Rethinking Abolition Strategies in West Africa in the Early 18th Century

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 3:50 PM
Maryland Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Daniel Olisa Iweze, University of Benin
The slave trade that lasted over three centuries caused imaginable human sufferings and deprivations unprecedented in world history. Britain championed the abolition of slave trade through the judgement of the Chief Justice of England, the famous Lord Mansfield judgment of 1772 that set free James Somerset, a runaway slave from his slave master. This was followed by the promulgation of the Abolition Act in the British Parliament in 1807. These ground breaking British abolitionist achievements was followed by the enunciation of other measures. Britain sought the co-operation of other Western European powers such as Spain, France and Germany among others which ultimately led to the abolition of slave trade and slavery in West Africa in the 19th century. The thrust of this paper is to explore the various strategies or measures adopted by the British, other European powers, and the United States of America in ending the slave trade in West Africa. The paper looks at the successes and challenges that confronted the abolitionists that made the abolition of the slave trade to stretch so long until the turn of the 20th century before it was finally stamped out. The contention of the paper is that the abolition strategies were undermined by both European dealers and African chiefs and middlemen suppliers. Despite the abolitionists’ efforts, the slave trade continued, though in a smaller scale, until the Christian missionaries moved into the interior of West Africa and tackled the abolition from sources of supply. This was followed by the European colonial conquest and imperial control of various kingdoms and empires thereby swiping out the remnants of slave trading in the area. Source materials for this paper will include works from the archives and complemented by published and unpublished works. These varied sources will be critically analyzed using historical narrative.