DOI:
Get PDF: “Commodities, Prices and Risk”

Data

The data-set and a full description of the sources and methods used for this paper are available here.

» GET DATA «

 Cite

MLA Dalrymple-Smith, Angus and Pieter Woltjer. Commodities, Prices and Risk: The Changing Markets for Non-slave Products in Pre-abolition West Africa. No. 31. African Economic History Network, 2016.
APA Dalrymple-Smith, A & Woltjer, P. (2016). Commodities, Prices and Risk: The Changing Markets for Non-slave Products in Pre-abolition West Africa (No. 31). African Economic History Network.
Chicago Dalrymple-Smith, Angus and Pieter Woltjer. Commodities, Prices and Risk: The Changing Markets for Non-slave Products in Pre-abolition West Africa. No. 31. African Economic History Network, 2016.
Harvard Dalrymple-Smith, A & Woltjer, P., 2016. Commodities, Prices and Risk: The Changing Markets for Non-slave Products in Pre-abolition West Africa (No. 31). African Economic History Network.
Vancouver Dalrymple-Smith, A & Woltjer, P. Commodities, Prices and Risk: The Changing Markets for Non-slave Products in Pre-abolition West Africa. African Economic History Network; 2016 November.

» CAN’T GET ACCESS? CONTACT AUTHOR FOR A COPY «

Advertisements