BBC Online Network Contact Us Help Text Only
BBC World Service
 
 
HOME
 
LIVING HISTORY
 
EARLY HISTORY
 
NILE VALLEY
 
WEST AFRICAN
KINGDOMS
 
THE SWAHILI
 
TRADITIONAL
RELIGIONS
 
ISLAM
 
CHRISTIANITY
 
SLAVERY
 
CENTRAL AFRICAN
KINGDOMS
 
AFRICA & EUROPE
(1800-1914)
 
SOUTHERN AFRICA
 
BETWEEN
WORLD WARS
(1914-1945)
 
INDEPENDENCE
 
PROGRAMMES
 
SEARCH
 
FORUM/
FEEDBACK
INDEX


Trade Wars

FROM SLAVES TO NEW TRADE
With the British abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the British navy took to patrolling the coasts for other nations' slave ships. The motives of the British were not entirely humanitarian. Having given up the commercial benefits of the slave trade, the British were determined to make everyone else do the same. Had they not, their share of African trade would have been much smaller.

The anti-slave trading crusade, although inspired by moral righteousness, became a way for Britain to assert itself both commercially and territorially in Africa.

However, stopping the slave trade was not easy. On the East coast the British met with considerable resistance from Arab merchants and the Sultan of Zanzibar himself.

Meanwhile, in South Africa the Afrikaners were beginning to formulate a way of life not only profoundly religious but also one in which the role assigned to Africans was essentially static and subservient with no vision of change or movement.

THE STORY OF JAJA, KING OF THE OPOBA
In West Africa the tension grew between African merchant kings and European government officials who wanted to dismantle all monopolies and tariffs imposed by local rulers. This move towards free trade meant African monopolies being replaced by much larger European monopolies in the long term. Jaja, King of Opobo, in the Niger Delta (part of Nigeria today) had been a crucial ally of the British in the sacking of the Asanti capital Kumasi. In 1885 he asked for British Protection through the consul - Hewitt. Hewitt replied:

"…the Queen does not want to take your country or your markets, but at the same time she is anxious that no other nations should take them. She undertakes to extend her gracious power and protection, which will leave your country still under your government: she has no wish to disturb your rule…" 
Letter 8th January 1884, quoted by Michael Crowder in The Story of Nigeria.

British Protection was usually offered on condition that all local trade monopolies were dropped. In the case of Jaja he successfully retained his monopoly. He was determined not to lose his position as middleman and that none of his neighbours should deal with European merchants. But within two years, in 1886, the Royal Niger Company had succeeded in taking the monopoly of all trade in the region. Jaja was eventually deported to the West Indies with a pension of £800 a year.