Trade and the merchant community of the Loango Coast in the eighteenth century
Sommerdyk, Stacey Jean Muriel
Thesis or dissertation
- © 2012 Stacey Jean Muriel Sommerdyk. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.
This thesis explores the political, economic and cultural transformation of the Loango Coast during the era of the transatlantic slave trade from the point of contact with Europeans in the sixteenth century until the end of the eighteenth century, with particular focus on the eighteenth century. While a number of previous studies of the West Central African slave trade have focused principally on the role of the Portuguese on the Angola Coast, this thesis makes a new contribution by evaluating the balance of power between Dutch and Loango Coast merchant communities. In doing so, this thesis concludes that well into the eighteenth century, local African religious and political traditions remained relatively unchanged on the Loango Coast, especially in comparison to their southern neighbours in Angola. Drawing upon detailed records compiled by the Middelburgse Commercie Compangie (MCC), the thesis builds upon an original database which accounts for approximately 10,000 slaves sold by 640 identified African merchants to the Dutch Middelburg Company over the course of 5,000 transactions.
Expanding upon the work of Phyllis Martin and other scholars, this thesis highlights a distinction between the Loango and the Angola coasts based on models of engagement with European traders; furthermore, it draws attention to the absence of European credit data in the MCC slave purchasing balance sheets; and, finally, it explores the difficulties involved in procuring slaves via long distance trade. While making extensive use of the Slave Voyages Database, this study also seeks to move beyond the European focused studies of shipping patterns to begin to discover the identities of the African traders. In doing so, the thesis provides the first comprehensive list of African merchants in the eighteenth century. This list of African merchants also reinforces fragmented lists of rulers for the polities of Loango, Kakongo, and Ngoyo, and also gives us a more concrete picture of the role of the principal traders on the coast, Mafouks, in the eighteenth century. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the thesis emphasises the large numbers of relatively small African investors in the trade, giving names and faces to the minor merchants of the slave trade. Consequently, African merchants stop being depicted only as amorphous interchangeable figures in the history of the transatlantic slave trade and begin to gain identities comparable to those of their European counterparts.
- Department of History, The University of Hull
- Richardson, David, 1946-; Smith, S.D. (Simon David), 1964-
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