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19th century commerce in coastal West Africa

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  1. The passage from the slave trade to a ''legitimate'' commerce
  2. The class of African merchants
  3. The control of the Europeans over the indigenous merchants constitutes the period of ''informal empire''

The nineteenth century has been a turning point in the West African economic history. Indeed, the transition from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century marked the intensification of commerce. As a result of the industrial revolution which took place in Europe, especially in Britain, the demand for new products in industrial processes and consumption increased and some of these could be found readily in Africa. Thus, raw materials were imported by Europeans from Africa, in exchange for manufactured products such as clothes, firearms, gunpowder and spirituous liquors. The middlemen between the African producers and the European capitalists formed a specific class of indigenous merchants which grew from the 1830s to the 1850s, and after a decline of their prosperity during the 1860s, they flourished again from the 1870s to the 1890s. This essay will discuss how nineteenth century commerce in coastal West Africa seemed to operate from the perspective of African merchants.

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