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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'A Bottle of Gin is Dangled before the Nose of the Natives': The Economic Uses of Imported Liquor in Southern Nigeria, 1860-1920
Author:Heap, Simon
Periodical:African Economic History
Geographic terms:Nigeria
Great Britain
Subjects:alcoholic beverages
public revenue
colonial economy
History and Exploration
Economics and Trade
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Ethnic and Race Relations
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/4617605
Abstract:Imported alcohol had significant economic importance in the colonial economy of southern Nigeria from 1860 until the First World War. Revenue from the liquor trade was a major prop of British colonial governments in Nigeria, who consciously fashioned customs duties to extract the maximum revenue from the trade. No governor found an easy fiscal alternative to liquor revenue. Situationally defined but also constantly renegotiated, imported alcohol had innumerable fluid cultural and economic contexts. In terms of the latter, the liquor trade provoked questions over the ultimate goal of colonial economics. On the one hand, critics of the liquor trade saw it as commercially unsound, socially destructive and morally indefensible. Yet on the other hand, gin supplied the currency needs of Nigerians for a long time. Transactions with liquor were called 'gin currency' and were an integral part of the southern Nigerian economy. The liquor-for-produce system, the exchange of Nigerian agricultural produce for European liquor, represented one of the central tenets of the liquor trade. Gin was a useful transitional currency and was even found at the heart of the colonialist's legal system in the payment of court fines in one area. Despite calls to end the 'mischievous practice' of gin currency, monetizing the Nigerian economy faced enormous problems. It was the First World War and the consequent dearth of trade spirits imported during those four years that moved Nigeria towards a cash economy. Ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]