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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Pawnship, debt, and 'freedom' in Atlantic Africa during the era of the slave trade: a reassessment
Author:Lovejoy, Paul E.ISNI
Periodical:The Journal of African History (ISSN 0021-8537)
Geographic term:West Africa
economic behaviour
economic history
External link:https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021853714000073
Abstract:A reassessment of the institution of pawnship in Africa for the period from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth century tightens the reference to situations in which individuals were held as collateral for debts that had been incurred by others, usually relatives. Contrary to the assumptions of some scholars, pawnship was not related to poverty and enslavement for debt but rather to commercial liquidity and the mechanisms by which funds were acquired to promote trade or to cover the expenses of funerals, weddings, and religious obligations. A distinction is made, therefore, between enslavement for debt and pawnship. It is demonstrated that pawnship characterized trade with European and American ships in many parts of Atlantic Africa, but not everywhere. While pawnship was common north of the Congo River, at Gabon, Cameroon, Calabar, the interior of the Bights of Biafra and Benin, the Gold Coast, and the upper Guinea coast, it was illegal in most of Muslim Africa and the Portuguese colony of Angola, while it was not used in commercial dealings with Europeans at Bonny, Ouidah, and other places. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]