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Cash crops and freedom: export agriculture and the decline of slavery in colonial West Africa

Austin, Gareth (2009) Cash crops and freedom: export agriculture and the decline of slavery in colonial West Africa. International Review of Social History, 54 (01). pp. 1-37. ISSN 0020-8590

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S0020859009000017


This article argues that the greatest economic and social transformations of the early colonial period in West Africa, the “cash-crop revolution”, and “the slow death of slavery” and debt bondage, had stronger and more varied causal connections than previously realized. The economic circumstances of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century West Africa delayed and diluted abolitionist measures. Indeed, the coercion of labour, through the exercise of property rights in people, contributed to the speed with which the cash-crop economies developed. Conversely, however, the scale and composition of cash-crop expansion did much to determine that the slave trade and pawning would be replaced by a consensual labour market. They also shaped the possibilities for peasant versus larger-scale organization of production, and the distribution of income by gender and between communities.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2009 CUP
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Sets: Departments > Economic History
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2011 13:12
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 03:39

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