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'The Door to the Coast of Africa': The Seychelles in the Mascarene Slave Trade, 1770-1830

Nicholls, Peter A. (2018) 'The Door to the Coast of Africa': The Seychelles in the Mascarene Slave Trade, 1770-1830. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:67029)

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Abstract

Rejecting the customary scholarly distinction between legal and illegal slave trades, this research explores the relationship between the Seychelles islands and the south- western Indian Ocean's slave trade to the Mascarenes from the time of the Seychelles' colonisation in 1770 to the demise of the slave trade in c. 1830. The work begins by locating the French colonisation of the Seychelles within the context of the changing dynamics of the trade, specifically the shift from Madagascar to Mozambique as the primary supplier of slaves for the Mascarenes and the growing slave-exporting role of the Swahili coast at the end of the eighteenth century. When set against this backdrop, the colonisation of the Seychelles appears in a novel light, and the thesis advances the argument that - contrary to what has commonly been assumed - slave trading ambitions and activity were central to the settlement project. Since growing numbers of slaving voyages between East Africa and Mauritius and Réunion made use of the Seychelles in subsequent decades, the dissertation next turns its attention to discussing the socio-economic life of early Seychellois and, specifically, the various services which they provided to slavers. It is here demonstrated that the Seychelles were used as a provisioning station and, most important of all, as a sanatorium for passing slaves. The Seychelles could perform this latter function - and thus impact on slave mortality rates during sea crossings - thanks to the presence of small islands which were employed as quarantine stations, the availability of clean water and the abundance of wild food sources, especially tortoise and turtle meat. The intermediary role of the Seychelles is shown to have increased in the aftermath of the British takeover and the subsequent criminalisation of the slave trade in 1810. Following repressive measures in the 1820s, the Seychelles became the centre of a wide-ranging smuggling network that drew on the outer islands of the archipelago to move East African and Malagasy slaves predominantly to Réunion. The inner islands, for their part, were more central to the large-scale abuse of the so-called ?transfer system', which resulted in thousands of newly purchased slaves being imported into Mauritius following a period of acclimatisation in the Seychelles. The thesis' overarching argument is that the Seychelles were much more significant to the slave trade of the Mascarenes than has been previously assumed and that, were it not for the Seychelles, such trade might not have expanded as rapidly as it did in both geographical and demographic terms.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Macola, Giacomo
Uncontrolled keywords: Indian Ocean slave trade, Mascarene slave trade, Seychelles
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 15 May 2018 10:10 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:54 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/67029 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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