Slavery and the Birth of an African City
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Slavery and the Birth of an African City

Lagos, 1760–1900
Kristin Mann
Distribution: World
Publication date: 9/4/2007
ISBN: 978-0-253-11708-3
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As the slave trade entered its last, illegal phase in the 19th century, the town of Lagos on West Africa’s Bight of Benin became one of the most important port cities north of the equator. Slavery and the Birth of an African City explores the reasons for Lagos’s sudden rise to power. By linking the histories of international slave markets to those of the regional suppliers and slave traders, Kristin Mann shows how the African slave trade forever altered the destiny of the tiny kingdom of Lagos. This magisterial work uncovers the relationship between African slavery and the growth of one of Africa’s most vibrant cities.

Author Bio

Kristin Mann is Professor of History at Emory University. She is author of Marrying Well: Marriage, Status, and Social Change among the Educated Elite in Colonial Lagos and editor (with Edna G. Bay) of Rethinking the African Diaspora: The Making of a Black Atlantic World in the Bight of Benin and Brazil.


"Kristin Mann has been stimulating us with fine articles on this subject for years. . . . This is a major contribution to African history to slave studies, and to urban history." —Martin Klein, author of Slavery and Colonial Rule in French West Africa

"A valuable contribution not only to African history, but also to the history of slavery on both sides of the Atlantic. . . . Brilliantly organized . . . Mann's style makes the reading enjoyable." —

"It may not be possible to write a better social history of Lagos—let alone less fully documented African port cities; and, even if it is, future scholars will have to recognize Mann's book as a benchmark." —
African Affairs

"This story is told by the author with the skill of a master—master researcher, master analyst, master story-teller, and master essayist." —

"Mann's work is an intellectually engaging, multifaceted, and tantalizingly in-depth study of slavery's gradual demise. She does an admirable job of offering fresh insights into the redefinition and rearrangement of employer-worker relationships in Lagos County, especially in the last decade of the 19th century.American Historical Review" —
American Historical Review

"A sophisticated analysis . . . Highly recommended." —

Slavery and the Birth of an African City is an original and insightful work. This book is well written and well organized. It is an important guide to the history of the Atlantic slave trade, to the economic history of Lagos, and to the intervention of the British, especially since 1861 when Lagos was annexed. Overflowing with anthropological, cultural, and historical information, this book will be of interest to general readers and undergraduate and graduate students of West African history and anthropology." —Julius O. Adekunle, Monmouth University, HISTORIAN , April 2010

"The author covers a lot of ground in this book, and she fills in an important gap in the historiography of Lagos. Through her careful use of a set of primary sources not often used by historians for this purpose, she has expanded the boundaries of the debate about slavery and dependency and has offered new details about the organization of business in nineteenth-century Lagos." —
Business History Review

"By looking at an emergent commercial town with deeply engrained political and economic competition, and relating this study to the wider library, Mann provides a fine example of how the rise and decline of African slavery can be traced in its complexity." —International Journal of African Historical Studies

"[T]his book combines extensive archival research and interviews and does an excellent job in chronicling the complex history of Lagos with authority and clarity, and it does so in a manner that is pleasant to read. This is, indeed, a well-written book with an insightful trajectory attesting to the author's decades-long research on West Africa and the Atlantic world." —Journal of World History

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Table of Contents


1. The Rise of Lagos as an Atlantic Port, c. 1760—1851
2. Trade, Oligarchy, and the Transformation of the Precolonial State
3. The Original Sin: Anti-slavery, Imperial Expansion, and Early Colonial Rule
4. Innocent Commerce: Boom and Bust in the Palm Produce Trade
5. Britain and Domestic Slavery
6. Redefining the Owner-Slave Relationship: Work, Ideology, and the Demand for People
7. The Changing Meaning of Land in the Urban Economy and Culture
8. Strategies of Struggle and Mechanisms of Control: Quotidian Conflicts and Court Cases