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The Import of Firearms into West Africa 1750-1807: A Quantitative Analysis

J. E. Inikori
The Journal of African History
Vol. 18, No. 3 (1977), pp. 339-368
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/180637
Page Count: 30
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Import of Firearms into West Africa 1750-1807: A Quantitative Analysis
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Abstract

A series of articles on firearms in Africa published in the Journal of African History in 1971 raised a number of questions which have not been given adequate attention since those articles appeared. In the present paper an attempt is therefore made to shed some light on some of these questions in relation to West Africa in the second half of the eighteenth century. On the basis of import figures from England total imports during this period was estimated to be between 283,000 and 394,000 guns per annum, excluding imports into the Congo-Loango area which Phyllis Martin estimated to be about 50,000 yearly at this time. These guns went largely to the major slave exporting regions of West Africa, especially the Bonny trading area. The sellers of slaves showed a very strong preference for firearms, which is an indication of a strong connexion between guns and the acquisition of slaves. This reinforces the gun-slave cycle thesis. The evidence fails to support the idea that firearms were used primarily for crop protection in West Africa in the eighteenth century. If this were so it should have been reflected in the European goods demanded by sellers of agricultural commodities. It is likely, however, that the use to which firearms were put in West Africa changed after 1900. While the quality of firearms imported into West Africa during the period of this study was generally low, it would seem that those firearms largely served the purposes for which the African buyers purchased them.

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