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British Antislavery and West Africa  

Padraic Scanlan

Resistance to slavery within African societies was as complex and heterogeneous as slavery itself. For enslaved Africans and their descendants taken by force to Europe’s colonies in the Americas, antislavery was an existential struggle. Among European states, Britain was among the first imperial powers to pass laws abolishing its slave trade (in 1807) and slavery in its colonies (in 1833). Antislavery was a transnational phenomenon, but Britain made suppressing the Atlantic slave trade an element of its foreign policy, employing a Royal Navy squadron to search for slave ships, pressing African leaders to sign anti-slave-trade treaties as a condition of trade and coordinating an international network of anti-slave-trade courts. And yet, for many leading British abolitionists, “Africa” was an ideological sandbox—an imagined blank space for speculation and experiment on the development of human societies and the progress of “civilization.” In the 18th century, early British critics of the transatlantic slave trade argued that “Africa” presented an unparalleled commercial and imperial opportunity. Although the slave trade—and the plantations in the Americas that slave ships supplied with labor—were profitable, some argued that slave-trading regions could, with enough investment, produce goods and commodities that would be many times more lucrative. Moreover, if Britain were the first European power to abolish the slave trade, it might also be among the first to gain a territorial foothold on African soil. Over time, these arguments coalesced into the concept of “legitimate commerce.” A combination of Christian teaching, slave-trade suppression, and commercial incentives would persuade slave-trading polities to give up the practice and instead produce other goods. Legitimate commerce intertwined with a theory of civilization that held that any society that enslaved people was so degenerate in its social development that nearly any reform or intervention was justifiable. By the end of the 19th century, antislavery became a justification for European conquest. There were at least three broad reform projects launched by British officials and merchants in Africa in the name of antislavery. First, drawing on critiques of the slave trade from the 18th century that emphasized the commercial potential of legitimate commerce, antislavery activists and politicians argued for replacing the slave trade with new kinds of export-oriented commerce. Second, in two colonies, Sierra Leone and Liberia, Britain and the United States experimented with the possibility of using Black people from the African diaspora as settlers and missionaries. In Sierra Leone, more than seventy thousand people, usually known as “Liberated Africans,” were repatriated from slave ships into the small colony. Third, in the mid-19th century, as the transatlantic slave trade declined, Britain and other European powers invested heavily in African plantation agriculture, particularly in cotton and palm oil monocrops.

Article

Casely-Hayford, Adelaide and Gladys  

LaRay Denzer

Adelaide Smith Casely-Hayford (1868–1960) and her daughter Gladys May Casely-Hayford (Mrs. Kobina Hunter) (1904–1950) were a unique mother–daughter duo in 20th-century West African cultural history. They belonged to illustrious, multiethnic, coastal intercolony families linking them to European traders, indigenous Fante and Asante ruling houses, North American and West Indian settlers, and Liberated Africans relocated in Freetown in the 19th century. Educated in local mission schools and Britain, many in this group held high positions in the emergent colonial service, Christian missions, commercial firms, and modern legal and medical professions. Born in 1868 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Adelaide Smith Casely-Hayford spent most of her first twenty-two years in Britain where she had an elite upbringing and the type of education deemed suitable for a young woman of her class. Twice before her marriage to Joseph Ephraim Casely-Hayford, a lawyer from the Gold Coast, she returned for brief periods to Freetown where she tried her hand at teaching. After her marriage, she resided in the Gold Coast, where she felt culturally alienated, finding relief in two long visits to Britain. After a legal separation from her husband in 1914, she returned to Freetown where she flourished, gaining an international reputation as a writer, educator, traveler, and public figure. Her daughter Gladys May was born in the Gold Coast in 1904 with a malformed hip joint that inhibited mobility. After her parents’ separation, Gladys’s visits to her father were a source of contention with her mother, sometimes curtailed by demands that she return to Freetown. Educated at the el-ite Annie Walsh Memorial School in Freetown and two girls’ schools in England, Gladys’ disinterest in further education put her at odds with her mother’s ambitions for her future career. Further, Gladys’s involvement in popular cultural activities was a source of contention. Whereas Adelaide was extremely class and color conscious, by her own assessment “a bit of a snob,” Gladys was equalitarian and delighted in mixing with ordinary people wherever she was. She became a journalist, produced theatrical performances, and quietly developed as an artist and poet, even hiding some of her drawings and poems during her lifetime. Only after her death in 1950 did her family discover her artwork and a cache of 350 poems. Now a noted Sierra Leonean critic ranks her as an accomplished poet and one of the first to write in Krio. In the first half of the 20th century, few West African, western-educated, elite women achieved public influence outside their immediate society, whereas some West African women in “traditional” polities wielded power and influence as paramount chiefs, titled women, religious authorities, and resistance leaders. Rarely did educated elite women acknowledge their influential sisters. During her lifetime, Adelaide Casely-Hayford helped to shape girls’ education, cultural nationalism, and the formation of African identity in anglophone West Africa, particularly Sierra Leone, but also in the United States. Her daughter Gladys Casely-Hayford (later Hunter) was a pioneer Sierra Leone artist, dramatist, and poet who enthusiastically embraced popular Krio culture.

Article

Chinua Achebe  

Terri Ochiagha

Chinua Achebe, acclaimed as the “father of modern African literature,” came to canonical prominence thanks to the seismic impact of his first novel, Things Fall Apart (1958)—the best-known work of African literature in the world—and his indictment of colonial discourse in the seminal essay “An Image of Africa: Racism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,” originally delivered as a lecture at the University of Massachusetts in 1974. His influence and impact, however, far surpasses these two literary events. While Things Fall Apart was neither the first African novel nor the first to capture the trauma of the colonial encounter, Achebe’s transliteration of the Igbo language—its beauty, philosophy, and cadences of speech—in clear, eloquent prose, and his intimate knowledge and subversion of the Western literary tradition enthused literary critics around the world, inspired generations of African writers, and was key in instituting African literature as a field of scholarly inquiry. He further helped shape the direction of African writing in editorial roles—most notably as the founding editor of Heinemann’s African Writers Series—and through his manifold critical and biographical essays, many of which preempt ideas at the core of postcolonial theory, albeit with a more accessible and mellifluous idiom. Over the course of his writing career, Achebe published five novels (Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease [1960], Arrow of God [1964], A Man of the People [1966], and Anthills of the Savannah [1987]), children’s books (Chike and the River [1966], How the Leopard Got His Claws [1972], The Flute [1977], and The Drum [1977]), two collections of short stories (The Sacrificial Egg and Other Stories [1962] and Girls at War and Other Stories [1972]), two volumes of poetry (Beware, Soul Brother [1971] and Collected Poems [2004]), four collections of essays (Morning Yet on Creation Day [1975], Hopes and Impediments [1988], Home and Exile [2000], and The Education of a British-Protected Child [2008]), a political treatise (The Trouble with Nigeria [1983]), and his final work, There Was a Country (2012), a memoir on his experiences of the Nigerian Civil War.

Article

Cocoa and Child Slavery in West Africa  

Michael Odijie

The ongoing scholarship on child slavery in cocoa farming in West Africa is examined by illustrating major developments in the field. Slavery was a mainstay of the labor force in early West Africa cocoa farming, especially in Sao Tomé and Príncipe. Whereas slavery in cocoa farming in West Africa historically involved adult slaves, the modern version is almost exclusively based on child slavery. With the promise of a job, child slaves are transported to Côte d’Ivoire from neighboring countries like Mali and Burkina Faso and transported to cocoa farms in remote villages. In Ghana, child slaves are transported from poorer regions. The modern literature on child slavery in the West African cocoa sector, which to a great extent has been led by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and activists, has not properly engaged with the history or evolution of cocoa farming or its link to modern child slavery. While the documentaries and journalistic case studies produced by NGOs and activists have offered crucial evidence of the occurrence of child slavery on West African cocoa farms, they have generated only limited questions and arguments. This is partly due to the practical goals of this literature—for example, showing that child slavery exists (via documentary approaches)—and the use of surveys to attempt to measure its prevalence. This focus primarily serves the antislavery campaign. The literature has also suffered from a lack of conceptual direction. The proximity of categories such as child labor and hazardous child labor has allowed stakeholders to shift the conversation away from child slavery to less problematic forms of labor, especially given the methodological difficulties encountered in uncovering child slavery. However, the literature that has sought to explain the causes of child slavery in cocoa farming in West Africa has been robust and historical due to the contribution of Marxist and other scholars who are not necessarily involved in the antislavery campaign. The campaign against child slavery in cocoa farming has led to copious programs and initiatives on the part of the West African government and other stakeholders.

Article

Colonialism in West Central Africa  

Florence Bernault

The article considers a large region comprising Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea.1 From the 1880s onwards, Central Africa was colonized by Spanish, French, German, Belgian, and Portuguese powers. Here Africans generally suffered a harsher kind of rule than in West Africa, as colonialism brought little capital and investments, and imposed brutal forms of extractive economy. Foreign powers, moreover, proved reluctant to dialogue with African elites. Yet, the colonial era was also a moment when Central Africans initiated radical political revolutions and capacious social changes, achieving independence in the 1960s and 1970s. Throughout the period under consideration, moreover, important cultural creations in the form of music, popular painting, photography, and fashion became influential in the rest of Africa and beyond.

Article

Combat Games in the Black Atlantic, 17–19th Centuries  

Matthias Röhrig Assunção

Combat games are attested in Africa from the time of the transatlantic slave trade and throughout the 19th century. In the agricultural societies in the rainforest of West and West Central Africa, wrestling was the most common form, while pastoral societies in the savannahs of central and southern Africa excelled in stick fighting. Fist fighting, slap boxing, and kicking also constituted the base of combat games in some locations. The enslaved Africans and their descendants made use of these bodily techniques in the plantation societies of the Americas and the Indian Ocean. The new oppressive context of slavery led to adjustments of techniques and practice. Stick fighting was widespread in Brazil and the Caribbean, whereas wrestling only became important in the United States. The previously rather marginal techniques of kicking and head butting became central to capoeira, ladja, and moring, even though it is difficult to establish precise genealogies. Bodily techniques were onlys one aspect of the complex cultural reinvention of combat games in the Atlantic world. African religious practices such as protections from supernatural forces and broader cultural meanings were incorporated into African-derived and creole combat games. While keeping some of their former social function, combat games in the “New World” also acquired new, contradictory meanings as either tools of resistance, spectacle for monetary gains, or even instruments of oppression. They provided an early example of globalization of bodily techniques and cultural meanings, and the most successful ones, such as capoeira, continue to expand worldwide to this day.

Article

The Dakar School of African History  

Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch

The Dakar School, as the historians of Cheikh Anta Diop University (the University of Dakar) were called, had a brief French antecedent in Yves Person, whose teachings communicated to students the importance of African oral sources. He himself worked primarily on such sources from the 19th century. The Dakar School was then taken over and given its name by the young Guinean historian Boubacar Barry, who had been based in Senegal since the 1960s. Research collaborations between Cheikh Anta Diop University and the University of Paris 7 (today known as Paris-Diderot) then became active through exchanges involving both instructors and doctoral students. The Senegalese department strengthened over time, thanks to well-established historians, a number of them being non Senegalese scholars expelled from their own country by dictatorial regimes such as Boubacar himself or others who taught several years in Dakar such as Sekene Mody Cissoko, a well known Malian historian, or Thierno Moctar Bah from Guinea. After Boubacar Barry, the department was headed successively between the years 1975 and 2000 by Mbaye Gueye, Mamadou Diouf, Mohamed Mbodj, Penda Mbow, Ibrahima Thioub, and Adrien Benga, among others. They and their colleagues understood how to maintain and reinforce the quality and cohesion of an original and diverse research department over the course of many years, one that was simultaneously independent of any political power and rather opponent to any authoritarian State and tolerant toward its colleagues. Among them, several scholars are currently enjoying late careers in the United States, while Ibrahima Thioub has become vice chancellor of Cheikh Anta Diop University. However, their succession has been consistently assured by their own doctoral students. Nowadays, does the “Dakar school” still exist? Yes because historians remain proud of and faithful to this innovative past, no because Senegalese historians are now part of the world wide international community of historians.

Article

Decolonization in French West Africa  

Tony Chafer

Studies of French decolonization in West Africa have traditionally treated it as a planned and reasonably smooth process. It has therefore been portrayed as a successful decolonization that stands in stark contrast to the much more conflictual decolonization processes in Indochina (1947–1954) and Algeria (1954–1962), which were marked by prolonged wars. This approach has tended to give pride of place to the role of individuals—members of France’s governing elites and African political leaders—who are portrayed as having successfully managed the transition to independence. While the importance of such individuals cannot be denied, it is important to recognize that French decolonization in West Africa was a contingent process. Shaped by the particular nature of French colonial rule in the region, the new international context after 1945, events on the ground, and—on the French side—the perceived need to maintain empire at all costs in order to restore French grandeur after the humiliation of defeat and occupation in the Second World War, it was a process that involved a multiplicity of French and African actors who were not in control of the policy agenda but who were, on the contrary, operating in a highly constrained context and constantly being forced to react to rapidly unfolding events. De Gaulle finally decided to grant independence in 1959, and within a year all the territories of former French West Africa had gained their political independence. However, political independence did not mean French withdrawal and the end of French dominance. There were many continuities between the colonial and postcolonial periods, which have been analyzed in a burgeoning literature on French neocolonialism in sub-Saharan Africa. Decolonization should therefore be seen as a process that started well before French rule formally ended in 1960 and that is—arguably—still ongoing.

Article

Development of Plant Food Production in the West African Savannas: Archaeobotanical Perspectives  

Katharina Neumann

The West African savannas are a major area of independent plant domestication, with pearl millet, African rice, fonio, several legumes, and vegetable crops originating there. For understanding the origins of West African plant-food-producing traditions, it is useful to have a look at their precursors in the Sahara during the “African humid period” between 10,500 and 4,500 years ago. The Early and Middle Holocene Saharan foragers and pastoralists intensively used wild grasses for food but did not intentionally cultivate. Due to increasing aridity in the late 3rd millennium bce, the pastoralists migrated southward into the savanna zone. In this context pearl millet was domesticated and spread rapidly in West Africa during the 2nd millennium bce. It was first cultivated by agro-pastoral communities, predominantly on a small scale. The 1st millennium bce was a transitional phase: most of the early agricultural societies disappeared, but it was also a time of numerous economic and social innovations. Due to increasing aridity, the floodplains around Lake Chad and the valleys of the rivers Senegal and Niger became accessible to farming populations after 1000 bce. In the 1st millennium ce, agriculture intensified, with mixed cultivation of cereals and legumes and the integration of new African domesticates, such as sorghum, fonio, roselle, and okra. Pearl millet remained the major crop in most areas, while sorghum dominated in northern Cameroon. Imported wheat, date palm, and cotton appeared in the first half of the 2nd millennium ce. The combined exploitation of cultivated cereals, legumes, and wild fruit trees (e.g., shea butter tree) in agroforesty systems eventually resulted in a cultural landscape as it is still visible in West Africa today.

Article

Digital Sources in Europe for African History  

Marion Wallace

There are copious resources for the study of African history on the internet. They include manuscripts and documentary archives, maps, museum collections, newspapers, printed books, picture collections, and sound and moving images. The websites of European institutions provide a good proportion of this content, reflecting the long, entangled, and troubled histories that connect Europe and Africa, as well as new partnerships with African institutions. This plethora of digital resources enables both specialized researchers and the public to access information about Africa more quickly and easily, and on a larger scale than ever before. Digitization comes with a strong democratic impulse, and the new technology has been instrumental in making libraries, archives, museums, and art galleries much more open. But all is not smooth sailing, and there are two particular aspects of which researchers should be aware. The first is that there are still huge collections, or parts of collections, that have not been digitized, and that resources have been—on the whole—most focused on items with visual appeal. The twin brakes of cost and copyright restrain the process, and researchers need to understand how what they can get online relates to what still exists only in hard copy. The second consideration is that digitized resources can be difficult to find. Information about the riches of the web in this area is very fragmented, and exclusive use of one search engine, however dominant, is clearly not enough. As a counter to this fragmentation, a listing of the major websites for African history in Europe is given in a handy guide for researchers, which covers these resources by format and by region of Africa. The listing also provides websites in two particular areas of interest to historians and to the public: the transatlantic slave trade, and the liberation struggles in southern Africa.

Article

Donas, Nharas, and Signares: Women Slave Traders in Atlantic Africa  

Hilary Jones

Donas, nharas, and signares belonged to a class of women who obtained high social and economic standing in Africa’s west and west central region from the age of the European encounter to the era of mercantile companies and transatlantic slavery. These women owned slaves consistent with the notion of “slavery” or institutions of marginality within their specific West African and West Central African societies. As women who lived in close proximity to European military and mercantile installations on the Atlantic coast, they acted as cross-cultural brokers between European merchants and officials and African elites. Whether through marriages arranged by lineage elders or by relationships of convenience between African women and European men, donas, nharas, and signares entered contractual unions with European men. From the late 16th to the early 19th centuries, these relationships originated Afro-European families and established Afro-European men and some women as a propertied class along Africa’s Atlantic coast. Infamous in the texts of traveler’s accounts written by European men and a few Afro-European men, documentation of this era of women’s influence and their role in the Atlantic commercial system largely resides in European administrative reports and population data, court records and notarized documents, and published and unpublished genealogies.

Article

The Dutch Slave Trade in the Atlantic, 1600–1800  

Pieter Emmer and Henk den Heijer

The Dutch share in the Atlantic slave trade averaged about 5 to 6 percent of the total, but the volume differed sharply over time. The beginning of the Dutch transatlantic slave trade can be dated to 1636, after the Dutch West India Company (WIC) had acquired its own plantation colony around Recife in Brazil. In order to set up a regular trade in slaves, the WIC also took Elmina on the Gold Coast and Luanda in Angola from the Portuguese. The slave trade to Dutch Brazil was short-lived, and after the loss of Dutch Brazil and Luanda, the WIC as well as private merchants from Amsterdam started to sell slaves to colonists in the Spanish, English, and French Caribbean via Curaçao, the WIC trade hub in the region. In 1667, in addition to the small colonies of Berbice and Essequibo, the Dutch conquered Suriname and during the 18th century established Demerara. The Dutch slave trade became more and more focused on these plantation colonies. Between 1700 and 1725, after the Dutch had been banned from selling slaves in foreign colonies, the Dutch slave trade declined, but the volume increased again after 1730 when the WIC lost its monopoly and private shipping companies were allowed to enter the trade. In addition, Amsterdam-based investors poured money into the Dutch plantation colonies expecting windfall profits from a new cash crop: coffee. These profits did not materialize, and the majority of the planters in the Dutch plantation colonies went bankrupt. These bankruptcies, another war with Britain, and the French occupation caused the Dutch slave trade to decline sharply. The last Dutch slave ship sailed to Suriname in 1802. In 1814, the Dutch government yielded to British abolitionist pressure and abolished the slave trade in the hope of regaining its colonial possessions occupied by Britain.

Article

Education and Politics in Colonial French West Africa  

Kelly Duke Bryant

Education was profoundly political in colonial French West Africa (1895–1960), a federation that included the modern-day countries of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta), Benin (formerly Dahomey), Côte d’Ivoire, and Niger. It shaped political discourse across the federation as officials, educators, missionaries, African families, and African students weighed in on the type of education they thought best. Dissatisfaction with education policies or with the quality of schools encouraged Africans to become politically active, and the practical skills they learned in school along with the status gained through school attendance prepared young people to agitate for colonial reform and ultimately for independence. Colonial officials engaged in a back and forth with the Catholic missionary orders that provided public schooling in much of the region, especially as they sought to balance early 20th-century metropolitan demands for secularization with the colonies’ need for reliable and inexpensive schools. In the second half of the 19th century, administrators attempted to undermine Qur’an schools through regulation and surveillance, hoping that this would result in increased attendance in French schools. In doing so, they competed directly with popular Islamic leaders and the interests of the Muslim community, which had the unintended effect of involving African Muslims in colonial politics in new ways. Officials also attempted to “adapt” colonial school curricula to the local realities of African communities, usually by decreasing academic content and focusing instead on vocational and agricultural training. Yet over several decades, they encountered significant resistance from urban educated elites and rural farmers alike, all of whom pushed in one way or another for schooling that would allow for social mobility and, ultimately, claims for equality with the French. Finally, education played a crucial role in formal politics in the region, preparing Africans for political candidacy and leadership, mobilizing the voting public, and helping to determine access to voting rights after African subjects became citizens in 1946. Education and politics were thus inextricably linked in colonial French West Africa.

Article

The Empire of Ghana  

Nikolas Gestrich

The Empire of Ghana is one of the earliest known political formations in West Africa. Within the context of a growing trans-Saharan trade, Arabic sources begin to mention “Ghāna,” the name of a ruler as well as of the city or country he ruled, in the 9th century. Repeatedly named in connection with fabulous riches in gold, Ghāna had acquired a preeminent role in the western Sahel and was a leader among a large group of smaller polities. Ghāna’s influence waned, and by the mid-14th century its ruler had become subordinate to the Empire of Mali. Over the course of a complex history of research, the Empire of Ghana became equated with the Soninké people’s legend of Wagadu and the archaeological site of Kumbi Saleh in southern Mauritania was identified as its capital. Yet between historical sources, oral traditions, and archaeological finds, little is known with certainty about the Empire of Ghana. Most questions on this early West African empire remain unanswered, including its location, development, the nature and extent of its rule, and the circumstances of its demise.

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The Empire of Mali  

Sirio Canós-Donnay

The Mali Empire is one of the largest and most widely known precolonial African states. It has featured in films, video games, works of fiction, and its memory is still a profound force in the articulation of social and political identities across Mande West Africa. Founded in the 13th century in the south of modern Mali, it quickly grew from a small kingdom to a vast empire stretching from the Senegambia in the west to Ivory Coast in the south. Before its disintegration in the late 16th century, its connections to distant trade networks stretched from Europe to China and its rulers became famous across the Old World for their wealth. In the absence of indigenous written histories, knowledge of the Mali Empire has been based on a complex combination of oral traditions, medieval Arabic chronicles, European accounts, oral histories, and archaeology. Through a critical analysis of these sources, it has been possible to learn much about Mali’s history, including aspects its social organization, political structure, belief systems, and historical evolution. However, there is much we still do not know, including the location and nature of its capital(s).

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Food and Agricultural History of Ghana since Pre-colonial Times  

Samuel Adu-Gyamfi

The importance of food and agriculture in a nation’s history cannot be gainsaid. Generally, countries like Ghana have maintained consistent patterns of eating local staples that have dominated the food crop space for many decades in their regions. Historically, Ghana has been supported by the domestication of plants and animals and sometimes also by the translocation of the same from other regions or countries. When these new plants were made available, various agricultural techniques were deployed to perpetuate them. In Ghana, the British colonial government took steps to improve aspects of food and agriculture during the colonial period to serve domestic interest and especially European interest abroad. In general, the policies that guided the production, manufacture, and distribution of food during the colonial period continued to remain significant in subsequent years.

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Food Production in the Forest Zone of West Africa: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives  

Richard T. Chia and A. Catherine D'Andrea

Recent narratives on the origin of food production in the West African forest zone have replaced earlier diffusion-based models with viewpoints that emphasize the diversity of sources for plants and animals exploited and domesticated in the region. Management of indigenous tree species, including oil palm and incense tree, managed first by indigenous foragers, have the longest history in the area, dating back to over 8,400 before present (bp). After the 4th millennium bp, domesticates such as pearl millet, cowpea, and domestic caprines were introduced from adjacent Sahel and the savanna regions, and populations began to favor oil palm over incense tree. The mechanisms of these introductions are less clear but likely involved both diffusion and/or movements of peoples who became sedentary to varying degrees. Palaeoenvironment is an important factor to consider in tracking the development of food production in the forest zone; however, some combination of natural and human-mediated changes took place, the nature of which was not uniformly distributed.

Article

Foreign and Domestic Interest in Agricultural Land in West Africa  

Kerstin Nolte, Massa Coulibaly, and Peter Narh

Farmland in West Africa has been of interest to foreign investors for decades. However, the recent “rush for land” is unprecedented in scale and pace. Both foreign and domestic investors acquire agricultural land in West Africa; hotspots include the fertile lands along the rivers Gambia, Niger, and Senegal. The current interest in land does not come as a surprise to those who have studied how land governance systems in West Africa evolved over time: Inherited from colonial administration, land tenure is governed through statutory and overlapping (neo) customary systems. Since the 1990s, these systems have allowed investors to acquire ownership or rights of use, especially for customary land. This facilitated access to land for outsiders, which then coincided with an increased demand for land in the 2000s. Since then, large extents of agricultural land have been transferred to foreign and domestic commercial investors. These acquisitions are exacerbating inequalities, and the current evidence points toward rather adverse impacts on local people. At the same time, such acquisitions put land governance systems under pressure. This pressure leads to changes to the land governance systems, for instance, through eroding trust in customary institutions. The examples of the Ghana Oil Palm Development Company and Mali’s Office du Niger show how exactly land acquisitions play out on the ground over time.

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Fulani Pastoralism in West Africa  

Matthew D. Turner

Histories of the Fulani people have generally focused not on their pastoralism per se but on their role in the political histories of different periods in West Africa. Nevertheless, the changing social relations of Fulani people and others have affected the Fulani settlement and herd mobility practices that constitute their pastoralism. Fulani pastoralism has undergone significant changes from the late 19th century to the present, including sociopolitical changes that arose with colonial rule and have led to new trajectories affecting Fulani pastoralism up to the present. A key issue is the uneasy dependence of herding Fulani on the state—a dependence that has qualitatively changed as the key threat to their mobile pastoral livelihood has shifted from insecurity to competition with crop agriculture, as shaped by colonial policy, laws, and rapid increases in rural population density. The Fulani have always been a heterogeneous group. The herding Fulani, who manage livestock owned by themselves and others, is a focus of any reconstruction of the history of pastoralism. Unfortunately, these low-status “bush Fulani” are not often not included as protagonists in oral histories and colonial archives. A serious consideration of current understandings understandings of the needs of livestock and the constraints associated with herding offers a different lens through which to re-read standard accounts of the “Fulani” within colonial and post-colonial documents. By doing so, the hope is to demonstrate the responsiveness of herding Fulani to the changing constraints they have faced over time.

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The Gambia  

Bala Saho

Oral history tells of an indigenous trader who lived in the middle belts of the River Gambia known as Kambi. His wealth and popularity transcended boundaries, villages, and communities from the interior of western Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. When the Portuguese arrived in the region during the first half of the 15th century, they immediately realized that Kambi wielded economic and social authority because of the frequent movements of traders up and down the river. The traders told the Portuguese that they visited Kambi-yaa (or Kambi’s place in Mandinka) in order to trade, and the Portuguese decided to name the region Gambia. Whether the above oral narrative is accurate is not of great concern. What is important is that the account provides a glimpse of the history of the region and the changes that were already under way by the 15th century. It is evident that the ancestors of present-day Gambians had arrived in waves, or series of migrations, and were fully established on both banks of the Gambia River when Portuguese explorers first arrived in the 15th century. The Portuguese reported having found Mandinka kings on the river who claimed to be vassals of the king of “Melle.” In 1620, Richard Jobson also reported that the Mandingo were the “lords and commanders” of all the Gambia. These early 15th century contacts, led to a continuous Europeans’ presence in the River Gambia that still persist. By 1816, Bathurst was established as the new capital of the Gambia but it was not until nearly 100 years later that the entire territory we now know as Gambia came firmly under British influence. British rule lasted until 1965, when a new era of self-rule began. The country has since witnessed three republics, the first ending in 1994, the second in 2016, and the third still existing as of 2018.