Unfree labor in Northern Nigeria is a subject of interest to an increasing number of scholars. The National Archives Kaduna (NAK) and other repositories in Northern Nigeria and elsewhere hold many records that are useful for the study of several forms of unfree labor that occurred within the present-day borders of Northern Nigeria. The history of these records is long, but most of the written records were produced in the period after 1800. The written materials are mainly in Arabic and English. Unlike the written records, the oral sources are mainly in the Hausa language and the collection of such oral information is related to the post-1960s efforts by scholars led primarily by Paul E. Lovejoy. Lovejoy also initiated the digitization of archival materials and oral sources related to unfree labor in Northern Nigeria in the early 2000s. The digitization effort is still ongoing. Scholars who have drawn on the available archival and digital material have focused on the theme of slavery in the precolonial era. Such scholars addressed several topics including plantation agriculture, military slavery, slave control, slave resistance, the ending of slavery, and the wages of slavery. Apart from the works on slavery that mainly focus on the 19th century, there are relatively few other works on the topic that have primarily dealt with the early colonial era or with the period between 1903 and 1936. While the history of slavery has attracted the most critical attention, the history of corvée and convict labor in Northern Nigeria has largely been neglected. Indeed, to date, only two works mainly deal with convict and corvée labor. Considering the little attention given to the themes of convict labor and corvée labor, there is clearly more room for additional historical works on these subjects than on the topic of slavery.
Archival and Digital Sources on Unfree Labor in Northern Nigeria
Mohammed Bashir Salau
Forced Labor in Portuguese Africa
Zachary Kagan Guthrie
Forced labor was central to the modern history of the Portuguese empire. It was widely imposed across Angola, Mozambique, São Tomé, and Guinea after the imposition of Portuguese colonial rule in the late 19th century and persisted within the Portuguese empire for decades after it had been abolished by other European powers. The brutal violence and far-reaching social disruption created by forced labor had a profound impact on colonized communities. It was one of the most important ways that individual subjects interacted with the Portuguese colonial state. Forced labor was also fundamental in structuring the economic, political, social, and ideological contours of the Portuguese empire: the colonial economy was deeply dependent on the exploitation facilitated by forced labor, and both the operations of the Portuguese colonial administration and the justification for its existence were closely intertwined with conscripting forced workers. Finally, the prevalence of forced labor in the Portuguese empire precipitated recurring international scandals, which did a great deal to define Portuguese colonialism in the eyes of the world. Studying forced labor has therefore become an important methodology for understanding the depredations of Portuguese colonial rule, its impact on the lives of the people it governed, and the economic and political organization of the Portuguese empire.
Slavery and Forced Labor in Madagascar
Gwyn R. Campbell
Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, was first permanently settled in about the mid-9th century. Slavery was present on the island from the first, but a slave export trade became significant only from the mid-18th century because of demand from the French islands of Réunion and Mauritius. Most of the literature has focused on slavery in, and the slave trades involving, Imerina, until 1817 a landlocked kingdom in the central highlands of Madagascar. In 1820, Radama I of Imerina signed a treaty with the British in which he banned the slave export trade. However, the measure was effective only in Merina-controlled regions of the island, and the traffic in slaves, predominantly to the French islands of the western Indian Ocean, continued, albeit in clandestine form. Moreover, the 1820 ban applied only to exports, and there arose a lively trade in imported East African slaves. At the same time, Merina military expansion resulted in the enslavement of thousands of non-Merina Malagasy women and children. Of greater significance than slavery was forced labor. In pre-colonial times, fanompoana, or unremunerated forced labor for the Merina crown, was originally an honorary service of limited duration. However, from 1820, it was applied on such a scale that it resulted in the impoverishment of the vast bulk of ordinary people subjected to Merina authority. In 1896, following the French takeover of the island, the colonial regime decreed the abolition of slavery but maintained a system of corvée labor as exploitative as pre-colonial fanompoana. Many former slaves chose to remain in servitude to their former masters rather than become subject to corvées, which also underlay a massive revolt that erupted in 1947 in the coffee-growing regions of the eastern littoral, foreshadowing the demise of French colonial rule. In the post-independence era, a forced labor regime for youths was reinstituted from 1978 to 1990, while descendants of ex-slaves have largely retained their servile status, and many have remained socially and economically marginalized.
Sugar Plantation Slavery
Sugar and slavery became intimately connected in the Americas during the early modern era. Once the cultivation of sugar cane had been transplanted to the Americas in the early 16th century, Spanish and Portuguese planters turned to exploiting slaves as laborers on the plantations. The first slaves were taken from among Indigenous populations in the Americas. In the 17th century, English and French planters tried to recruit indentured servants from Europe. Both these sources of labor would, for several reasons, turn out to be insufficient to meet the great demand for laborers on the American sugar plantations. Planters throughout the Americas therefore came to import slaves from Africa, particularly following the so-called “sugar revolution” during the late 17th century. As sugar henceforth became the preferred crop of cultivation throughout most of the Caribbean and Brazil, it also became the main driver of the transatlantic slave trade. The particular demography of sugar planting—with a natural population decline as a consequence of hard labor, a brutal labor regime, and insufficient diet—did furthermore exacerbate the demand for slave imports even further. The cultivation of sugar, and all economic activities associated with the slave plantation complex, would be of great economic importance for investors, merchants and producers in Europe. The political decision to abolish the slave trade would therefore have large economic consequences both in the Americas, Africa, and Europe.
Maputo (Lourenço Marques until 1976) is the capital of Mozambique and one of the busiest port cities on the east coast of Africa. The Bay of Lourenço Marques had already been a source of ivory for the Indian Ocean world and Europe for centuries when, in the late 18th century, Portugal established a permanent garrison there, among the Mpfumo and other Xi-ronga-speaking clans. From 1898 until independence in 1975, the fort-turned-city was the administrative headquarters of Portugal’s territory of Mozambique, a home to many Portuguese settlers, and a stark example of racialized exploitation and urban segregation under colonial rule. It was also the principal transit hub for hundreds of thousands of southern Mozambican men recruited to labor in neighboring South Africa. Following independence, the city became a laboratory of revolutionary socialist experimentation as well as an overcrowded safe haven for refugees of Mozambique’s long and terrible civil war. Despite closer historical ties to South Africa than to most of Mozambique, Maputo is the country’s economic center and its gateway for foreign investment. According to 2017 census figures, the metropolitan population exceeded 2.5 million, making it one of the larger urban areas in southern Africa.
The League of Nations, the International Labour Organization, and Slavery in Africa
The League of Nations and the International Labour Organization (ILO) turned to the problems of slavery and forced labor in the context of a general program to promote welfare and social justice as the foundations of a lasting peace after World War I. Their initiatives for abolition and labor regulation, global in scope but focused mainly on Africa, were driven forward by humanitarians and defined ultimately by colonial interests. While the colonial powers attempted to induce the League and the ILO to accommodate their coercive labor systems in Africa, they also proved positively responsive to critical international oversight and especially to the charge of slavery. Humanitarianism and imperialism intersected most clearly in the case of Ethiopia, with which the League’s work on slavery effectively began and ended. Although the League’s Convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery, 1926, and the ILO’s Convention Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour, 1930, had limited constructive effects on colonial labor systems in Africa between the wars, they laid important groundwork in international law for the long-term development of new norms in the rights of labor worldwide.
The History of Angola
Angola’s contemporary political boundaries resulted from 20th-century colonialism. The roots of Angola, however, reach far into the past. When Portuguese caravels arrived in the Congo River estuary in the late 15th century, independent African polities dotted this vast region. Some people lived in populous, hierarchical states such as the Kingdom of Kongo, but most lived in smaller political entities centered on lineage-village settlements. The Portuguese colony of Angola grew out of a settlement established at Luanda Bay in 1576. From its inception, Portuguese Angola existed to profit from the transatlantic slave trade, which became the colony’s economic foundation for the next three centuries. A Luso-African population and a creole culture developed in the colonial nuclei of Luanda and Benguela (founded 1617). The expansion of the colonial state into the interior occurred intermittently until the end of the 19th century, when Portuguese authorities initiated a series of wars of conquest that lasted up until the end of the First World War. During the 20th century, the colonial state consolidated military control over the whole territory, instituted an infrastructure of administration, and developed an economy of resource extraction. A nationalist sentiment developed among Luso-African thinkers in the early 20th century, and by the 1950s these ideas coalesced into a nationalist movement aimed at independence. Simultaneously, anticolonial movements developed among mission-educated elites in the Kikongo-speaking north and in the Umbundu-speaking central highlands. Portugal’s authoritarian New State leaders brutally suppressed these disparate nationalist movements during more than a decade of guerrilla war. A revolution in Portugal in 1974 ushered in negotiations leading to Angolan independence on November 11, 1975. Competing nationalist movements, bolstered by foreign intervention, refused to share governance and as a result plunged Angola into a brutal civil war that lasted until 2002.
Portuguese Colonialism in Africa
Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo
The Portuguese colonial empire was the first and the last European empire overseas, from the conquest of Ceuta (1415), in Morocco, North Africa, until the formal handover of Macau to the People’s Republic of China (1999). From the coastline excursions in Africa and the gradual establishment of trade routes in Asia and in the Indian Ocean and the related emergence of the Estado da Índia (the Portuguese empire east of the Cape of Good Hope), to the colonization projects in the Americas, namely, in Brazil, and, in the second half of the 19th century, in Africa, the Portuguese empire assumed diverse configurations. All of these entailed expansionist projects and motivations—political, missionary, military, commercial—with changing dynamics, strongly conditioned by local circumstances and powers. In Africa, actual colonization was a belated and convoluted process, which started and ended with violent conflicts, the so-called pacification campaigns of the 1890s, and the liberation wars of the 1960s and 1970s. In Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe, the Portuguese enacted numerous modalities of formalized rule, based on political, military, and religious apparatuses. These forms of control engaged with and impacted on local societies differently. However, until the very end, coercive labor and tax exactions, racial discrimination, authoritarian politics, and economic exploitation were the fundamental pillars of Portuguese colonialism in Africa.
African Populations and British Imperial Power, 1800–1970
British views of African populations from 1800 to 1970 reflected the larger discourse about Africa in this period. These views shaped how the British state and private groups attempted to measure and influence African population trends. In the precolonial era, travelers painted a picture of an underpopulated continent ravaged by war and slavery. Malthus used these accounts in his depiction of African populations limited by insecurity, low productivity, and primitive customs. Malthus’s view would dominate British ideas of African population into the colonial era. Prior to that, missionary groups and antislavery activists invoked these ideas to justify efforts to change African customs through conversion and free labor. In the colonial era, the belief in underpopulation rationalized state interventions in African societies through forced labor and public health. Colonial regimes attempted to measure and classify their populations to facilitate taxation and administration. These early surveys failed to produce adequate results and estimates of African populations remained unreliable. Despite the absence of data, British officials and demographers continued to argue that lack of population represented a fundamental obstacle to development. Efforts to address this concern made little headway before the late 1930s, when the international criticism of empire forced British officials to embrace a more interventionist colonial state. Beginning in the late 1930s, British officials and demographers warned of signs of overpopulation, even though reliable census data remained elusive. As part of the postwar drive for development, officials used resettlement programs and agricultural schemes to improve productivity and to address presumed population pressure. In the late colonial era, the British allowed the creation of birth control clinics in African colonies. These private efforts became the basis of an international effort of population control focused on Africa that began in the late 1960s. Since the 1980s, scholars have created alternative explanations of African historical demography, relying on a variety of sources to challenge the existing paradigm.
History of Mozambique
The peoples of early-21st-century Mozambique underwent different historical experiences which, to a certain extent, were homogenized when Portuguese colonialism encompassed the entire territory from the late 19th century onward. However, all of them had common origins, rooted in successive Bantu migrations. These peoples were organized into small chiefdoms based on lineages, but those located in the central region of Mozambique were integrated into states with some level of centralization, created by the Karanga south of the Zambezi and by the Maravi to the north. The interior regions were articulated into mercantile networks with the Indian Ocean through Swahili coastal entrepôts, exporting gold and ivory. From 1505 onward, the Portuguese sought to control this commerce from some settlements along the coast, particularly Mozambique Island, their capital. During the last decades of the 16th century, projects emerged for territorial appropriation in the Zambezi Valley, where a Luso-Afro-Indian Creole society developed. From the mid-18th century onward the slave trade to the Indian and Atlantic Oceans became increasingly important, with different impacts in the respective regions. Modern Portuguese colonialism was established by means of military campaigns: having limited capital, Portugal granted concessions for part of the territory to companies. When these concessions ended in 1942, the colonial state developed a direct administration throughout the territory, headquartered in Lourenço Marques (Maputo). Nationalist ideals developed during the 1950s among various movements, of which three organizations united to form the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) in 1962. From 1964 onward, FRELIMO unleashed an anticolonial war in northern and central Mozambique. After the 1974 revolution in Portugal, negotiations resulted in the recognition of Mozambique’s independence on June 25, 1975, and a FRELIMO government. Armed opposition to the Marxist-Leninist government and the civil war continued until 1992. During the 1990s, Mozambique adopted a multiparty system and liberalized its economy.
Landscapes of Colonial Detention Sites
Built on the legacy of the goals established during the slave trade, early colonial prisons were essential to the expansion of the colonial conquest. Once slavery had been abolished, the jails it had established continued to provide reservoirs of free, cheap, and forced labor, which were indispensable to the economic exploitation and development of the colonies. Complex networks of detention sites expanded over time and became essential tools for colonizers to mark their authority over their territory and to control, discipline, and punish colonized populations. Leaving aside Eurocentric narratives on the birth of the prison, exploring the genealogy of detention in colonial Africa highlights the multifaceted landscape of detention sites. Penal detention was enforced in prison, detention, internment, concentration, and labor camps; these could be open or mobile, or they could comprise entire villages. Detention also served nonpenal purposes and materialized in asylums, orphanages, penitentiaries, work camps, and sanitary confinement. This multiplicity of detention sites demonstrates that detention cannot be solely defined by its geography or its scope, for colonial detention was profoundly pervasive and knew no clear territorial, legal, and architectural boundaries. In political systems in which everyday life was criminalized in the service of a “civilizing” mission, whole sections of the population were exposed to detention. Beyond the walls, barbed wires, and entry points of detention sites, bodies and minds were the main targets of the policies of confinement and punishment. The genealogy of the detention sites in African colonies reveals the way that the policies of detention nurtured a culture of violence that developed with, within, around, and outside them. For historians, it raises an important question as to the historical reconstruction and conceptualization of detention, freedom, and agency in colonial contexts.
Women in Central African History
This examination of the history of women’s situation in Central Africa from the late colonial period of the 19th to the early 21st century sheds light on women’s experiences by highlighting their agency in confronting the changes they faced. The colonizers’ introduction of cash crop production and forced labor in the late 19th century to modernize the economy impacted the sexual division of labor, transforming the organization of the work within the family and community. In the post-independence period, traditional gender expectations continued to shape the lives of the majority of women, but a small number were able to take advantage of social mutations in the domains of education, politics, and work to become leaders. Transformations brought about by postcolonial armed conflict in three Central African countries profoundly affected women’s lives.