On the Frontier of "Freedom:" Abolition and the Transformation of Atlantic Commerce in Southern Sierra Leone, 1790s to 1860s Open Access

Misevich, Philip R. (2009)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/1v53jx133?locale=en


This study examines the impact of transformations in Atlantic commerce on
Africans living in southern Sierra Leone between 1790 and 1861. Extant studies of 19th
century Africa have outlined a linear progression from the suppression of the slave trade
to the rise of "legitimate commerce," leading ultimately to Africa's colonization. My
dissertation argues that in their effort to suppress the Sierra Leone slave trade, British
officials were forced to intervene in the political affairs of Freetown's interior, opening
new spaces for slaves to challenge their owners and negotiate new rights for themselves.
In Sierra Leone, the relationship between the suppression of the slave trade, colonialism
and slavery was time and again re-forged based on actions taken by slaves, masters and
colonists in the first half of the century.

The study begins with an analysis of changes in the coastal organization of slave
exports in the 19th century and their effect on the African interior. The establishment of
Freetown - a settlement that became Britain's first African colony and a point from which
the British attempted to suppress the slave trade - brought drastic changes to the
operation of the Sierra Leone slave trade. Slave dealers moved away from the Sierra
Leone River, where Freetown was based, and operated from new settlements in southern
Sierra Leone. The rise of Gallinas and Sherbro as slave ports put new pressures on
societies in their immediate hinterland, from which a majority of the region's captives

Southern Sierra Leone's external slave trade developed together with a dynamic
market for slaves in the African interior in the 19th century. The Atlantic slave trade
stimulated demand for agricultural commodities produced in southern Sierra Leone.
Sherbro farmers also supplied Freetown with hundreds of tons of rice each year. When
the Atlantic slave trade ended, southern Sierra Leone's internal slave trade evolved to
meet domestic needs. From the 1830s thorough the 1860s, Islamic slave dealers began
transporting thousands of captives from the Gallinas and Sherbro to work on peanut
plantations north of Freetown. As a result, southern Sierra Leone slaves became an
important part of fueling the industrial revolution.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction, 1

Chapter 1. Southern Sierra Leone and the Atlantic World

from the 15th through the mid-19th Centuries, 22

Chapter 2. The Origins of Captives Leaving Southern Sierra

Leone in the 19th Century, 67

Chapter 3. Feeding Freedom, Feeding the Slave Trade: Southern

Sierra Leone and the Provisions Trade, 1787-1856, 97

Chapter 4. Diasporic Transformations: Islam, Adaptation and

Innovation in Sierra Leone's Slaving Networks in the Early

Period of the Commercial Transition, 1840s to 1860s, 163

Chapter 5. Freetown and "Freedom?" Colonialism and Slavery

in Sierra Leone, 1790s to 1861, 204

Conclusion, 244

Appendix, 250

Bibliography, 254

About this thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files