*A Fistful of Shells*

The author is Toby Green, and the subtitle is West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution.  Here is one excerpt:

The past twenty years have seen a huge boom in studies that show the many different ways in which — even in the shadow of slavery — Africans were decisive actors in building modernity in the Americas.  Rice-growing technologies in West Africa contributed to the emergence of rice plantations in South Carolina and northern Brazil; livestock and herding skills from West Africa were used by Africa herders in many parts of the New World, from Louisiana to Argentina; and fencing techniques  were imported from West Africa and used in agriculture and in defending communities of runaway slaves (known as maroons).  Healing practices from Dahomey and Angola were brought to Brazil and the Spanish Caribbean, and helped to develop new treatments in the colonies; healing practices and medicines were also borrowed by the Portuguese in Angola in an early form of ‘bio-prospecting’.  Warfare techniques learn in the Kingdom of Kongo and in the Oyo-Yoruba Kingdom of what is now southern Nigeria were vital to the success of the Haitian revolution in 1804, as well as the rebellions against slavery in Brazil and Cuba in the early nineteenth century.  In short, just as there were shared frameworks of diplomacy through which Atlantic African kingdoms sought political influence, so the modern world emerged from a mixed cultural framework in which many different peoples from West and West-Central Africa played a significant part.

This book is full of economics, currency movements (both gold and cowrie shells), battles between empires (Portuguese vs. Dutch, above all), and the longue durée.  It is the “Braudel of West Africa,” and the best book on West Africa I have ever read.  It is especially strong on Lusaphone Africa, and one underlying theme is that West Africa was globalizing even before colonialism came along.  Toby Green, by the way, has an impressive background in philosophy and music as well as in history more narrowly conceived.

Very strongly recommended.  It is not out until March of 2019 but you can pre-order now.

Comments

What? Africans promoted slavery? Kongo people invented a form of warfare used in the Haitian revolution? My understanding is there was guerilla warfare resistance and yellow fever that sapped the strength of the French, but, I think the key "Kongo" element of surprise may be voodoo, which followers strongly believe in, and may have motivated them.

A book that perhaps Steve Sailer would even approve of (Africans did it to themselves).

Bonus trivia: voodoo is powerful, when people believe in it, numerous examples of this form of 'mind control' not unlike used in the Middle East with religious fanatics.

Oh, a race war! I was right about voodoo as a motivator...note their standard, a common theme (Rape of Nanking; head on pike in Europe, even my relatives saw that in the Greek civil war after WWII)

Richard A. Haggerty, ed. Haiti: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1989

A slave rebellion of 1791 finally toppled the colony. Launched in August of that year, the revolt represented the culmination of a protracted conspiracy among black leaders. According to accounts of the rebellion that have been told through the years, François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture helped plot the uprising, although this claim has never been substantiated. Among the rebellion's leaders were Boukman, a maroon and voodoo houngan (priest); Georges Biassou, who later made Toussaint his aide; Jean-François, who subsequently commanded forces, along with Biassou and Toussaint, under the Spanish flag; and Jeannot, the bloodthirstiest of them all. These leaders sealed their compact with a voodoo ceremony conducted by Boukman in the Bois Cayman (Alligator Woods) in early August 1791. On August 22, a little more than a week after the ceremony, the uprising of their black followers began.
The carnage that the slaves wreaked in northern settlements, such as Acul, Limbé, Flaville, and Le Normand, revealed the simmering fury of an oppressed people. The bands of slaves slaughtered every white person they encountered. As their standard, they carried a pike with the carcass of an impaled white baby. Accounts of the rebellion describe widespread torching of property, fields, factories, and anything else that belonged to, or served, slaveholders. The inferno is said to have burned almost continuously for months.
News of the slaves' uprising quickly reached Cap Français. Reprisals against nonwhites were swift and every bit as brutal as the atrocities committed by the slaves. Although outnumbered, the inhabitants of Le Cap (the local diminutive for Cap Français) were well-armed and prepared to defend themselves against the tens of thousands of blacks who descended upon the port city. Despite their voodoo-inspired heroism, the ex-slaves fell in large numbers to the colonists' firepower and were forced to withdraw. The rebellion left an estimated 10,000 blacks and 2,000 whites dead and more than 1,000 plantations sacked and razed.
Even though it failed, the slave rebellion at Cap Français set in motion events that culminated in the Haitian Revolution.

Whites in the American South feared slave rebellions. One, the Stono Rebellion (a/k/a Cato's Rebellion) in 1739 in the colony of South Carolina, resulted in the deaths of about 50 whites and about 50 blacks (there were about 80 blacks in the rebellion). The uprising was led by native Africans from the Kingdom of Kongo (they spoke Portuguese). The Stono River is to the south of the Ashley River- the two rivers converge at Charleston. The slaves traveled southwest along the Stono River en route to Spanish Florida, where they had been promised their freedom. Along the way they burned six plantations and killed about 25 whites. They only got so far as the Edisto River, where about 25 whites and about 50 rebels were killed in the confrontation.

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I'm not sure herding animals is exactly what people think of when they think of "modernity" in the Americas, as much as I'm sure its full of economic history interest how they did so in a different way. And same applies to other items.

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Is this an easy read, similar to Charles Manns 1491? If so I’ll definiteky pick it up.

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"West Africa was globalizing even before colonialism came along": by virtue of Moslem colonialism, presumably.

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"It is not out until March of 2019..."

Come on, man...

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Africa invented the internet.

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