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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Trade in Slaves in Ovamboland, ca. 1850-1910
Author:Gustafsson, Kalle
Periodical:African Economic History
Geographic terms:Angola
Subjects:slave trade
mercantile history
colonial period
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Economics and Trade
Abstract:In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the Ovambo communities of northern South West Africa (present-day Namibia) and southern Angola were drawn into the orbit of a European-led long-distance trade. Direct and permanent contact between the Ovambo and Portuguese traders and colonists was at first based on ivory supplied by the Ovambo. As the ivory revenues quickly diminished, the exchange came to be based on cattle and slaves. In their eagerness to trade with Europeans the Ovambo kings could not rely solely on external raiding. From the latter half of the 1880s and throughout the 1890s, insecurity spread in Ovambo communities and internal enslavement and cattle confiscation increased at an alarming rate. Ovamboland was not a politically unified area, and several kingdoms, such as Uukwanyama and Ondonga, competed with each other for the European goods, notably firearms and alcohol. Fuelling the slave trade in Ovamboland was the economic development of Mossamedes and its hinterland. The use of slaves by European private merchants and plantation owners in southern Angola came at a cost, as the raiding activities led to growing instability throughout the country. However, an active Portuguese policy to put an end to Ovambo raiding in the first decade of the twentieth century was not entirely successful because the most powerful Ovambo polity, Uukwanyama, retained its independence. On the German side, the colonial government in South West Africa was no more successful in preventing the trade and smuggling across the border with Angola. The decisive event was the elimination in 1913 of the remnants of slavery in Mossamedes. The article is based mainly on Finnish archival material produced by Finnish missionaries who started to work in Ovamboland in 1870. Though they viewed slave trading as evil, to oppose it openly in front of the Ovambo kings would certainly have put their mission in jeopardy. Nonetheless, when the slave trade finally ended, the missionaries took full credit for its abolition. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]