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Sheriff, Abdul Mohamed Hussein (1971) The rise of a commercial empire: An aspect of the economic history of Zanzibar, 1770-1873. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The development of Zanzibar as an entrepot and capital of a vast commercial empire has previously been attributed entirely to the far-sighted policies of Seyyid Said. A re-examination of the economic history of East Africa reveals that economic expansion from the eighteenth century resulted from economic forces which were independent of Omani policies; that these forces were already in motion before Seyyid Said first visited Zanzibar; and that the Omanis manipulated these forces to centralise economic activities at Zanzibar to a greater degree than would otherwise have been achieved, thus forming a commercial empire. The Omani demand for slaves for their expanding date plantations and the increasing French demand in the Mascarenes initiated a rapid expansion of Kilwa's hinterland and the growth of Zanzibar's entrepot role to supply the imports. When the French slave trade suffered a mortal blow from the Napoleonic wars and the eventual prohibition in 1822, the redundant slaves were diverted to the clove plantations of Zanzibar. The second major development was initiated by Portuguese taxation of the ivory trade of Mozambique. By 1801 ivory exports had been halved. To supply the unsatisfied Indian demand, to which was soon to be added European and American demand, the northern ivory hinterland was rapidly expanded during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The development of the Indian mercantile community facilitated this expansion. The supply of this commodity of the hunt called for a constant expansion of the hinterland and sophistication of the commercial organization which, however, was dependent entirely on a caravan of human shoulders. The demand thus regularly outstripped supply, and ivory prices consequently rose. The price of manufactured imports, on the other hand, tended to remain steady or even decline as a result of mechanisation. The diverging price curves thus constituted a dynamic force for economic expansion. On such a vibrant economic base the Omanis structured their commercial empire. The empire, however, was not built on a stable administrative or political structure, but on a system of influence and common economic interests. In the age of the "Scramble" it merely crumbled.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:31

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