Indian textiles and gum Arabic in the lower Senegal river: Global significance of local trade and consumers in the early nineteenth century

Kazuo Kobayashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article proposes to give a new answer to one of the central questions in African and global economic histories: how West Africa contributed to economies outside the region. Recent studies have highlighted that consumers played a significant role in the processes of trade and production. The article combines this consumer-led perspective with a new set of quantitative and qualitative data. Trade figures drawn from the British and French trade statistics reveal the peculiar demand for Indian indigo-blue cotton textiles, called guinées, in Senegal compared with other regions of West Africa in the early nineteenth century. This finding revises Joseph Inikori's argument about the triumph of British cottons in West Africa. Subsequently, this article places the consumption of guinées within the wider context of commercial networks in the trade in gum Arabic in the lower Senegal River region and analyzes the social and ecological factors that underpinned the persistent demand for guinées among local consumers, taking into account the continuation of local textile production in West Africa. In so doing, this article argues that consumer behavior in Senegal mattered not only for the gum trade and but also conditioned a part of global trade networks that extended from South Asia through Western Europe and reached Africa in the early nineteenth century.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-53
Number of pages27
JournalAfrican Economic History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 1
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Economics and Econometrics

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