The literature on Atlantic slavery is rich with accounts of plantation complexes in the Americas, but to date none have been produced for West Africa. In this valuable study, The West African Slave Plantation: A Case Study, Mohammed Bashir Salau helps to address this lacunae by looking at the plantation operations at Fanisau in Hausaland, and in the process provides an innovative look at one piece of the historically significant Sokoto Caliphate. The case study calls into question the assumption that servile institutions in West Africa were “serf villages” and not “slave plantations,” and argues that manumission was less common, at least in the Caliphate, than generally believed. Also, it provides evidence on the key role of the emir of Kano (Abbas) and various merchants in the transition to groundnut cultivation and the significant use of slave labor by large estate holders in the early twentieth century.
Author Mohammed Bashir Salau is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Mississippi. Salau received his Ph.D. in African Diaspora history at York University, Canada, in 2005. He is the author of articles published in Journal of African History, African Economic History and several edited volumes. He is now working on a biography that focuses on Dorugu Kwage Adam, a Hausa man in Central Sudan who was enslaved during the early years of his life in the mid-nineteenth century, and on a book tentatively entitled Plantation Slavery in the Central Sudan on comparative slavery.