In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa's Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World

By Guilford, Maryalice | African Studies Review, December 2011 | Go to article overview

In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa's Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World


Guilford, Maryalice, African Studies Review


HISTORY Judith A. Carney and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff . In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa's Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009. 296 pp. Maps. Illustrations. Notes. Selected Bibliography. Index. $50.00/f34.95. Cloth.

Judith A. Carney and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff s In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa's Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World situates Africa as the origin of food crops, plants, and animals that spread from the continent through die Adantic slave trade into the New World. This work stretches beyond die boundaries of initial contact between Europeans and Africans in the coastal slave ports deep into the interior farming communities of West Africa and the Americas, revealing the degree to which the slave trade embroiled indigenous populations and diaspora communities of the New World. These scholars disprove notions of the African continent as botanically deficient and historically plagued with chronic food shortages.

Their examination of precolonial Africa's history of agriculture and the domestication of plants and animals highlights the expertise that African farmers developed from experimentation and adaptation to die ecological complexity of microregional conditions. They trace the journey of African plants, livestock, and pasture grasses, from the subsistence fields of Africa onto slave ships, to ports of call in the Americas and Caribbean, into slave plots and plantation fields in die New World. Accordingly, African foods fed crew and slaves on the ships throughout the Middle Passage and personnel in the colonial trading posts. African crops cultivated on New World plantation fields were profitable export commodities. African-cultivated food and plants provided the foundation on which the Adantic economy flourished and profited.

These scholars celebrate the contributions of smallholder subsistence African farmers to the transference process. They unravel die intricate details of human and botanical movement from Africa to the Americas, uncovering patterns otherwise overlooked. Recounting the multilayered story of African agriculture illuminates the role of subsistence farmers in the history of the global food chain.

One of this work's main strengths is its reconceptualization of the Adantic slave trade and slavery, which clearly demonstrates the importance of African agricultural knowledge for the trade and the development of New World plantation economies. Considering the need for food opens a window to the inner workings of the slave trade. The micro-assessment of trading and exchanging food magnifies relations between Europeans and Africans. …

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