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‘Voyage iron’: an Atlantic slave trade currency, its European origins, and West African impact
University of South Wales.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute for Housing and Urban Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7556-3391
2018 (English)In: Past & Present, ISSN 0031-2746, E-ISSN 1477-464X, Vol. 29, no 1, p. 41-70Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

An array of goods was traded to Africa in the era of the transatlantic slave trade. Many were eye-catching consumer goods; others were far more mundane, including ‘voyage iron’, a metal forged in northern Europe, bars of which acted as a currency along the West African coast. This article examines the geography of voyage iron production, showing that it originated in places – primarily Sweden – that are not often thought of as being connected to Atlantic commerce. It then considers the impact that European iron had on West Africa, where iron smelting was very well-established locally. The vibrancy of African metallurgy has led some distinguished Africanists to dismiss voyage iron as marginal to African needs. By contrast, it is contended here that European iron underpinned an agro-environmental transformation of the coastal forests in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and played a major role in the spread of New World crops in West Africa. Voyage iron was a superficially unremarkable producer good but it contributed to a profound reshaping of the economic geography of West Africa.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 29, no 1, p. 41-70
National Category
Economic History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-339024DOI: 10.1093/pastj/gtx055ISI: 000432288600005OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-339024DiVA, id: diva2:1174215
Funder
Riksbankens JubileumsfondAvailable from: 2018-01-15 Created: 2018-01-15 Last updated: 2018-08-01Bibliographically approved

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