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Legitimate Commerce in Africa in the nineteenth cetury






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Name : Takeis Mclean
ID number : 06001918
Date Submitted : November 12, 2013
Essay Question : To what extent did " legitimate commerce" contribute to
to the growth of African economies during the
nineteenth century. Discuss with reference to at least two
Thesis Statement : Legitimate commerce contributed to the growth of
African economies in the initial period of the nineteenth
century but later favoured the economy of
Course Title : The State and Development of Africa, 1800-1900

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Within the nineteenth century, Africa experienced a change in its economic structure as
there was a drastic revolution into the way trading relationship was conducted with Africa
and European nations due to the creation of "legitimate commerce" system of trade.
This system of trade was created for the enabling of trade to be done among Africa and
Europe through the production of agricultural products by African workers instead of
the direct trading in slaves to fulfil the needs of the global market. This form of trade was
therefore viewed as the new economic model of Africa that would define its economic
standing in the global hemisphere.
It should therefore be noted that the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in
Britain in 1807 led to the ending of slavery in Britain. This therefore meant that the
trading in slaves to meet economic benefits for Europe was abolished due to
humanitarian reasons that were formulated by abolitionists in the British Parliament.
Furthermore, it was proclaimed that slavery was a brutish system that led to the
exploitation of the slaves as it was believed that their rights to liberty and freedom was
grossly violated due to this system of trade.
It however should be noted that the ending of the trans- Atlantic slave trade in Britain
created a system that sought to facilitate further economic growth for Europe through
the use of African labour to produce agricultural products. This was to facilitate the needs
of a new economy that was driven on heavy production of goods and in commercial
trading to cater to its new market structure.
This therefore enables a greater understanding as to the motives behind the creation of
the system of "legitimate commerce" in regards to a shift from trading directly in slaves
and the use of African labour for the production of agricultural produce.

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It should be noted that the Industrial Revolution in Europe therefore created a need for
new markets of trade as the economic benefits that existed in slavery had now proven to
be unprofitable. The decline in sugar prices in the global market also meant that the need
for slaves for this form of labour was no longer required.
The diversification of the economy to enable profitability was greatly the intention of
Europe and especially Britain that led to focus being on Africa for free trade and labour.
The aim of this paper is therefore to examine the system of "legitimate commerce" as it
relates to the African economies. This new economic model of trade that existed between
Africa and Europe within the nineteenth century, did it really benefit these developing
The thesis put forward therefore reveals that legitimate commerce contributed to the
growth of African economies in the initial period of the nineteenth century but later
greatly favoured the economy of Europe.
The two economies that will be examined closely are the Asante and Dahomey which can
be found in Ghana and Nigeria respectively.
The areas of Free Labour and Free Trade which were the components of legitimate
commerce will be assessed. This will be examined to further highlight the fact that the
African economies benefited initially from the trade due to their ability to adapt to the
climate. The harsh measures of trade that were later created by Europe weakened their
economic structure and instead facilitated the economy of Europe.
Some historians such as A.G. Hopkins believed that when the legitimate commerce
trade had initially started in Africa within the nineteenth century the Africans adapted
very well to the system of trade. Furthermore, it was not a crises for the Africans in the

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