Middlemen of the Cameroon Rivers: The Duala and their Hinterland c.

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General descriptions Dates Table 2. Arrives in Charleston, S. This is the largest single set of statistics available. B4—7 below. See table 2. Parliamentary Papers —90 6. Ships reported in various sources as slaving at Cameroons and Bimbia but without statistics. It should be noted that at least 10 of these plus all 4 vessels in B6 are not from Liverpool. The 15 of these voyages that report ships from Cameroons selling slaves in the West Indies are our most reliable single source of data.

However, they do not account for slave deaths in the middle passage nor is it always clear that all the slaves sold actually came from Cameroon.

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Also reports slave deaths on another, unnamed, ship. British ships at Cameroon. Reports of —72 are of purchases before crossing, based on memory. Thus the 7 —90 voyages are undercounted. However, other voyages may be overcounted because they included slaves not purchased in Cameroon.

File:Duala war weqycyjizu.cf - Wikipedia

Because Douala and Bimbia were particularly visible to British patrols in this period, the 21 cargoes listed probably constitute our most reliable large set. However they are also unrepresentative: the ships were not British and had to deal with new conditions of illegal slaving. In estimating the total scale of slaving in this period, account must also be taken of 2 ships with unknown numbers in the reported series and a few slavers who must have entirely escaped the very imperfect system of British detection, especially between and Moreover, we have evidence of small amounts of continued Cameroon slave exporting for at least 4 years after Comments C.

Estimates 1. Ships per annum — : 3. This calculation is based mainly on Liverpool port records and only for years in which reports seem to be complete. There is thus an under-count, due to the omission of non-Liverpool ships but also an over-count due to Liverpool ships that may not have arrived in Cameroon and known years of low general slave trade —81, that are not reported. Guinea p. Cameroon p. Gemery and Jan S.

Professor Emeritus of African History, African Studies, and the College

Hogendorn eds. Carolina, , vol. See also general observations of ships in Cameroon in ibid. Table 2. See also note 20 below. Hair eds. The detailed records of eighteenth-century Dutch ivory trade cited in table 2. The Europeans paid a certain amount of customs duty to open the trade; ivory was then brought on board and exchanged for various assortments of imported goods. Reports of occasional haggling and the pattern of prices a general rise and higher payments per pound for larger tusks indicate a normal market process. Indeed, in the more complicated negotiations of the subsequent slave trade, ivory tusks were sometimes given to European captains as a form of collateral against trade goods that had been advanced for the eventual production of human cargo.

The great advantage of ivory, however procured, over later export commodities was that it could be carried and stored according to any schedule that suited the existing market. Slaves and palm oil were less easily managed commodities, thus producing greater problems for large scale barter arrangements. There are general indications of problems of this kind in the instructions given British captains during the later eighteenth century, admonishing them not to advance goods to Africans. This situation applied particularly in the Bight of Biafra, which included Cameroon, the main source of West African slaves during the later eighteenth century but a region where Europeans had established no permanent on-shore trading stations.

The Duala, in order to force the return of their own people, took a number of captains from other British ships captive. The slaves exported via the Cameroon coast came from a long distance inland, well beyond the limits of navigability of the rivers within the Littoral trading system and the Duala, by the early nineteenth century, had not even reached the farthest navigable points of the Mungo and the Wouri.

Given this competitive and remote market for the purchase of commodities which were, after all, human beings and not inanimate goods, it is not surprising that advances of goods were needed to bring slaves to the coast. It is no less surprising that the slaves were often not delivered on schedule, leading to changes in the assigned destinies of ships and disputes over the payment of credit. It is also highly probable that disputes on the coast were paralleled in the relations between the Duala and secondary middlemen in the interior. The known delays on the coast must have been linked to similar problems further along the chain of transactions.

In their oral traditions the Duala and interior peoples still preserve accounts of quarrels over marketing arrangements. The most famous deals with a Pongo giant, Malobe, who is said to have threatened the Dibombari market until he was defeated by Engomga a champion recruited by the Duala from among the Bakoko of Japoma. The story always concludes with Malobe being sold into slavery. The main Duala oral traditions reach their greatest level of narrative intensity in describing events that take place in the fourth through eighth generations of descent from Mbedi see table 2.

The major underlying theme in all instances is the division of the Duala polity into its two major segments, the Bonanjo Bell and Bonambela Akwa. In table 2. This particular genealogy has been chosen because it includes the names vital to all versions of Duala history. Bele educates Ngando but protests his elevation Very long story; Bele is adopted son of Doo Makongo, seized for unpaid debt from interior.

Later Bele and Priso ally against Bakoko of Bonaberi. Bele trade prospers vs. Priso killed by mukwiri at Subu. Bele demands north of Subu as recompense Usual story; includes Ngando residence chez Bele and complicated marriage politics Note: For full references to the sources cited, see table 2. Doo was apparently recognized as the senior chief of his generation and Priso, as his eldest son, should logically have succeeded him. Bele and Ngando, on the other hand, both bear the ultimate Duala stigma of possible servile origin.

Priso apparently lost his birthright because of his overly violent behavior, which included robbing and killing European merchants. The Europeans are even said to have imprisoned him for a time, with the connivance of his brother and possibly father. Ngando is said to have begun his career in the household of Bele at Bonaberi. His return to the left bank of the Wouri is connected with the early death of Ewonde 6D son of the powerful Kwane.

Ngando not only claimed the Bonambela succession but, probably in reaction to the problems in the succession to Doo, now insisted on equal status to Bele. The Europeans represented as conferring these prerogatives in the oral traditions are presented in terms that are often hard to reconcile with written records. For one, almost all these merchants are described as Portuguese. The two main Douala records are again the reports of the pawning crisis of and the account books of the brig Sarah in The third largest dash goes to Preshaw and Bell gets a fairly small amount. There is nothing to indicate, however, the violent role of Priso a Doo.

In the period described by Bold c. According to Jackson, Bimbia was by this time under a monarchy related to the Duala, probably that of Bile a Kwane 8I , the descendant of the formerly senior Bonambela line. We must therefore look next for the connection between the growth of European trade and the shift in Duala political structure.

The Duala and their Hinterland, c.1600–c.1960

Moreover, from what we know of this trade through European documents, it began to be conducted in a less orderly fashion precisely towards the end of the eighteenth century, when the Duala political system split. The immediate cause of this disorder was, as already seen, the irregularities in the disbursal and redemption of credit. It was the European traders, far in space and climate from home with their precious trade goods at risk, who were most immediately concerned about credit. However, the market for slaves and ivory in Africa was a very open one, with many British, as well as some continental and American shippers competing for the purchase of goods.

The result was the disorderly trading system described in the documents, with Europeans supporting their commercial claims by sporadic intervention in African politics. What does seem clear is that the relatively peaceful, unheroic character of political and economic life ascribed by the oral tradition to the formative stages of Duala society now shifts into a more violent mode. Internal development in the formative period: state vs segmentation The political events discussed in the previous section represent the external dimensions of change: a division of power among African leaders, their relationship to the European presence, and the image of these developments in the public chronicles of the Duala.

What we need to examine in the concluding sections of this chapter is the internal dimension of this same change: the structures that link politics to society and the relationship of this system to the Duala role in the interior of the Cameroon Littoral. Viewed from the exterior, the Duala political system appears to be highly segmentary.

Under changing conditions, instead of central institutions becoming stronger, they split into multiple, roughly equivalent, units. This issue has produced a certain amount of controversy in the literature on Duala history. Non-Duala scholars the present authors included have tended to view the surface of segmentation as an indicator of little real cohesion at either the communal or chiefdom level of Duala political life. The most elaborate of the centralist arguments are made at the communal level around the emergence of the Ngondo as a Duala general assembly or court.

The other major historical acts attributed to the Ngondo are the trial and execution of Eyum a Ebele Charley Deido, 9D in and the signing by all the major Duala chiefs of the annexation treaty with Germany in The Ngondo is named after a beach in Douala that separates the Bell and Akwa quarters and where the execution of Eyum Ebele, as well as quite possibly some other collective events, did take place.

Its conception as a major communal ruling institution is linked to developments of the s and 40s which will be discussed at considerable length below. Cults of various kinds did play this role among the coastal trading peoples and their inland trading partners in eastern Nigeria with one, ekpe, even extending into western Cameroon via the Cross River almost to the Duala trading zone.

This concept of the mboa with its constituent units of smaller households built around wives, junior sons and various groupings of slaves has been well described by Bekombo and others. Nonetheless, the scale of followers over whom the major rulers could exercise command clearly distinguished them from mere household heads. Moreover, the insistence by many Duala historians on greater precolonial centralization than the documentary evidence seems to support suggests at least a retrospective indigenous recognition of such a need. The last, however, seems to describe their middleman position and thus its failure to induce fuller state formation is worth more lengthy contemplation.

The migration of the Duala from Piti did possibly result from a subsistence crisis, but one that was resolved without the need for major social change. Even assuming a limited amount of space available for continuing the 44 Middlemen of the Cameroons Rivers form of food production to which the Duala were committed, the population of Douala does not appear to have grown very much during the nineteenth century and presumably in the immediately preceding period due to the health and fertility costs of an urban existence under African epidemiological conditions.

Despite some of the violent animal symbolism attached to the Bonambela lineage conquest is thus a theme notably absent from Duala culture in both its organizational and expressive dimensions.


The Wouri estuary is also distant from major sites of African state formation, such as the Sudan, Benin, or the Congo Basin, which might have provided models for political centralization even without an intense impetus from local social needs. Attempts by other Europeans, from the mid nineteenth century, to impose elements of their political culture on the Duala raised further problems, as will be seen in the next chapter.

The Duala did, however, occupy a strategic point in a major longdistance trading system and the failure of this condition to bring about more intense political development, while not exactly a paradox, does require some explanation. The relationship between politics and the political economy of Atlantic African trade is best explored by comparing the Duala situation to that of other societies engaged in similar riverain commerce from the Niger Delta to the Congo River.

The Kalabari, Nembe Brass , and Ibani Bonny traders of the Niger Delta did develop kingship with some structure of authority at the communal level. Moreover, as will be seen in the next chapter, the social mobility of Duala slaves was ultimately limited. Within the economic sphere, therefore, the critical variable determining the direction of political change seems to have been relations with the internal rather than the external sphere of middleman operations.

Whether a society stressed one or the other of these approaches to trade depended upon both the geography of the region being exploited and — more directly — upon the degree of competition from any neighboring community. The contradiction, in later-nineteenth century Bonny, between economic success and political-economic status led to a kind of segmentation, when the slave merchant Ja Ja withdrew from the town.

However, he immediately established an entirely new settlement, Opobu, where he revived the role of monarch. Along the western axis of this trade, the Aro Igbo were able to meet the challenge of coastal incursions by forming their 46 Middlemen of the Cameroons Rivers own proto-statal ritual-trading network. In diametrical opposition to the Niger Delta, the Duala enjoyed virtually exclusive access to an extensive network of rivers connecting the coast to the interior.

But, given the geographic separation of the ports and even of the Cross River from the Mungo especially before the Duala reached the navigable limits of the latter , there was no consciousness of such rivalry on either side. In principle, the Duala might have shared a common interest in pushing their canoe expeditions up to the limits of navigability of each of the main Littoral rivers. As will be seen, this did become an issue in the nineteenth century, although one pursued by individual Duala segments rather than the community under any single leadership.

This lack of collective action is not surprising, given the passive nature of the threat from the inland groups, which were far too small to compete with the Duala beyond their own individual territories. Moreover, the multiplicity of Cameroon coastal rivers allowed a geographic expression of Douala domestic segmentation to extend itself into the hinterland.

But in the formative period of the Duala middleman role, the physical and human structure of the Littoral provided no incentive to political centralization. There is a neat match between the lower statistical contribution to the slave trade and the limited development of any centralized political institutions. In strictly chronological terms, these decades constitute a middle period between the establishment of an autonomous Duala trading position on the Cameroon coast and its displacement by European colonial rule.

It is also from this time, as indicated previously, that most of our information about the precolonial Littoral world is derived. Finally, the nineteenth century saw the full articulation of a hierarchical structure descending from Europeans who crossed the ocean, through the Duala on the coast and the Littoral river system, down to the peoples of the Littoral hinterland. At the same time no political structures evolved to convert this hegemony into orderly control over any of the key points of commercial exchange.

But in the complex discourse of middleman historiography, this very absence of control and order has been converted into another form of hegemony, that of cultural identity. At the same time the Duala interpreted their growing contacts with Europeans as a mandate for identifying themselves against interior peoples in terms diametrically opposed to European liberal values: the Cameroonians not in direct contact with the ocean were generically bakom slaves even when as was usually the case not literally enslaved; the Duala themselves were free to exercise a monopoly over a widening trade zone in which there was no possibility of any but defensive competition.

The chapter that follows will attempt both to transcend and to reconstruct the hegemonic cultural models embodied in the relatively abundant 48 Hegemony without control 49 sources particularly European ones for this period. Next, the political economy of the hierarchical trade network linking coast and interior will be analyzed.

Finally, we will deal with internal Duala politics and their relationship to the German annexation of as well as the larger question of the viability of a stateless middleman regime. In Cameroon, as elsewhere, the change did not come abruptly and slave imports from the interior continued and possibly increased. The procurement of these goods and the slaves to cultivate, process and transport them greatly expanded African internal markets, creating new needs for their social and cultural management.

The mainly Brazilian, Portuguese and Spanish ships actually observed trading clandestinely here between and arrived less frequently than their legal predecessors but took aboard a slightly larger number of slaves per voyage. For reference to the indigenous names of Duala rulers, see table 2. Butterworth, , VIII, 43—4. As indicated in table 3. In Britain established a settlement on the island of Fernando Po that served as a base for various forms of naval, missionary and, from to , consular anti-slavery activities in the Bights of Biafra and Benin. However, it is certainly the growth of palm oil exports that allowed, even if it did not directly inspire, Duala abandonment of the slave trade.

The slave trade had played a critical role in transforming the internal political and social organization of Douala during the eighteenth century. On the broader Atlantic market, however, Cameroon had always been a very minor slave supplier see above table 1. Indeed, the demand for this item in both Europe and Asia increased constantly throughout the s, and Cameroon was noted as a major source. The oil palm is indigenous to Africa and its product has been a mainstay of local diets since the earliest period of sedentary civilization in the West and Central African forests.

From the s petroleum took over the lubrication and illumination role of palm oil and in the last quarter of the century new sources of vegetable fats and animal tallow also cut into the demand for its use in soap-making. A new market for palm kernels in the s, arising out of margarine manufacturing and tin plating, compensated somewhat for this decline in demand, but the real impact of these additional uses was not felt until after The sources of both appear to be so far in the interior that we have little direct information about how they were procured even in the latter period.

Palm oil and kernels, on the other hand, had a very dramatic and visible impact on the Duala middleman role. Owing to their perishability at least for oil and low value-to-bulk ratio, these products had to be gathered in large quantities from relatively near the coast. The expansion and price shifts of palm product exports created 56 Middlemen of the Cameroons Rivers Table 3. Liesegang et al. All of these problems reached a peak level shortly before the colonial annexation of , with which the present chapter will end. The geography and politics of inland trade The Cameroon estuary is fed by a complex system of rivers and creeks extending throughout the Littoral.

As with most of Africa, the distance that can be travelled between the ocean and the interior in a large dugout canoe is limited by rapids or cataracts, in this case all occurring within seventy miles of the coast. Large areas of oil palm growth — an outcome but not always a continuous responsibility of human settlement — could be found along the banks or within easy transport distance of all these waterways.

The Duala themselves neither cultivated nor harvested any of the local palm trees. The closest they came to direct control of such production was to establish satellite villages of slaves in relatively close and accessible inland locations. As early as and villages of this kind belonging to both Lobe Bell and Ngando Akwa are described ten miles or so up the Wouri River and along the Kwa Kwa.

As noted in the previous chapter, Duala access to the Littoral waterways was never challenged by any other coastal group. With the exception of the Sanaga, Duala canoes and trading stations had, by the s, reached the limits of navigability of the major coastal rivers. However the achievement of this goal required adaptation not just to a landscape and natural resources but also to inland communities with their own interests in controlling relations between producers and middlemen.

The socio-economic institutions by which these relationships were managed parallel those established between Europeans and Duala on the coast and will be discussed below. For the present we will concentrate upon the more immediate and exclusively African questions of access to interior markets. Because the only contemporary records of this process come from rare European inland travellers, the chronology must remain uncertain. However, from the combination of these sources, very early colonial documents, and local oral traditions, we can learn some- 58 Middlemen of the Cameroons Rivers thing about the geographical extent and limitations of Duala regional hegemony.

The ideal trading partners for the Duala were populations living near easily accessible waterways but content with specializing in the role of agricultural producers. The beginnings of this trade are linked to the Duala community on the Wouri island of Jebale, located near the entrance to the Bomono creek. The same cannot be said of trading relations along more remote waterways. The terminal point of Wouri river navigability, Yabassi, is inhabited by a Basaa community also historically dedicated to agriculture.

Although the ostensible issue was control of territory on the immediate Hegemony without control 59 borders between the two peoples, the underlying cause seems to have been trade to both Yabassi and the communities along the Dibombe river see below which itself formed the Wuri—Bodiman boundary. The Duala were drawn into this quarrel on the side of the Wuri thus apparently obtaining direct access to Yabassi. These secondary waterways provide alternate routes to the country of perhaps the most populous agricultural group in the Littoral, the Abo.

Rudolf Duala Manga Bell

Up until the later nineteenth century the Duala merely came to the Abo from the south, as they had to the Pongo, and there seem to have been no critical complications. The details or even an adequate outline of nineteenth century politics within Abo country are far too complicated to recount here. Duala traders had two possible means of using their canoes to bypass this Abo position: one via the Dibombe tributary of the Wouri to the north, the other via the Mungo in the West.

The Dibombe route, apparently the simplest, was also the site of the Wuri—Bodiman war and is perceived to this day as a dangerous area associated with hippos, pirates and legendary giant crocodiles. By , however, the Bells had established trading positions not only at Bakundu but beyond it to Mombo Beach immediately south of the cataracts, which bar further canoe passage inland. We know less about the nineteenth-century history of trade relations in this part of the Littoral since few precolonial travellers went there and the Germans gave it less early attention than the west, where their position was more threatened by British activities.

The closer of the rivers going eastward, the Dibamba, could be traveled into well-populated Basaa country as far as Bonapoupa. Unlike in the west, precolonial Duala merchants never succeeded in thwarting local controls over this route. Their penetration here was thus restricted to the Kwa Kwa itself, which became an arena of rivalry between Bell and Akwa. As shown in the previous chapter, negotiations even under these circumstances could sometimes involve complicated credit arrangements and produce episodes of violence.

It is the records of these encounters that provide us with our most reliable evidence of early Duala history. During the nineteenth century, both the scale and character of European activity in Douala changed considerably.

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Finally overseas merchants and proconsuls were joined by a small group of British and African-American Baptist missionaries, with an entirely unprecedented program for transforming local society. Because these various European groups are all so much better documented than the Duala, to say nothing of the peoples of the Littoral interior, there is some danger that the telling of their story may draw attention away from local African history.

The goals of missionaries in this period approach an almost total cultural hegemony but as will be seen, they enjoyed very little success among the Duala. From what we do know, the shift seems to have been very gradual and sometimes ambiguous. One such entrepreneur, Jonathan Scott, was the subject of a major controversy at Douala as early as Evidence of this hegemony can be found in the many agreements and treaties signed by Britain in Cameroon between and see table 3. This is not the place to discuss at length the complex issues of British overseas policy in the liberal era.

The most profound contradiction can be found in the two most prominent policy objectives, replacement of slaving with legitimate trade and the promotion of British economic interests. With slave trade abolition Britain incurred the material costs not only of maintaining its West African squadron but also of alienating major New World trading partners. The compensation was expanded access to African markets, more fully activated by the production and transport of large quantities of vegetable products than by the export of relatively few but highly valuable slaves.

However, the limitations of these markets became painfully evident through the fall of vegetable oil prices in the later nineteenth century. The presence of the navy and the consuls in West Africa represented a recognition that free trade in this area of the world depended upon active government intervention. However, the resources allocated were far too limited to deal with the crises that kept occurring at each trading center.

To achieve minimal control without undertaking further political responsibility, the British attempted to organize local European merchants and major African traders into Courts of Equity. Indeed, the very legitimacy of such jurisdiction under British law was left in doubt until a full Order in Council of provided the consuls with the necessary authority. Instead, it seems to have become an arena for airing, but not resolving, more essential disputes about export price agreements among Europeans, the relations of British consular authority to German merchants, the political role of missionaries, and the separation of disputes among Africans from those involving Europeans.

For the next year and a half it met frequently if not regularly or always on land to hear a wide range of cases involving disputes between Europeans and Duala, among the Duala themselves, and between the Duala and inland peoples. The degree to which this termination can be attributed to African as opposed to international causes will be discussed below. Given its historical basis, this concept was only reinforced by a hegemonic European presence on the coast, despite the stated humanitarian goals of such a presence.

This paradox will have to be explored more fully below when the organizational and cultural links between various levels of the nineteenth-century Littoral trading system are examined. For the London Baptist Missionary Society hereafter BMS that entered Cameroon in , the material achievements of European industrial civilization were inseparable from a set of religious beliefs and a secular lifestyle which were to be imposed Hegemony without control 67 upon existing African culture.

If measured in terms of these well-articulated goals, the Baptist mission was a much greater failure than British informal empire. However, this failure itself helps us to understand the Duala middleman role, while the special presence of the BMS further shaped that role in ways often contradictory to missionary intentions. BMS evangelical endeavors in the nineteenth-century Littoral were extensively documented by the missionaries themselves and have subsequently been translated into coherent and detailed narratives by a number of European and Cameroonian historians.

At the moment of Basel takeover in , the Baptist churches in and around Douala excluding the Creole settlement of Victoria reported a total of full members, and school pupils. The only real progress made in this regard occurred in the somewhat isolated Duala quarter of Bonaberi, on the right bank of the Wouri. Here in the very devoted African-American missionary, Joseph Jackson Fuller, convinced the local ruler to suppress the jengu and mungi cults.

More generally, Duala rulers attempted to assimilate the missionary presence to their own 68 Middlemen of the Cameroons Rivers secular purposes. Unlike situations in which Africans turned to missionaries as guides to a world already altered by very direct European domination, the Duala in the nineteenth century felt no need to adapt their culture to such radically disruptive teachings.

Among the early missionaries themselves were individuals such as Joseph Merrick, Fuller and the Richardsons, recruited from among recently emancipated AfricanAmericans in Jamaica. As already indicated, former slaves sometimes refugees but usually purchased from their masters by missionaries constituted a key element in the Douala Baptist congregations. The Fernando Po community started out with great promise but soon shrank drastically in size despite or, as Martin Lynn has argued, because of the success of its Creole members in the local palm oil trade.

However the full realization of this role had to await the colonial era. From an evangelical perspective the results were mediocre at best. The most immediate cause for the departure of the British Baptists from Cameroon in was undoubtedly political tension arising out of German colonial occupation see next chapter. The arrangements that provided some basis for order in the Littoral world all center around the universal process of commercial exchange but, as presented here, move progressively outward into the particularistic realms of society and culture.

These institutions, more than any other aspect of the nineteenth-century coast—Littoral trading system, embody that combination of heirarchy and anarchy which was its central characteristic. Limited as are our statistics for palm product exports in the nineteenth century, those for European goods imported into Cameroon during this period are even worse. Otherwise nothing had changed very much, nor was Douala much distinguished in this respect from other ports on the West African coast.

London: Whittaker, , this is not a record of actual trade but rather a statement by an experienced merchant of what cargo would be required to purchase a given quantity of export goods. Download all figures. Sign in. You could not be signed in. Sign In Forgot password? Don't have an account? American Historical Association members Sign in via society site. Sign in via your Institution Sign in. Purchase Subscription prices and ordering Short-term Access To purchase short term access, please sign in to your Oxford Academic account above.

This article is also available for rental through DeepDyve. View Metrics. Email alerts New issue alert. Advance article alerts. Article activity alert. Receive exclusive offers and updates from Oxford Academic. Hegemony without control the Duala Europeans and the Littoral hinterland in the era of legitimatefree trade c Mythic transformation and historical continuity Duala middlemen and German colonial rule Middlemen as ethnic elite the Duala under French mandate rule