The Indian Ocean and East African Slave Trade: Zanzibar

Arab slave trade
Figure 1.--Zanzibar was the center of the East African/Indian Ocean slave trade. The child here is unidentified except that he is beind held for sale as a slave. The child is chained to the heavy piece of lumber to restict his or her movement, but movement is posdible by carrying the heavy lumber. Note the pad. Perhaps the child is being trained tgo carry heavy items. This would suggest the child mzy be a girl. The photograph is undated, but would have been taken in the late-19th century--perhaps about 1890. The British Royal Navy by this tome had substantially reduced the Indian Ocean slave trade, but because of the continuing demand for slaves in Arab markets wax unable to completly end it.

Trade contacts between the Middle East, India, and East Africa date back to antiquity. Trade with Africa was for slaves, gold, ivory, and wood. After the Arab expansion (7th century AD), armed Arab merchants set up bases in Indian Ocean islands for security reasons. Zanzibar became the most important (10th century). It was not only a secure base for trade with East Africa, but it also was a source for spices, a particularly valuable trade commodity. They called Africa Zenj (black in Arabic) or Azania. The more important island bases became independent Muslim sultanates. On islands the Arab merchants were not ethnically swamped by the African population of the mainland. They developed mixed Arab-African populations. The early history of Zanzibar and the Arab presence is largely unknown. The oldest surviving edifice on Zanzibar is a mosque at Kizimkazi (1107). The dimensions of the slave trade in the early Arab period is unknown. Trade expanded and eventually attracted Indians who settled on Zanzibar as shopkeepers, traders, and artisans. The Portuguese briefly ruled Zanzibar in the 16th century. When the British after the Napoleonic Wars began their campain to end the slave trade, it was apparent from an early point that the Sultan of Oman/Zanzibar was the key to ending the Arab slave trade in the Indian Ocean. The slave trade was largely overseen by the Sultan and allied African tribes. Zanzibar developed into the most important source of cloves as well as the largest slave trading center on the East African coast. The Sultan and other Omanis organised caravans into the interior of the East African mainland. It was not an entirely Omani Arab activity. The descdents of ethnic Indians living in Zanzibar, often working for for Bombay interests helped finance the slaving and other East African trade activities. The spice trade related to the slace trade, African slaves were used to grow and harvest cloves. And both were shipped to ports all along the Indian Ocean, including the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. Slaves were usually shipped Bagamoyo on the mainland to Zanzibar. The peak of East African slave trading through Zanzibar was probably reached with the development sugar and clove plantations on Mauritius and Reunion (18th century). The British began using diplomacy even before he Royal Navy had an effective presence in the Indian Ocean. They largely imposed the the Moresby Treaty (1822) and the Hamerton Treaty (1845) on the Sultan to limit the slave trade. These treaties were, however, only partially effecive. The British consul on Zanzibar took the lead in the anti-slave-trade movement in East Africa. The British offered guarantees of continued protection to the the Sultan if he would limit the scope of the slave trade (1850s). Finally Said's son, Barghash (1870-88), fearing that the British might simply seize his Empire agreed to a limited form of abolition (1873). Zanzibar became a British protectorate (1890) and after considerable agitation, authorities abolished slavery on the island. The slave owners, mostly Arabs operating spice plantations, were compensated.

Antiquity

Trade contacts across the Induian Ocea Arabian Gulf between the Middle East, India, and East Africa date back to antiquity. There was evudence of trade contacts between Mesopotamia and the Indian Ocean Civilization as civilixation developed. Less is known about early trade with Africa. Most of wgat we know cones from Egypt nd its contavcts with Nubia. Early trade with Africa was for slaves, gold, ivory, and wood. And later ancient civilizations, including the Phoenitians and Greek report contavts with Africans, but the orientstion there were known contacts between the Roman Empire and Africa was through the Dtrats of Gibraltar and the Atlantic. The Romans had African contacts, including Egyptian ports on the Red Sea, but this was rather limited.

Arabian Outburst

The the Arab Islamic expansion out of the Arabian Peninsula (7th century AD) is best known for the drive north into the Levant and Persia as well as east into Egypt and North Africa. There was also a drive south into the Indian Ocean. Armed Arab merchants set up trading bases in Indian Ocean along the coast of Africa. For security reasons the Arab merchantmen turned to islands.

Muslim Siultanates

Zanzibar became the most important (10th century). An island outpost could be more easily defended than a coastal outpost. Zanzibar was not only a secure base for trade with East Africa, but it also was a source for spices, a particularly valuable trade commodity. They called Africa Zenj (black in Arabic) or Azania. The more important island bases became independent Muslim sultanates. On islands the Arab merchants were not ethnically swamped by the African population of the mainland. They developed mixed Arab-African populations.

Early History

Zanzibar became the most important Arab cointrolled island (10th century). The early history of Zanzibar and the Arab presence is largely unknown. The oldest surviving edifice on Zanzibar is a mosque at Kizimkazi (1107). The dimensions of the slave trade in the early Arab period is unknown. Trade expanded and eventually attracted Indians who settled on Zanzibar as shopkeepers, traders, and artisans. The Portuguese briefly ruled Zanzibar in the 16th century. Gradually the slave trade grew in importsnce and Zanzibar emerged as the center of the East African slave trade.

Slave Trading Center

The slave trade was largely overseen by the Sultan and allied African tribes. Zanzibar developed into the most important source of cloves as well as the largest slave trading center on the East African coast. The Sultan and other Omanis organised caravans into the interior of the East African mainland. It was not an entirely Omani Arab activity. The descdents of ethnic Indians living in Zanzibar, often working for for Bombay interests helped finance the slaving and other East African trade activities. The spice trade related to the slace trade, African slaves were used to grow and harvest cloves. And both were shipped to ports all along the Indian Ocean, including the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. Slaves were usually shipped Bagamoyo on the mainland to Zanzibar. The peak of East African slave trading through Zanzibar was probably reached with the development sugar and clove plantations on Mauritius and Reunion (18th century).

Briish Campaign to End the Slave Trade

The British after the Napoleonic Wars began a campain to end the slave trade. This began with Royal Navy actions in the Atlantic. This was primarily the result of the British abolition movement which grew out of the Chriustian churches. Gradualy the British launched a campign in the Indian Ocean. Unlike Christianity there was no abolitionist movement which developed out of Islam in Arab or other Muslim countries. In fact, slavery continued in Muslim, mostly Arab contries, into the 20th century. From a very early point, the British realized that the key to ending the Indian Ocean slave trade was Zanzibar. Unlike the Atlantic slave trade which was conducted along the lengthy African coast, a very large part of the Indian Ocean slave trade was conducted through Zanzibar. This gave the British who could use the powerful Royal Navy a great advantage. Zanzibar becamne important because it was an island. Thus the Arabs could easily defend it. Trading outposts on the mainland were vulnerable to African attacks. While the island location was realatively safe from Africam attack, it was particularly vulnerable to the Royal Navy. Thus British diplomats were able to exert considerable influence in Zanzibar. The first diplomatic success was the Moresby Treaty (1822). From that first success, the British gradually pressed the Sultan of Zanzibar for more restriuctions. Royal Navy patrols at sea also pressed the Sultan and slave traders. It was, however, not tell the Scramble for Africa and the European colonization of Africa that the Indian Ocean slave trade was finally ended.

Omani Transfer to Zanzibar (1832)

The Arab Sultanate that controlled rZanzibar was based in Oman. The wealth of Zanzibar and the African coastal areas exceed that of Oman. And an importnbt part of that wealth was the slave trade. That wealth eventually led Sultan Seyyid Said, of the Busaid Dynasty, to transfer his capital from Muscat to Zanzibar (1832). Here the Busaid Dynasty would continue to rule into the 1960s. Sultan Seyyid set up clove plantations on Zanzibar and Pemba, forcing most of the Hadimu people to work on the plantations or to move to the eastern part of the island.

Zanzibar Key

It was apparent from an early point that the Sultan of Oman/Zanzibar was the key to ending the Arab slave trade in the Indian Ocean. The British began using diplomacy even before he Royal Navy had an effective presence in the Indian Ocean. They largely imposed the Moresby Treaty (1822) and the Hamerton Treaty (1845) on the Sultan to limit the slave trade. These treaties were, however, only partially effecive.

British Consuls and Diplomacy

The various British consuls on Zanzibar took the lead in the anti-slave-trade movement in East Africa. The British began by offering guarantees of continued protection to the the Sultan if he would limit the scope of the slave trade (1850s). Severl consuls played importsant roles. Henry Adrian Churchill, of English-French parentage who grew up in Turkey was appointed consul (1865). His English father was a respected archeologuists and Churchill had valuable language skills. He dedicated himself to the the abolition of the slave trade on Zanzibar, knowing that success there would lead to undercutting the slave trade thrioughout East Africa. Churchill's health deteriorsted, probably because of the reopical climate and his heavy work load. John Kirk, the Vice Consul and his advised him to return to London for health reasons (1869). He departed (December 1870) leaving Kirk in charge as acting Consul. Kirk has experiece in Africa. He was a respected naturalist and had been a a ompanion to explorer Dr. David Livingstone. Kirk through himself into Churchill's work. He faced a turning point (June 1873). It is at this time thet he received received instructions from the Foreign Office London on the Zanzibar slave trade. He was ordered to present an ultimatum to Sultan Bargash. The British Government ordered Sultan Barghash to stop the slave trade and close the slave market. He was ordered to threaten a naval blockade. But the Foreign Office also instructed him not to threaten a blockade which would be seen as an act of war and drive the Sulatn to seek French protection. Kirk only showed the Sultan the first blockade instruction. Sultan Barghash capitulated within two weeks. [Lloyd, pp 264-68.] Kirk was rewarded by appointment full Consul in Zanzibar (1873) and Consul in the Comoro Islands (1875). He spent most of his time in Zanzibar. He was promoted to Consul General (1881). Kirk's diplomacy along ith the European Scramble for Africa helped brng this evil chapter of histiry to a close. He continued to work closely with Sultan Barghash, who came to see him as a trusted adviser. Kirk's main argument was that Zanzibar anbd the Sultan would be better off wuthout the slkave trade. And this prioved to be the case. During the 1880s the Sultan enlarged his domsine abd increased his revenues through legitimate commerce. As a result of his achivenents, Kirk was made British Minister Plenipotentiary at the Slave Act Conference in Brussels (1890).

Abolition (1873)

Finally Said's son, Barghash (1870-88), fearing that the British might simply seize his Empire agreed to a limited form of abolition (1873). Zanzibar became a British protectorate (1890) and after considerable agitation, authorities abolished slavery on the island. The slave owners, mostly Arabs operating spice plantations, were compensated.

Brussels Anti-Slavery Conference Act (1889-90)

Largely at the behest of the British making full use of the Royal Navy, numerous bilateral traties and agreements were reached as part of the decades long effort to end the slave trade. The British established a network of binational treaties with both other European powers as well as African rulers granting rights to search slave shios abnd arrest and prosecute slavers. Rival European powers, especially the French, were suspiousd that the Briutish were not motivated by the Abolituimist Movement, but by a desire to impoede the commerce and colonial development of other countries. This meant that Britsin had been unable to negotiate a treaty with Frabnce. The Scramble for Africa had so signicantly changed the situation on the ground there that a multi-national conference was needed to the deal with the issue of slavery and the slave trade. The first multilateral effort to end the slave trade was the Brussels Anti-Slavery Conference. Given what was going on in the Congo, Brussels might seem like an unlikely place to hold the conference. London would seem the more logical place. British diplomsts, hoeever, wanted to downplay the idea that this was a British effort and promote this as an action taken by all civilized nations. The delegates thus set out to negotiate the first general treaty for the suppression of the African slave trade. By this time the Royal Navy had helped end the Atlantic slave trade and greatly reduced the Indin Ocean slave trade. Tragically the slave trade was still rufe in the African interior and desimating large areas of the Continrnt. Markets for slaves still operated in the Muslim world and were being supplied through the Indian Ocean. And Europeans were still sending slaves to their colonies by calling them contract workers. European traders and businessmen, missionaries, prospectors, adventurers, and others were penetrating into the interior of Africa. And in many cases provoking resistance among Africans. Swahili/Arab slave traders and their African allies were importing arms and ravaging large areas in which they still conducted slave raiding. To end these continuing atocities, the imperial powers needed to cooperste to disarm them and impose colonisl adminidtratiuon. The British public strongly supported efforts to end the slave trade. David Livingstone’s appeals had moved the British public. Cardinal Lavigerie, the French founder of the missionary order of the Society of Our Lady of Africa or White Fathers, began touring European capitals seekinhg volunteers to fight the well-armed slavers. The British were concerned about not only losing control of the movement but th Cardinal's Crusaders asked King Leopold to call a conference of the European colonial powers to negotiate an jntrnatiuinl treaty to supress the slave trade. The British gol was st first limited, but the delegates once assembled decided to go much further. The resulting Treaty, the General Act for the Repression of the African Slave Trade of 1890, better known as the Brussels Act, declared that the best way of ending the slave trade by establishing their administrations, developing communications, protecting missionaries and trading companies, and initiating Africans into agricultural labor and the 'industrial arts'. The delegates agreed to prevent wars, end slave trading and raiding, stop the castration of males (to makje them more vaklusble in Muslim markets), and repatriate or resettle freed and fugitive slaves. They agreed to restrict the arms traffic in tropical Africa (between 20° north latitude and 22° south latitude). Some support was obtained from Muslim countries. The Ottoman Empire, Zanzibar, and Persia agreed to outlaw the import and export of slaves, and the mutilation of males, as well as the freeing, repatriating, or caring for illegally imported slaves. The delegtes committed to established an office in Zanzibar to disseminate information to help identify and arrest of slavers. Another office was set up in Brussels was to collect information on the measures taken to carry out the Treaty, and produce statistics on the slave, arms, and liquor traffic. The Conference produced the Convention Relative to the Slave Trade and Importation into Africa of Firearms, Ammunition, and Spiritous Liquors. It was a collection of the anti-slavery measures agreed to at the Brussels Conference, ofte referred to as the Bruusels Conference Act. The stated puroose was to "put an end to Negro Slave Trade by land as well as by sea, and to improve the moral and material conditions of existence of the native races".

Sources

Lloyd, Christopher. The Navy and the Slave Trade: The Suppression of the African Slave Trade in the Nineteenth Century (1968).






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Created: 1:07 AM 9/15/2010
Last updated: 10:18 PM 5/30/2018