of Merchant Capital
Merchant capital, when it holds a position of dominance, stands everywhere for a system of robbery, so that it is directly connected with plundering, piracy, kidnapping slaves and colonial conquest.
Karl Marx, Capital, Volume III
In this chapter we will examine the development of exploitative exchange relations in Zanzibar. Imperialism began to get a foothold in East African territories in the nineteenth century as schemes to forge advantageous trade relations became the prime activity of colonising powers. The year 1840 opened the way to a period of struggle between various industrial capitals and merchant capital which was gradually subjugated. Before examining the period, we will describe the pre-nineteenth century phase of primitive accumulation through the triangular Indian Ocean trade between the East Coast of Africa, the Arabian Coast and the West Coast of India, at the height of which Zanzibar emerged as a key link in the commercial chain.
One of the earliest records of this maritime commerce is to be found in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea which details the ventures undertaken to amass merchant wealth in this part of the Indian Ocean around the first century A.D.1 The development of sea routes led to the planting of settlements of appropriating classes -- Indian, Arab and Persian merchants -- along the east coast of Africa. This encroachment on foreign soils was required for more efficient exploitation of the trade which they sought to control. 2 It also eliminated extensive rake-offs by their agents. Markets began to appear along the coast, becoming the hub of merchant transactions.