Looking for the African Voice: The Quest for New Sources on African Slavery

Seminar date: 
04 February 2010
Speaker(s): Martin Klein (University of Toronto)

Martin Klein is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Toronto and has done extensive research on slavery and the slave trade in Africa and, increasingly, slavery in a global comparative perspective. He is the author of Slavery and Colonial Rule in French West Africa and the Historical Dictionary of Slavery and Abolition and has co-edited Breaking the Chains: Slavery, Bondage and Emancipation in Modern Asia and Africa, Women and Slavery in Africa and Slavery and Colonial Rule in Africa.

Discussant: Prof. dr. Robert Ross

This seminar has been organized together with the Cultural Antropology Department and with the Languages and Cultures of Africa Department of the Leiden University.

The history of slavery and the slave trade has been largely based on European sources but this seminar will focus on a project set up to uncover very diverse African sources. These range from a series of court cases to researchers delving into archival and published accounts. Slaves' wills and petitions and life histories in mission publications have been examined, and interviews have recorded memories. Folk lore, proverbs, songs and children's tales have been analyzed and the project team has ended up with a view of slavery that includes African agency and underlines the different forms of servitude that have existed in Africa. The seminar will discuss what slavery has meant for Africa and efforts to cope with political and social change, in particular democratization.