Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta, 1830-1885: An Introduction to the Economic and Political History of Nigeria

Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta, 1830-1885: An Introduction to the Economic and Political History of Nigeria

Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta, 1830-1885: An Introduction to the Economic and Political History of Nigeria

Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta, 1830-1885: An Introduction to the Economic and Political History of Nigeria

Excerpt

The history of the Niger Delta in the period under survey is to some extent an introduction to the economic and political history of Nigeria. This region became from the sixteenth century the main centre of the African trade with Europeans in the Gulf of Guinea. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Delta was one of the most important, if not the leading, slave mart in West Africa. In the first thirty years of the nineteenth century when the trade in palm oil had begun to displace the trade in men it exported more oil than the rest of West Africa put together. When in 1830 the Landers proved that the Delta was the mouth of the River Niger, a succession of British commercial expeditions sought to penetrate the hinterland through the Niger waterway. In the nineteenth century, therefore, this river, like the more famous Congo, became one of the highways of imperialism in Africa. The Royal Niger Company--the chief instrument by which Britain won her Nigerian empire--based its activities in the Delta and the Niger valley. British ascendancy in this important trading area justified her claim to supremacy in the Niger territories during the Berlin West African Conference of 1885.

This study analyses the detailed process by which the existing native governments were gradually supplanted by British consular power and following it the Crown Colony administration. For West Africa the period under survey was essentially an epoch of change and revolution. With the suppression of the traffic in men and the rise of 'legitimate commerce' the pattern of the earlier trade soon disappeared. The ramifications of the revolution which accompanied this economic change in the social and political planes are discussed in the introductory chapter.

This work is not, in the main, concerned with topics such as the suppression of the slave trade, the work of the Navy, or with the personalities and policies of the various Foreign and Colonial Secretaries. The British end is dealt with only in so far as it helps to explain events in West Africa. Two types of sources, British and African, have been used in the preparation of this book. As a rule British sources are cited in the footnotes, but from the nature of some of the African material it has not always been easy to indicate . . .

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