Behrendt, A. Latham, and David Northrup The diary of Antera Duke is one of the earliest and most extensive surviving documents written by an African residing in coastal West Africa Latham, and David Northrup Description The diary of Antera Duke is one of the earliest and most extensive surviving documents written by an African residing in coastal West Africa predating the arrival of British missionaries and officials in the midth century. Antera Duke ca.
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Paul E. Latham and David Northrup. Oxford: Oxford University Press, The extracts cover the years — and offer a rare glimpse into the activities of one of the most important African merchants in the Bight of Biafra in the late eighteenth century, at the height of the transatlantic slave trade. Behrendt, Latham and Northrup have provided an invaluable overview of Calabar history and the slave trade in an introduction of pages, including notes. The text itself is printed with original text facing a modern translation with some notes.
This is a remarkable piece of scholarship that will now become required reading for scholars and students interested in trans-Atlantic slavery and the importance of voice in African history. The introduction explores the history of the journal itself, from its discovery by William Valentine in the files of the Free Church of Scotland, Edinburgh, in and its subsequent loss in World War II, except for the excerpts published here.
Behrendt, Latham and Northrup explain why a new edition is necessary, in light of recent scholarship and the extensive research that has now been done on the slave trade in the Bight of Biafra in the eighteenth century.
They explore the importance of the diary in the reconstruction of the history of Old Calabar, particularly in reference to the establishment of a chronology for major political and commercial figures of the eighteenth century, both on the African and European side.
In a series of figures, the authors reconstruct the cycles of the slave trade at Old Calabar, in which they identify specific merchants and officials and provide details on commercial transactions and the value of trade. The sections on religion and government at Old Calabar are particularly important.
The Diary is the key to establishing a chronology for the eighteenth century as well as to understanding the key institutions of society and economy. In this regard, their discussion of the Ekpe society, which operated through a masquerade depicted as a leopard, as the governing body of the vast commercial network that extended from Old Calabar into the interior.
Because the kin and dependents of local merchants, such as Antera Duke, were used as pawns as security for goods extended on credit, the Ekpe society was essential both in assuring that debts were paid and in protecting those held as pawns from being taken off the coast and sold as slaves in the Americas.
In the chapter that examines the slave trade at Old Calabar, Behrendt, Latham and Northrup provide an overview that spans the period from to , thereby putting the extracts of the s into perspective. The early entry of Bristol merchants into the trade, and the subsequent supremacy of Liverpool, is examined in considerable detail. Because of the Diary and also surviving letters of other Old Calabar merchants, which the authors carefully and skillfully correlate with details from the account books and testimonies of British merchants, it is possible to gain a much clearer understanding of how trade operated and why Bristol and then Liverpool virtually dominated the trade there.
Particularly important is the discovery that British merchants operated cooperatively through the offices of a senior merchant, who in the s was Captain Patrick Fairweather ca. The Introduction also examines in detail the development of the produce trade at Old Calabar and the importance of ivory as a secondary commodity to enslaved Africans. Again, the Diary provides invaluable information that accords with details gleaned from British accounts.
Since British merchants were virtually the only European merchants that were trading at Old Calabar in the s, the reconstruction of Behrendt, Latham and Northrup is pioneering in demonstrating the broader context of commerce beyond simply discussing the origins and destinations of the enslaved population.
Their contribution provides a much more nuanced and detailed discussion of commerce and society than has been possible previously. Particularly valuable is the discussion of the commercial networks inland from Old Calabar that tied into the trading system dominated by the Aro of Arochukwu and its satellite communities but also with the networks that went into the Cameroon grassfields via the Cross River. Drawing on later sources, Behrendt, Latham and Northrup are able to provide a refreshing overview of the ethnic origins of the departing enslaved population.
The expertise of the three authors and editors of this volume has been combined in a refreshing manner. Latham, hitherto recognized as a pioneer in the history of Old Calabar, and Northrup, whose equally important work has focused on the broader interior during the era of the slave trade and the transition to produce trade, represent the best scholarship in African history.
The Diary of Antera Duke, an Eighteenth-Century African Slave Trader