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Cross-cultural trade and the slave ship the Bonne Société: baskets of goods, diverse sellers, and time pressure on the African coast

Gregg, Amanda and Ruderman, Anne (2021) Cross-cultural trade and the slave ship the Bonne Société: baskets of goods, diverse sellers, and time pressure on the African coast. Economic History Working Papers (333). Department of Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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Abstract

The French slave ship the Bonne Société traded bundles of goods in exchange for slaves in the port of Loango in the late eighteenth century. This paper presents detailed evidence from the ship’s trading log that decomposes the goods in the bundle and, uniquely, identifies the European and African merchants who sold captives to the boat. We examine the cross-cultural trade documented by this dataset and show that total prices increased throughout the trade, since the ship faced time pressure as soon as the first captive was aboard, and that the captain increased the price of the bundle by adding more goods and especially by adding high-price goods. We also show that sellers participated both as one-shot traders and as repeat traders, selling the ship captives at multiple points in the trade, and that sellers with honorifics indicating status positions did not appear to earn greater prices as observed in the trading log. The market we observe was neither purely based on barter nor based on goods as substitutes for currency. Our results thus add a nuanced picture of how a trade that destroyed the lives of millions of people worked “on the ground.”

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL: https://www.lse.ac.uk/Economic-History/Working-Pap...
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
D History General and Old World > DT Africa
JEL classification: N - Economic History > N7 - Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, Technology, and Other Services > N77 - Africa; Oceania
N - Economic History > N8 - Micro-Business History > N87 - Africa; Oceania
Z - Other Special Topics > Z1 - Cultural Economics; Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology > Z13 - Social Norms and Social Capital; Social Networks
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2021 07:42
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2021 07:42
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/112507

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