Despotic Monopoly in Trade

Saturday, January 6, 2018
Atrium (Marriott Wardman Park)
Blake Janak, University of Central Oklahoma
Moral realignment of the slave trade in West Africa opened the door to increasing profits and competition between imperial and indigenous states during the late nineteenth century. One case in particular exemplifies this claim. This research project addresses the complex relationship between the British consulate and Prince Ja Ja, the first successful leader of an African state in modern history. This man was and remains the best-known popular figure in the Niger River Delta for his time. In terms of British interests, the political and economic implications are massive. Prince Ja Ja’s refusal to accept free trade, that is; open markets in palm oil deposits on the Opobo River, and the Berlin Conference (1884-5) response in favor of British trade relations in West Africa, directly influenced the young and ambitious consul, Harry Hamilton Johnston (1858-1927) to deport the first true sovereign of combatant West Africa. Furthermore, by actively seeking out ships containing stolen tribes of Africa, Britain took steps toward a racially stable empire, but it is imperative to remember that Britain only ended Trans-Atlantic slavery, because gold and later palm oil grew exponentially more valuable to British welfares. The project provides insight to a centralized piece of the complicated history of Colonial Africa, and the lasting impression of British authority on the fluctuating state of contemporary Nigeria.

While the general history of Ja Ja’s fate is known to historians of Africa, this research offers a new interpretation based on documents in London archives, including, Treaty. King and Chiefs of Opobo and Correspondence Respecting King Ja Ja of Opobo, which stem from The National Archives, Kew. Consul Johnston’s rare book, A History of the Colonization of Africa by Alien Races, unearthed in the British Library, confirms this progressive direction of modern African history.

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