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Brokers of ChangeAtlantic Commerce and Cultures in Pre-Colonial Western Africa$
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Toby Green

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265208

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265208.001.0001

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Everyday Commodities, the Rivers of Guinea, and the Atlantic World: The Beeswax Export Trade, c.1450–c.1800

Everyday Commodities, the Rivers of Guinea, and the Atlantic World: The Beeswax Export Trade, c.1450–c.1800

Chapter:
(p.285) 12 Everyday Commodities, the Rivers of Guinea, and the Atlantic World: The Beeswax Export Trade, c.1450–c.1800
Source:
Brokers of Change
Author(s):

MICHAEL W. TUCK

Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197265208.003.0013

This chapter argues that it was the actions of many common people in West Africa that created the trade systems linking the Atlantic World and the Upper Guinea coast. On one hand, Africans of the region were largely subsistence agriculturalists, but their need or desire for goods beyond what they could produce (or produce easily) led them to develop a commodity export trade. Important among these Africans were producers of non-slave commodities such as beeswax, which was exported from many locations along the coast but has not been the subject of study. The chapter traces the development of the beeswax export trade and the effects it had on local communities. In particular, it shows that as the slave trade grew to dominate commerce, the production and trade of beeswax by stateless people such as the Diola allowed them both to defend their communities from slave raiders and participate as raiders themselves.

Keywords:   Upper Guinea, Diola, beeswax, slave trade, commodity trade, Gambia, African societies, Atlantic world

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