‘Voyage iron’: an Atlantic slave trade currency, its European origins, and West African impact

Chris Evans, Göran Rydén

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

An array of goods were traded to Africa in the era of the transatlantic slave trade. Many were eye-catching consumer goods; other were far more prosaic. Among the latter was ‘voyage iron’: bars of malleable iron that acted as a currency along the West African coast. This paper examines the geography of voyage iron production in Europe, finding that originated in places – primarily Sweden – that are not often thought of as being connected to Atlantic commerce. The paper then considers the impact that voyage iron had on West Africa where, paradoxically, iron smelting was very well-established. Contrary to the views of some distinguished Africanists, we find that European iron had a major impact. It underpinned an agricultural transformation of the coastal zone. Voyage iron was a superficially unremarkable producer good but, we conclude, it contributed to a profound reshaping of the economic geography of West Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-70
JournalPast & Present
Volume239
Issue number1
Early online date8 Jan 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

Keywords

  • Economic history
  • Agriculture
  • Slave Trade
  • Sweden
  • Africa
  • Iron

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of '‘Voyage iron’: an Atlantic slave trade currency, its European origins, and West African impact'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this