The Diary of Antera Duke, an Eighteenth-Century African Slave Trader

The Diary of Antera Duke, an Eighteenth-Century African Slave Trader

The Diary of Antera Duke, an Eighteenth-Century African Slave Trader

The Diary of Antera Duke, an Eighteenth-Century African Slave Trader

Synopsis

In his diary, Antera Duke (ca.1735-ca.1809) wrote the only surviving eyewitness account of the slave trade by an African merchant. A leader in late eighteenth-century Old Calabar, a cluster of Efik-speaking communities in the Cross River region, he resided in Duke Town, forty-five miles from the Atlantic Ocean in what is now southeast Nigeria. His diary, written in trade English from 1785 to 1788, is a candid account of daily life in an African community at the height of Calabar's overseas commerce. It provides valuable information on Old Calabar's economic activity both with other African businessmen and with European ship captains who arrived to trade for slaves, produce, and provisions. This new edition of Antera's diary, the first in fifty years, draws on the latest scholarship to place the diary in its historical context. Introductory essays set the stage for the Old Calabar of Antera Duke's lifetime, explore the range of trades, from slaves to produce, in which he rose to prominence, and follow Antera on trading missions across an extensive commercial hinterland. The essays trace the settlement and development of the towns that comprised Old Calabar and survey the community's social and political structure, rivalries among families, sacrifices of slaves, and witchcraft ordeals. This edition reproduces Antera's original trade-English diary with a translation into standard English on facing pages, along with extensive annotation. The editors draw on Antera's first language, Efik, to illuminate his diary. The Diary of Antera Duke furnishes a uniquely valuable source for the history of precolonial Nigeria and the Atlantic slave trade, and this new edition enriches our understanding of it.

Excerpt

Extensive extracts of the three-year diary of Efik merchant Antera Duke (1785–1788) of Duke Town, Old Calabar (Calabar, Nigeria) survive today because of the efforts of William Valentine and Arthur W. Wilkie a hundred years ago. Valentine, a clerk in the Foreign Mission Office of the Free Church of Scotland, discovered and preserved the bound diary, which he found in a pile of rubbish. Wilkie, a missionary on furlough from Duke Town in 1907, transcribed most of the words to preserve the information and perhaps use it in a future study of Calabar life and customs. After the diary was misplaced in Edinburgh during the Second World War years, Wilkie prepared a typescript of his handwritten extracts and translated Antera Duke’s words into a more readable “modern English” version. In November 1951 he brought his Antera Duke material to the attention of Professor Daryll Forde, director of the International African Institute, seeking advice as to the possibility of publishing the diary. Wilkie achieved his goal of seeing his work in print in 1956, two years before his death.

Efik Traders of Old Calabar, Containing the Diary of Antera Duke, an Efik Slave-Trading Chief of the Eighteenth Century was edited by Daryll Forde and published in 1956 by Oxford University Press for the International African Institute. The 166-page book included an introduction by Forde, essays by Donald C. Simmons and G. I. Jones on Efik ethnography and the political organization of Old Calabar, respectively, Antera Duke’s diary extracts, a “translation” of the diary by Wilkie and Simmons, notes to the diary by Simmons, and an addendum by Jones on the Efik lineage system. Forde . . .

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