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Book Book Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Desert frontier: ecological and economic change along the Western Sahel, 1600-1850
Author:Webb (Jr.), James L.A.ISNI
City of publisher:Madison, WI
Publisher:University of Wisconsin Press
ISBN:0299143309; 0299143341
Geographic term:Sahel
Subjects:mercantile history
agricultural history
Abstract:This book is concerned with the ecological and economic history of the southern frontier of the Sahara, known as the western Sahel, in the period 1600-1850. In the early 17th century, the climate of this transitional ecological zone situated between the full desert and the western African savanna began a long-term shift toward aridity, desertification and ecological degradation, which resulted in the desert frontier being moved 200-300 kilometres to the south. The desiccation strengthened the position of the pastoral nomadic communities relative to the agriculturalists. The climatic change transformed ethnic identities, and contributed to the emergence of new systems of pastoral and agricultural production and exchange, particularly in the trades in grain, salt, gum arabic (the most valuable good exported from the western Sahel into the Atlantic sector), horses and slaves. The horse and slave trade between the desert edge and the savanna underwrote the political violence along the desert frontier and within the savanna. The larger and most significant markets were those in North Africa and within the Sahelian region itself, not those which lay across the ocean. The book is based on archival research and on Saharan oral data gleaned from interviews in the 1980s.