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Getz, Trevor Russell (2000) That Most Perfidious Institution: The slow death of slavery in nineteenth century Senegal and the Gold Coast. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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That Most Perfidious Institution is a study of Africans - slaves and slave owners - and their central roles in both the expansion of slavery in the early nineteenth century and attempts to reform servile relationships in the late nineteenth century. The pivotal place of Africans can be seen in the interaction between indigenous slave-owning elites (aristocrats and urban Euro-African merchants), local European administrators, and slaves themselves. My approach to this problematic is both chronologically and geographically comparative. The central comparison between Senegal and the Gold Coast contrasts the varying impact of colonial policies, integration into the trans-Atlantic economy; and, more importantly, the continuity of indigenous institutions and the transformative agency of indigenous actors. By evaluating the different outcomes of attempted reforms both in these regions in general and within sub-regions and societies, this dissertation develops a fuller picture of both slave agency and the resistance of slave owners. Slavery in these regions during the nineteenth century was characterised by a normative model in which local elites were able to resist, divert, and appropriate metropolitan attempts to end or restrict their access to and control of slaves, often with the cooperation of administrators. This contrasted with the ability of slaves to liberate themselves or to take part in mass emancipations in certain situations, illustrating the circumstances under which the political- economic hegemony of slave-owners could be circumvented. The general 'failure' of emancipation masks a series of compromises, negotiations, and self-liberations which took place largely outside the official record. However, the continuity of indigenous social attributes - especially the social/kinship characteristics of indigenous slavery - constrained the ability of slaves to effect their liberations. This situation could be transformed only by the introduction of new economic opportunities, the decreasing reliance of administrators on slave owners, and politicisation and social change amongst slaves themselves.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:05

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