Commercial Agriculture as an Alternative to the Atlantic Slave Trade

Commercial Agriculture as an Alternative to the Atlantic Slave Trade

German Historical Institute London
United Kingdom
Vom - Bis
23.09.2010 - 25.09.2010
Silke Strickrodt

By the mid nineteenth century the view that ‘legitimate’ commerce, especially the export of agricultural produce, would help to eradicate the Atlantic slave trade and bring mutual benefits to Britain and Africa had become a central tenet of mainstream abolitionist thought. As A. G. Hopkins has suggested, the attempt to establish export agriculture in Africa was part of British efforts to reform the international economic order after 1815 and represented ‘Britain’s first development plan for Africa’. Recent scholarly literature has explored the impact of the development of legitimate forms of trade on African economy and society in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Comparatively little attention has been given, however, to earlier attempts to develop commercial crop cultivation and alternative forms of trade with Africa. By focusing on the period from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, this conference will explore the ways in which different interest groups and individuals attempted to exploit the natural resources of Africa through diverse agricultural and trading systems.

There is a limited number of places open to academics and postgraduates working in related areas of historical research. For information, please contact Silke Strickrodt (



Thursday, 23 September 2010

9.45 Arrival

10.15 Welcome by Andreas Gestrich, Director of the German Historical Institute London, and Robin Law, Suzanne Schwarz and Silke Strickrodt

10.45 Keynote 1: David Eltis (Emory University), The Slave Trade and Commercial Agriculture in an African Context before the Nineteenth Century
Chair: Silke Strickrodt (GHIL)

11.45 Short Break

12.00 Panel 1: Beginnings
Chair: Paul Lovejoy (York University, Toronto)
Gerhard Seibert (Centro de Estudos Africanos, Lisbon), São Tomé and Príncipe: The First Plantation Economy in the Tropics
Tobias Green (King’s College London), The Export of Rice and Millet from Upper Guinea into the Sixteenth-Century Atlantic Trade

13.30 Lunch and Coffee (in the Common Room)

14.30 Keynote 2: Robin Law (Stirling University/University of Liverpool), ‘There’s nothing grows in the West Indies but will grow here’: English and Dutch projects of plantation agriculture in West Africa, 1650s-1750s
Chair: Paul Lovejoy (York University, Toronto)

15.30 Short Break

15.45 Panel 2: Pre-Abolitionist Projects
Chair: Adam Jones (Universität Leipzig)
Colleen Kriger (University of North Carolina), ‘Our Indico Designe’: Planting and Processing Indigo for Export, Upper Guinea Coast, 1686-1702
Walter Hawthorne (Michigan State University), Non-Slave Commerce from Upper Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde before 1815
Paul Richards (Wageningen University), African/Asian Rice Hybrids: Towards a History of an Anti-Commodity on the Upper West African Coast

17.45 (to c.19.30) Drinks Reception with the Africanist Baroque Ensemble (in the Library)

Participants should make their own arrangements for dinner (see list of restaurants in conference pack)

Friday, 24 September 2010

9.30 Keynote 3: Christopher L. Brown (Columbia University), The Origins of Legitimate Commerce (1750-1790)
Chair: Robin Law (University of Stirling/University of Liverpool)

10.30 Tea & Coffee

11.00 Panel 3: Early Danish Initiatives
Chair: Ben Marsh (University of Stirling)
Yaw Bredwa-Mensa (Legon University), The Archaeology of the Danish Plantation System on the Gold Coast, 1789-1850
Per Hernaes (University of Trondheim), Frederiksnopel: Isert's Plans for a Danish Plantation Colony in Akuapem, 1788
Daniel Hopkins (University of Missouri-Kansas City), Two Danish Agricultural Entrepreneurs in West Africa and the Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade, c.1790-1810

12.30 Lunch (in the Common Room)

13.30 Panel 4: The Intellectual Background to Abolitionist Projects
Chair: Richard Reid (SOAS)
Elizabeth Elbourne (McGill University), Imagined Africa and the Quest for a Moral Economy: Thomas Fowell Buxton and the Niger Expedition of 1841-42
David Lambert (Royal Holloway, University of London), Geographical Knowledge and ‘Legitimate’ Commerce in Africa: James MacQueen, the ‘Armchair Explorer’
Kay Wright Lewis (Rutgers University), By Every Means: African American Ideas about African Labor and Commercial Agriculture in the 1850s
Andrew Walls (Liverpool Hope University), T. B. Freeman and Agricultural Development in Wesleyan Mission Policy

15.30 Short Break

15.45 Keynote 3: Gareth Austin (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva), Abolitionism and Commercial Agriculture in West Africa, 1787-1863 (and Beyond)
Chair: Phia Steyn (University of Stirling)

17.15 Panel 5: Abolitionist Projects in West Africa
Chair: Suzanne Schwarz (Liverpool Hope University)
Bronwen Everill (King’s College London), ‘The Colony has Made No Progress in Agriculture’: Misconceptions about Farming in the Colonies of Sierra Leone and Liberia
Kehinde Olabimtan (Institute of Mission Studies, Lagos/ Overseas Ministries Study Center, New Haven), Henry Venn and Ulrich Graf—A Synergy for the Transformation of the Colony of Sierra Leone
Howard Temperley (University of East Anglia), The Niger Expedition of 1841-42

19.30 Conference Dinner (in the Library)

Saturday, 25 September 2010

9.00 Panel 6: Commercial Agriculture on the Ground in West Africa
Chair: Barbara Bush (Sheffield Hallam University)
Roquinaldo Ferreira (Virginia University), Abolition and its Aftermath: Agricultural Enterprise and the Growth of Slavery in Nineteenth-Century Angola
Philip Misevich (Denison College), Feeding Freedom, Feeding the Slave Trade: Southern Sierra Leone and the Provisions Trade, 1787-1856
Bruce Mouser (University of Wisconsin-La Crosse), Coffee Production as an Alternative to Slave Trading in the Rio Pongo during the 1820s
Olatunji Ojo (Brock University), More than a Backwater Economy: Non-Oil Based Agricultural Production in Precolonial Yorubaland

11.00 Tea & Coffee (in the Common Room)

11.30 Panel 7: From Abolition to Colonialism
Chair: Andreas Eckert (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Maciel Santos (Universidade de Porto), Backing the Colonial Power: Natural Rubber in Angola (1880-1920)
Steven Serels (McGill University), Cotton before the Condominium: Cotton Cultivation, the Sudanese Slave Trade and British Influence in the Sudan, 1884-1890
Andrew Zimmerman (George Washington University), West Africa as the American New South: Booker T. Washington, German Colonialism, and the Transformation of the Ewe Cotton Industry in German Togo

13.00 Lunch (in the Common Room)

13.30 Visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, with Guided Tour (from 3pm, entrance fee – c.£12 - to be paid by the participants)
N.B. As places on the guided tour are limited, they are reserved for participants appearing on this programme.

From c.19.00 Should participants wish, we can book a restaurant for dinner (paid by participants).


Silke Strickrodt

German Historical Institute London
17 Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A 2NJ
+44 (0)20 7309 2017
+44 (0)20 7309 2067
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