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9 - Church Missionary Society projects of agricultural improvement in nineteenth-century Sierra Leone and Yorubaland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2013

Kehinde Olabimtan
Affiliation:
Institute of Mission and Society
Robin Law
Affiliation:
Professor of African History, University of Stirling
Suzanne Schwarz
Affiliation:
Professor of History, University of Worcester
Silke Strickrodt
Affiliation:
Research Fellow in Colonial History, German Institute of Historical Research, London
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Summary

The campaign in Great Britain for the legal abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, from the last quarter of the eighteenth century onwards, always had issues of morality as its central focus. However, during the same period oftime that the Abolitionists gradually inched towards their goal of eliminating the trade, the prospect of replacing it with a ‘legitimate’ one in agricultural produce from Africa also featured prominently in their arguments. Curiously, when the idea of commercial agriculture as a replacement for the trade in human beings became prominent in the struggle it did not excite the same vigorous debate as the morality of the trade. Not even the fact that the tropical environment had proven insalubrious to Europeans tempered the optimism of the advocates of agriculture as an alternative to the slave trade, although the Portuguese, the Danes and the Dutch, as well as the British, had had ample experience of the difficulties of living on the West African coast.

Beyond their casual dismissal of the arguments of the Abolitionists, it appears that opponents of legitimate trade did not seek to draw upon earlier unsuccessful European attempts to create a plantation economy in West Africa, for example the Danish initiative in the Gold Coast from 1788 onwards. Yet it seems unlikely that they could have been oblivious of this reality.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2013

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