Academic journal article African Studies Review

The Abolition of the Slave Trade in Southeastern Nigeria, 1885-1950

Academic journal article African Studies Review

The Abolition of the Slave Trade in Southeastern Nigeria, 1885-1950

Article excerpt

A. E. Afigbo. The Abolition of the Slave Trade in Southeastern Nigeria, 1885-1950. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2006. Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora, xv + 210 pp. Maps. Appendixes. Bibliography. Index. $75.00. Cloth.

The distinguished Nigerian historian Adiele Afigbo reports that this book, thirty years in the making, was finally completed after he gained some respite from years of academic duties. Many will find it worth the wait, both for the fascinating evidence it provides from Nigerian and other archives and for the questions it raises about Nigeria's colonial history.

Afigbo argues that an internal slave trade in southeastern Nigeria continued diroughout the colonial period and that Britain largely abandoned abolitionism in the period 1885 to 1930 in favor of "naked political power and naked economic interest" (11). When British officials finally moved against die slave trade in the 1930s, their campaign was neither intended nor able "to ferret out the slave traders... once and for all" (122).

That the argument about colonial policy and commitment is the primary focus of his work is not surprising, as the argument flows from a systematic and careful reading of surviving colonial records. However, there is a subder argument, which surfaces fully only in chapter 5, that may have greater explanatory importance. Afigbo shows that the people of southeastern Nigeria supported slave trading to feed "an unprecedented increase in the incidence of human sacrifice" (38), to provide children to become slave wives and house servants, and to rid households of people who were guilty of ritual abominations. He further suggests that local people resisted British efforts to suppress the internal slave trade because they regarded the slave traders as pursuing "a time-honored profession" (109), providing important goods and services (including the sale of unwanted children), and that most people took kidnapping lightly unless their own children were involved. Further, an "apparent conspiracy of silence" (120) by local Africans impeded the apprehension and conviction of slave traders. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.