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AFRICANS AND LUSO-AFRICANS IN THE PORTUGUESE SLAVE TRADE ON THE UPPER GUINEA COAST IN THE EARLY SEVENTEENTH CENTURY*

  • LINDA A. NEWSON (a1)
Abstract

Using previously unknown account books, found in archives in Peru, of three New Christian Portuguese slave traders on the Upper Guinea Coast, this article examines the extent and nature of African and Luso-African involvement in the Atlantic trade during the early seventeenth century. Beads, textiles, and wine that figured most prominently among Portuguese imports were traded predominantly by Luso-Africans. Meanwhile, slaves were delivered in small numbers by people from a diverse range of social backgrounds. This trade was not a simple exchange of imported goods for slaves, but was a complex one that built on pre-European patterns of exchange in locally-produced commodities.

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Author's email: linda.newson@kcl.ac.uk
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*

The author is grateful to the Arts and Humanities Research Board and the British Academy for financial support to undertake the research for this study. She is also grateful to Susie Minchin for research assistance and to Toby Green, Philip Havik, and the three anonymous reviewers of this article for their constructive comments on previous drafts.

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1 Vilar, E. Vila, Hispanoamérica y el comercio de esclavos: los asientos Portugueses (Sevilla, 1977), 2854, 104–15. In fact, the account books examined here fall partly into the period between 1609 and 1615, when there was no asiento and Portuguese traders received individual licences.

2 The other main centres at this time were Angola and Lower Guinea. Wheat, D., ‘The first great waves: African provenance zones for the transatlantic slave trade to Cartagena de Indias, 1570–1640’, Journal of African History, 52:1 (2011), 122.

3 D. Eltis and D. Richardson, ‘A new assessment of the Atlantic slave trade’, in D. Eltis and D. Richardson (eds.), Extending the Frontiers: Essays on the New Transatlantic Slave Trade Database (New Haven, 2008), 46–8.

4 Newson, L. A. and Minchin, S., From Capture to Sale: the Portuguese Slave Trade to Spanish South America in the Early Seventeenth Century (Leiden, 2007), 61–6; Mark, P. and da Silva Horta, J., The Forgotten Diaspora: Jewish Communities in West Africa and the Making of the Atlantic World (New York, 2011), 168–71.

5 Rodney, W. C., A History of the Upper Guinea Coast (Oxford, 1970), 98.

6 Klein, H. S., The Atlantic Slave Trade (Cambridge, 1999), 7483, 89–93, 102–7.

7 The Portuguese stations in West Africa were at Arguim in present-day Mauritania, and São Jorge da Mina and Axim on the Gold Coast. On Angola, see Newson and Minchin, From Capture to Sale, 57–8.

8 Rodney, , History of the Upper Guinea Coast, 7194; Rodney, W. C., ‘Portuguese attempts at monopoly on the Upper Guinea Coast, 1580–1650’, Journal of African History, 6:3 (1965), 307–22.

9 For the role of private traders in the initial development of the African slave trade, see I. Elbl, ‘ “Slaves are a very risky business …”: supply and demand in the early Atlantic slave trade’, in J. Curto and P. E. Lovejoy (eds.), Enslaving Connections: Changing Cultures of Africa and Brazil during the Era of Slavery (Amherst, NY, 2004), 29–55.

10 Rodney, W. C., ‘African slavery and other forms of social oppression on the Upper Guinea Coast in the context of the Atlantic slave-trade’, Journal of African History, 7:3 (1966), 431–43; Rodney, W. C., How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (London, 1972), 103–12. For the importance of external demand in stimulating the Atlantic slave trade, see also Lovejoy, P. E., Transformations in Slavery (Cambridge, 1983), 108–10, 272–80.

11 For this general observation, see D. Richardson, ‘West African consumption patterns and their influence on the eighteenth-century English slave trade’, in H. A. Gemery and J. S. Hogendorn (eds.), The Uncommon Market: Essays in the Economic History of the Atlantic Slave Trade (New York, 1979), 311–20; Thornton, J. K., Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1680 (2nd edn, Cambridge, 1998); and Northrup, D., Africa's Discovery of Europe (New York, 2002). For the Senegambian region see Brooks, G. E., Landlords and Strangers: Ecology, Society and Trade in Western Africa, 1000–1630 (Boulder, 1993); Brooks, G. E., Eurafricans in Western Africa: Commerce, Social Status, Gender, and Religious Observance from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century (Athens, OH, 2003); Havik, P. J., Silences and Soundbytes: The Gendered Dynamics of Trade and Brokerage in the Precolonial Guinea Bissau Region (Berlin, 2004); Wright, D. R., The World and a Very Small Place in Africa: A History of Globalization in Niumi, The Gambia (2nd edn, Armonk, NY, 2004); and L. A. Newson, ‘Bartering for slaves on the Upper Guinea Coast in the early seventeenth century’, forthcoming in T. Green and J. L. Nafafé (eds.), Brokers of Change: Atlantic Commerce and Cultures in Pre-colonial ‘Guinea of Cape Verde' (Oxford).

12 Inikori, J. E., ‘Africa and the globalisation process: western Africa, 1450–1850’, Journal of Global History, 2:1 (2007), 6386.

13 Teixeira da Mota, A., ‘Contactos culturais Luso-Africanos na “Guiné do Cabo Verde”’, Boletim da sociedade de geografia de Lisboa, 69 (1951), 659–67; Boulègue, J., Les Luso-Africains de Sénégambie, XVIe-XIXe siècles (Dakar, 1972); Mark, P., ‘The evolution of “Portuguese” identity: Luso-Africans on the Upper Guinea Coast from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century’, Journal of African History, 40:2 (1999), 173–91; da Silva Horta, J., ‘Evidence for a Luso-African identity in “Portuguese” accounts on “Guinea of Cape Verde” (sixteenth-seventeenth centuries)’, History in Africa, 27 (2000), 101–7; Mark, P., ‘Portuguese’ Style and Luso-African Identity: Precolonial Senegambia, Sixteenth-Nineteenth Centuries (Bloomington, 2002), 49, 14–21; Brooks, Eurafricans, 22–7, 51–2, 68–101; Mark and Horta, Forgotten Diaspora, 52–9.

14 Boulègue, , Les Luso-Africains; Teixeira da Mota, ‘Contactos culturais’, 659–67; Brooks, Eurafricans, 22–7, 51–2, 68–101; Cultru, P., Premier voyage de sieur la Courbe fait à la coste d'Afrique en 1685 (Paris, 1913), 192–3; Mark, ‘Portuguese’ Style, 24–7, 46; Mark and Horta, Forgotten Diaspora, 52–8. This system of social differentiation later came into conflict with Enlightenment thinking that sought to distinguish between social groups on the basis of skin colour and other bodily features.

15 Brooks, Eurafricans, 52–4, 128–9; Mark, ‘Portuguese’ Style, 57; Havik, Silences, 130; Mark and Horta, Forgotten Diaspora, 5–6.

16 A. Álvares d'Almada, Tratado breve dos rios de Guiné do Cabo Verde, ed. A. Brásio (Lisboa, 1964); A. Donelha, Descrição da Serra Leoa e dos rios de Guiné do Cabo Verde (1625), ed. A. Texeira da Mota (Lisboa, 1977); Gamble, D. P. and Hair, P. E. H. (eds.), The Discovery of River Gambra by Richard Jobson 1623 (London, 1999). For the background of Almada and Donelha, see Donelha, Descrição, 14; and Horta, ‘Luso-African identity’, 105–7, 114.

17 van den Boogaart, E., ‘The trade between western Africa and the Atlantic world, 1600–90: estimates of trends in composition and value’, Journal of African History, 33:3 (1992), 370–1, 377.

18 Gamble and Hair, River Gambra, 242. For a discussion of sources relating to the Guinea Bissau region, but mainly for the nineteenth century see Havik, Silences, 30–6.

19 Manoel Batista Peres's account book was analysed in Newson and Minchin, From Capture to Sale, since which time further archival research has uncovered the accounts of João Batista Peres and António Nunes da Costa.

20 Newson and Minchin, From Capture to Sale, 50–2, 55, 111.

21 Boyajian, J. C., Portuguese Trade in Asia under the Habsburgs, 1580–1640 (Baltimore, 1993), 2938; Newson and Minchin, From Capture to Sale, 325–30; Studnicki-Gizbert, D., A Nation Upon the Ocean Sea: Portugal's Atlantic Diaspora and the Crisis of the Spanish Empire, 1492–1640 (Oxford, 2007).

22 New Christians were found throughout the Upper Guinea Coast at this time, while a significant colony of practising Sephardic Jews had established itself on the Petite Côte. Mark, P. and da Silva Horta, J., ‘Two early seventeenth-century Sephardic communities on Senegal's Petite Côte’, History in Africa, 31 (2004), 231–56; Mark and Horta, Forgotten Diaspora.

23 Newson and Minchin, From Capture to Sale; Bowser, F. P., The African Slave in Colonial Peru, 1524–1650 (Stanford, 1974), 4950, 58–71.

24 João Batista Peres drew up his will on 12 January 1617 when he was ill and confessed. Archivo General de la Nación, Lima, Peru (AGNL) Santo Oficio (SO) Contencioso (CO) 33–348, fols. 6–12.

25 For João Batista Peres accounts, see AGNL SO CO 18–197, fols. 599–680v, 1615–1617; and for those of António Nunes da Costa, see AGNL SO CO 18–197, fols. 285–330v, 685v–742v, 917v–971v, 1616–20.

26 Sundström, L., The Trade of Guinea (Lund, 1965), 151; Rodney, Upper Guinea Coast, 181; Curtin, P. D., Economic Change in Precolonial Africa: Senegambia in the Era of the Slave Trade (Madison, 1975), 214; Johnson, M., ‘Cloth as money: the cloth strip currencies of Africa’, Textile History, 11 (1980), 195; Brooks, Eurafricans, 62.

27 Curtin, Economic Change, 237–47.

28 AGNL SO CO 18–197, fols. 796v–797, 809v–810, 827v–828, 839v–840, 863v–864, 867v–868, Manoel Batista Peres accounts, 1617.

29 AGNL SO CO 33–349 fol. 9v, Testament of João Batista Peres, 12 Jan. 1617.

30 Lançados and other Luso-Africans used larger sailing vessels that could navigate the oceanic currents. This led to the development of a coastal trade in kola to the Gambia River that undermined the trade that had been conducted inland by the Biafada through the Geba River to the Upper Gambia. Brooks, Landlords, 81–6, 174–9, 244–50.

31 Newson, ‘Bartering for slaves’.

32 This number includes a few individuals who were based in Spain or Portugal, including his uncle, Diogo Rodrigues de Lisboa, his aunt Branca Gomes, and his grandmother Cecilia Cardoso, on whose behalf he was trading in Upper Guinea.

33 Brásio, A., Monumenta missionaria Africana: Africa occidental, 2nd series, 4:665 (Lisboa, 1968) Relação das igrejas e cristianidade, 1621.

34 Brooks, Landlords, 239–44; Mark, ‘Portuguese’ Style, 18–27, 81.

35 See for example, Gamble and Hair, River Gambra, 97. For Iberian views of race and ethnicity in the sixteenth century, see T. Green, ‘ “Ethnicity” and lineage in the identity of enslaved Africans from Upper Guinea in the Americas, sixteenth century’, paper presented to the African Studies Association, San Francisco, 2010.

36 Mark, ‘Evolution of “Portuguese” identity’, 182–3; Mark, ‘Portuguese’ Style, 4–9, 14; Mark and Horta, Forgotten Diaspora, 53–4. See also T. Green, ‘Masters of difference: creolization and the Jewish presence in Cabo Verde, 1497–1672’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Birmingham, 2007), 321–4.

37 Donelha, Descrição, 128, 144.

38 Donelha, Descrição, 268, n. 179. See also, Almada, Tratado breve, chap. 5, 43; and Gamble and Hair, River Gambra, 120. Almada suggests that a farão was more respected than a king, but Jobson refers to titles in order of importance as mansa, which is king, followed by ferran, ferambra, and boo john.

39 M. Álvares, Etiópia Menor e descripção geográfica da Província da Serra Leoa (c. 1615), trans. P. E. H. Hair. Mimeographed (Liverpool, 1990), chap. 10, 1.

40 AGNL SO CO 18–197 fols. 285, 965v, António Nunes da Costa accounts 1616 and 1620.

41 I am grateful to Assan Sarr, Assistant Professor of African History at the College of Charleston in South Carolina and Bala Saho, PhD candidate at the History Department at Michigan State University, for assistance in identifying male and female Mandinka names.

42 Boletim do Arquivo Histórico Colonial, 1 (1950), 211–21: Carta do capitão e feitor dos Rios da Guiné, 12 June 1622.

43 Carreira, A., Os Portuguêses nos rios de Guiné (1500–1900) (Lisboa, 1984), 26.

44 Brásio, Monumenta, 4:665, Relação das igrejas e cristianidade, 1621.

45 Gamble and Hair, River Gambra, 97. For the scattered Portuguese population, see also Ogilby, J., Africa Being an Accurate Description of the Regions of Egypt, Barbary, Lybia, and Billedulgerid … (London, 1670), 357–8. Mansigaer was described as inhabited by ‘a few poor Portugueses and Mulatto's [sic]’, while in Cação the Portuguese and Mulattoes were said to ‘scatteringly inhabit by the river side’, from whence they sent their slaves into the interior to acquire hides and ivory with iron and beads.

46 Brásio, Monumenta, 5:289, Roteiro da costa da Guiné, 1635.

47 de Lemos Coelho, F., Duas descrições seiscentistas da Guiné (Lisboa, 1953), 113–14, 118, 121. See also Ogilby, Africa, II, 353–4.

48 Boulègue, Les Luso-Africains, 7–8; Carreira, Os Portuguêses, 21–3; Brooks, Eurafricans, 50; J. L. Nafafé, ‘Lançados, culture and identity: prelude to creole societies on the rivers of Guinea and Cape Verde’, in P. J. Havik and M. D. D. Newitt (eds.), Creole Societies in the Portuguese Colonial Empire (Bristol, 2007), 67–91.

49 AGNL SO CO 18–197, fol. 649v, João Batista Peres accounts, 1617; Brásio, Monumenta, 4:69, Baltasar Barreira, 13 May 1605; Mark and Horta, ‘Two early seventeenth-century Sephardic communities’, 233–4.

50 Brooks, Eurafricans, 124–8. On later developments, see Brooks, Eurafricans, 206–21; Wright, The World and a Very Small Place, 116; Mark, ‘Portuguese’ Style, 89–90; and Havik, Silences, 190–9.

51 When João Batista Peres died in 1617, in his testament he acknowledged four children: two daughters by one Susana and two boys by Vitória who also had an infant. The former were all declared free and he left to Susana four quintals (400 pounds) of raw cotton, twenty varas (yards) of ruao (woollen cloth from Rouen, France) and the house in which she was living. Excluding the house, this represented 125 panos. Vitória was to go with the boys to Portugal and 1,000 cruzados, equivalent to 2,000 panos, was to be divided between his four children. AGNL SO CO 33–349 fol. 9–9v, Testament of João Batista Peres, 12 Jan. 1617.

52 Brooks, Eurafricans, 51–4, 131, 134.

53 However, in António Nunes da Costa's accounts, five untitled individuals traded more than some senhores. One of them was the master of his ship, but three of the other four were women. Like senhores, these three women traded beads and imported cloth rather than locally produced textiles, but unlike them they also traded large amounts of kola.

54 AGNL SO CO 18–197, fols. 704v, 763v, Manoel Batista Peres accounts, 1617.

55 João Batista Peres paid sailors goods worth 50 panos for the journey to the Grande River and for expeditions to Serra Leoa between 40 to 70 panos, while the pilot, Pedro de Xeres, received 120 panos for the return journey. AGNL SO CO 18–197, fols. 662, 677v–678, João Batista Peres accounts, 1617.

56 Green, ‘Masters of difference’, 311–20.

57 Ibid. 322.

58 Álvares, Etiópia Menor, chap. 4, 1–2.

59 Almada, Tratado breve, 48, 73.

60 Coelho, Duas descrições, 111.

61 Brásio, Monumenta, 3:106, Francisco de Andrade, 26 Jan. 1582; Brásio, Monumenta, 4:121–2, Bartolomeu André, 20 Feb. 1606; Almada, Tratado breve, 48, 55–6, 126; Coelho, Duas descrições, 119, 122; Gamble and Hair, River Gambra, 169.

62 Almada, Tratado breve, 48.

63 AGNL SO CO 18–197, fols. 290v, 703v, António Nunes da Costa accounts, 1616–17.

64 Almada, Tratado breve, 85; Donelha, Descrição, 167.

65 AGNL SO CO 18–197, fol. 965v, António Nunes da Costa accounts, 1619.

66 AGNL SO CO 18–197, fol. 932v, António Nunes da Costa accounts, 1619. He may have been the same António Vaz who acted as piloto for João Batista Peres. AGNL SO CO Ca 18, doc 197, fol. 619v, João Batista Peres accounts, 1617.

67 AGNL SO CO 18–197, fols. 932v–933, António Nunes da Costa accounts, 1619.

68 Gamble and Hair, River Gambra, 160; Rodney, ‘Portuguese attempts’, 311–12. This may reflect the general lack of access of Portuguese traders to sources of iron.

69 Hawthorne, W., Planting Rice and Harvesting Slaves: Transformations along the Guinea-Bissau Coast, 1400–1900 (Portsmouth, NH, 2003), 39–40.

70 AGNL SO CO 18–197, fols. 292v, 686v, 696v, António Nunes da Costa accounts, 1616–17.

71 Cultru, Premier voyage, 192–3.

72 Álvares, Etiópia Menor, chap. 8, 3; Almada, Tratado breve, 85.

73 Thornton, Africa and Africans, 50–2.

74 AGNL SO CO 18–197, fol. 917v, António Nunes da Costa accounts, 1619. The acquisition of European-style clothing by boat hands is also apparent in João Batista Peres's accounts, even though they are not referred to as grumetes or senhores.

75 For the Portuguese trade in blade weapons, see Mark and Horta, Forgotten Diaspora, 103–34.

76 Thilmans, G. and de Moraes, N. I., ‘Le routier de la côte de Guinée de Francisco Pirez de Carvalho (1635)’, Bulletin de l'Institut fondamental d'Afrique noire série B, 32:2 (avril 1970) 348. See also J. D. La Fleur (ed.) Pieter van den Broecke's Journal of Voyages to Cape Verde, Guinea and Angola, 1605–1612 (London, 2000), 26–7, 29 for anchorage fees paid in similar commodities in Dakar, Portudal, and Joal.

77 The prices of slaves are not always indicated. Where they are not specified, they have been valued at 150 panos, which was their value as a unit of account.

78 Newson and Minchin, From Capture to Sale, 78–83. In António Nunes da Costa's accounts, milho accounted for about 63 per cent of the average annual percentage of provisions supplied, but the figure varied from year to year between 42 and 83 per cent, almost certainly reflecting availability. At this time, milho referred to millet not maize.

79 Carreira, A., Panaria Caboverdeana-Guineense: aspectos históricos e sócio-económicos (Lisboa, 1983), 107–9.

80 Álvares, Etiópia Menor, chap. 5, 7 and chap. 8, 1; Curtin, Economic Change, 237.

81 Brásio, Monumenta, 3:105, Francisco de Andrade, 26 Jan.1582; V. Fernandes, Description de la côte occidentale d'Afrique (Sénégal du Cap de Monte Archipels), eds. T. Monod, A. Teixeira da Mota, and R. Mauny (Bissau, 1951), 58.

82 AGNL SO CO 18–197, fols. 810v–811, Manuel Batista Peres accounts, 1617; and fol. 663v, 673v, João Batista Peres accounts, 1616.

83 For an alternative view of dependency, see Thornton, J. K., ‘The role of Africans in the Atlantic economy, 1450–1650: modern Africanist historiography and the world-systems paradigm’, Colonial Latin American Historical Review, 3:2 (1994), 130.

84 I. Elbl, ‘“Slaves are a very risky business” ’, 41, 44–5.

85 Newson, , ‘Bartering for slaves’. This is also suggested for a later period by Curtin, Economic Change, 257–60.

* The author is grateful to the Arts and Humanities Research Board and the British Academy for financial support to undertake the research for this study. She is also grateful to Susie Minchin for research assistance and to Toby Green, Philip Havik, and the three anonymous reviewers of this article for their constructive comments on previous drafts.

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