GWYN CAMPBELL. “The East African Slave Trade, 1861-1895: The ‘Southern’ Complex, The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 22, no. 1 (1989): 1-26.

ABDUL SHERIFF.  Slaves, Spices, and Ivory in Zanzibar: Integration of an East African Commercial Empire into the World Economy, 1770-1873. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1987.


The readings for this week are the second in a series of two case studies on specific regions of East Africa in the eighteenth century. East Africa is an area that includes Mozambique and the Great Lakes Region. Situated on the western Indian Ocean, this region corresponds to the present-day coasts of Mozambique, Tanzania, and southeastern Kenya, as well as Madagascar and various nearby islands like Comoros, Mayotte, Réunion, and Mauritius. The area also includes many hinterland regions of Eastern Africa, such as present-day Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda. In the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the principal ports of Eastern Africa were Sofala in Mozambique and Zanzibar in Tanzania. These ports were occupied mainly by Swahili, Portuguese, Omani, and Indian traders. The readings assigned for this week are both secondary sources, one on south and one on north East Africa. The first is an article on slavery in late-nineteenth century Mozambique by Gwyn Campbell. The second is an historical survey by Adbul Sheriff entitled Slaves, Spices, and Ivory in Zanzibar.

Gwyn Campbell’s “The East African Slave Trade”

In his article, “The East African Slave Trade,” the historian Gwyn Campbell re-investigates the nineteenth-century history of what scholars often call the “southern” East African slave trade.[1] This slave trade took place on the coast and in the interior of present-day Mozambique from Kilwa southward. Campbell argues that slave-importing and exporting islands located in the western Indian Ocean, especially Madagascar, are “the ‘missing link’ in the history of East Africa in general and of the East African slave trade in particular.”[2] He observes that historians have appreciated the degrees to which some foreign markets have shaped the East African slave trade, such as those in the Persian Gulf and those in Cuba and Brazil before that export trade was closed around the 1850s. Nonetheless, historians have not fully appreciated the “trans-Mozambique Channel trade,” which flourished in the last three decades of the nineteenth century, carrying East Africans from modern-day Mozambique to burgeoning markets on Madagascar and then to its surrounding islands.[3] As a way to address this gap in the literature, Campbell positions Madagascar at the center of the history of the East African slave trade. He covers from the re-opening of the Merina Empire of Madagascar to foreign investment in 1861 to the French takeover of Madagascar in 1895.[4]

Campbell traces the history of the East African slave trade in the late-nineteenth century to a series of new “manpower” or “labor shortages” in the western Indian Ocean. French traders from the Mascarene islands addressed these labor shortages in their colonies by buying enslaved people from Swahili and Arab traders on the coast of Mozambique, and also by purchasing East African or Malagasy slaves from markets in Western Madagascar.[5] Likewise, the Merina Empire handled its own labor problems by importing and then often re-exporting East Africans from Mozambique, while also exporting certain peoples form the interior of Madagascar. Meanwhile, an entire cast of intermediaries emerged to facilitate Madagascar’s “two-way traffic in slaves.”[6] This cast included traders of Arab origin in Northwest Madagascar, called Antalaotra; traders of British-Indian origin in the same area, called Karany; and various kingdoms, republics, and private traders on the coast and interior of Madagascar. Examples of this last group are Sakalava and Bara chiefs, the Betsiriry and Antanosy slave communities, and independent Mascarene middlemen like the Samat and Rossier brothers, all of which generally worked in the southwest of the island.[7] Finally, Campbell adds to this diversity European, South African, and American traders working in the region.[8] Continue reading “Case Studies of East African History in the Nineteenth Century — Zanzibar and Mozambique”