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The rural economy of the upper Senegal valley before the consolidation of colonial rule (ca. A. D. 1680-1900)

L’économie rurale de la haute vallée du fleuve Sénégal avant la consolidation de la domination coloniale
Volker Stamm
p. 52-79

Résumés

Il est communément admis que tout au long du XXe siècle la haute vallée du fleuve Sénégal a été l’une des régions les plus arriérées et délaissées du Sahel. Cependant, nos sources historiques les plus anciennes, et les témoignages des résidents européens, commerçants et explorateurs qui ont visité la campagne bordant le fleuve Sénégal et la rivière Falémé révèlent une situation bien différente. Ils décrivent une zone densément peuplée et à sols riches, en mesure de produire des récoltes abondantes, ainsi qu’un surplus agricole alimentant les marchés locaux et régionaux. Cet article passe en revue les rares indications, en période précoloniale, des techniques agricoles, de leur productivité et de l’usage qui était alors fait des produits. Il interroge également l’organisation agraire, et notamment l’utilisation des esclaves. L’auteur insiste particulièrement sur l’évolution des structures économiques et sur leurs capacités à s’adapter, avant l’intrusion de la politique coloniale, à un environnement en perpétuelle mutation.

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Texte intégral

Introduction: the region, the people and the research program

1The Upper Valley of the Senegal River, the area around its confluence with the Falémé, which is today shared by the modern states of Senegal, Mali and Mauritania, provides the historian with exceptionally abundant source material to retrace the lives of its inhabitants from the seventeenth century with little interruption. However, we should always keep it in mind that the picture that emerges from most of these sources was shaped by the observations of European authors, by their particular understandings and misunderstandings, and by the choices they made regarding what to report and what to leave out.

  • 1 See Stamm 2018: 48-51. The primary source material was edited by Levtzion and Hopkins 2000 and by C (...)

2Some accounts of scholars and explorers written in Arabic, such as those of al-Muhallabi or al-Bakri, go back as far as the tenth century. Even at this early period they suggest that the region supported a numerous population and produced an agricultural surplus feeding local and regional markets1.Specialized crafts grew out of agriculture, used and processed its products, as in textile manufacture, and provided the local markets with items like cotton fabrics or metal tools.

  • 2 The seminal work is Webb 1995.

3In the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the available evidence becomes more ample, its authors now being mainly Europeans. This seems to have been a period of intensive commercial activity, at first sight predominantly in gold, salt and slaves. However, this picture may merely reflect the angle of vision and the interests of the trading agents on whose correspondence, memoranda and reports we most often rely. Such sources rarely mention markets for agricultural products, at least at a time when the provision of Saint-Louis and the eventual colony of Senegal with grain had not yet become a problem. Only occasional attention was paid to agricultural production. In this paper I address agricultural techniques and farming systems, methods of production and their social organization in the Upper Senegal Valley. Less attention is paid to the “desert edge commerce 2”, as this has already been extensively researched, even though it may provide some insights into the structure of production systems and their performance. Instead I will concentrate on the systems themselves from which this specific form of commerce emerged and was developed further. Likewise, I will mainly study economic activities in the region itself, and not their relations with the “outer” world, i. e. the Atlantic, even though these activities were often extended beyond the region’s confines.

4Since the twentieth century the Upper Senegal Valley has been considered a marginal area, by-passed by development in the colonial period and since independence. Its only role, it seems, is to be a labour reservoir for export-oriented agriculture or European industry. Abdoulaye Bathily’s analysis of the processes which led to this end begins with the words: “The Senegal Valley is today among the most underdeveloped areas of the Sahīl zone of West Africa” (Bathily 1975: i), while Andrew Clark’s monograph bears the telling title “From Frontier to Backwater” (Clark 1999). Modern researchers agree that in earlier times the economy was far more prosperous than today. Adrian Adams evokes the “prospérité d’antan” (Adams 1977: 35), and I. Bathily characterizes the former Gajaaga as a “pays très actif, très riche et prospère” (Bathily 1969: 71). François Manchuelle remarked that “the wealth of the Soninke [...] was noted by all observers in the nineteenth century” (Manchuelle 1997: 14). Most recently, Adame Ba Konaré confirmed again that “En ces temps-là (beginning of the nineteenth century, V. St.), les pays de la vallée du fleuve Sénégal n’étaient pas ce qu’ils sont aujourd’hui ; ces pays étaient riches, ils regorgeaient de ressources” (Ba Konaré 2018 : 58). Pollet and Winter, finally, hinted at the most intriguing fact that the Soninké economy only declined to a state of mere subsistence farming during the colonial period (Pollet and Winter 1971: 148). Thus a situation that is commonly associated with so-called traditional African societies turns out to be the result of European expansion.

5In what follows, I will treat the rural economic structures of the Upper Senegal Valley up until the moment when this reversal became visible, at the beginning of colonial rule on the eve of the twentieth century. Their basic features had already been shaped long before the impact of the transatlantic economic system, which is often placed at the centre of historical research, became discernible. As Benjamin Steiner put it, European countries did not bring commerce to Africa, but rather tapped into existing trade relations (Steiner 2014: 364). Although my aim is to write an agricultural history in the strict sense, here and there I will take up general economic and social history, since other sectors, such as commerce and handicrafts, and also the social conditions and forms of the production and distribution of goods, must be considered in terms of their relations with agriculture.

6My paper will first address the evidence for the alleged prosperity of the region in former times and will discuss what kinds of internal development, if any, can be found. It will go on to examine the causes and consequences of the later decline around 1900. The emphasis here is on the rural economy at a time when the colonial influence had not yet become predominant and had not yet assumed an institutional form. In its aims, therefore, the paper is less concerned to scrutinize the arrival and effects of “colonialism”, and I will not try to establish narrowly its responsibility for the decline of the region. An in-depth analysis of the economic policies in early colonial times is beyond the reach of this study. Rather, I will address the question of whether there were early internal causes contributing to the later decline, or whether it was rather due to external factors. Obviously, this attempt opens the way to further reflections on the subsequent colonial era.

  • 3 The Kingdom of Kajaaga, in which I was now arrived, is called by the French, Gallam; but the name t (...)
  • 4 There are potentially risks involved in any such undertaking. If Martin Heidegger had not insisted (...)

7The study area includes the “pays”, “républiques”, and what are today called the “polities” of Gajaaga3, Boundou, Bambouk and Khasso. Their inhabitants most often spoke Soninké, Malinké, Fulbe or Fulfulde. No attempt will be made to associate any of these groups with any particular form of economic activity by saying, for instance, that the Soninké were “the” merchants4. This commonly found characterization is not confirmed by early traders agents and explorers, who attributed intensive trading to Soninké, Malinké and speakers of Fulfulde indifferently. Jean-Baptiste-Léonard Durand, one of the directors of the Compagnie du Sénégal, noted with regard to Khasso, which had been shaped by the Fulbe and Malinké : “Le royaume de Kassou est très-étendu : sa population est nombreuse ; ses terres sont fertiles et bien cultivées ; les habitants font le commerce, sont riches en bétail et en grains” (Durand 1802 : 359). In 1786 the same director commissioned one of his agents called Rubault to travel overland from Saint-Louis to the Upper Senegal. Rubault kept a diary, whose contents was later published by Durand (Durand 1802: chapt. XXI). In his notes, Rubault characterized the Fulbe (“Foulaks”) in Boundou as “marchands, [qui] s’enrichissent presque tous en fournissant des provisions aux caravanes qui passent chez eux ...” (Durand 1802: 314). Thus, it becomes clear that not only the Soninké of Gajaaga pursued commercial activities – many peoples of the region engaged in trade. The French military doctor Louis Tautin, in his “Études critiques sur l’ethnographie des peuples du bassin du Sénégal”, had already dismissed this widespread notion that only “Soninke” were traders in 1885 (Tautin 1885: 74).

Early evidence

  • 5 Le Journal de son voyage [...] tel qu’il a été écrit par luy-même, et qu’il m’est tombé entre les m (...)

8Our overview of the older sources begins with an author who was as influential as he is problematic, the Dominican Father Jean-Baptiste Labat. He was a compiler, even a plagiarist, who never visited West Africa, despite which he published his voluminous Nouvelle relation of this part of the continent in 1728 (Labat 1728). Nevertheless he had access to many contemporary documents that are now lost. He used them without giving correct references and mixed them up with other sources when this seemed to make his narrative more appealing to the public. The journal of a voyage to the Upper Senegal, attributed by him to the director of the French trading company at Saint-Louis, the well-known André Bruë 5, includes important details written by the Sieur de la Courbe, who had visited the area in question (Cultru 1910: 2-14; Cultru 1913: VII-VIII). Labat’s procedures are highly questionable, but nevertheless his Relation was source-based and not born out of imagination alone; it reflected the ideas an informed public had about Africa, thus contributing to the consolidation of this vision.

9High population density and the fertility of the land appeared as recurring elements of this vision. The village of Dramanet, east of the mouth of the Falémé, was a “village grand et fort peuplé” with more than four thousand inhabitants (Labat 1728: III, 333). Further up the Senegal, as far as the Félou cataract, the riverbanks were “extrèmement peuplée. Les Villages se touchent, pour ainsi dire” (Labat 1728: III, 355). Labat presumed, but was not certain (“on présume”), that this was also the case for the interior of the country, away from the river. The whole area was “pour l’ordinaire fort fertile [...] on y traite des vivres” (Labat 1728 : III, 358).

  • 6 Boucard 1974 [1729 ] : 268. Four years earlier, Levens had mentioned ‘des petits ruisseaux qu’on no (...)
  • 7 In Machat 1906: 60.
  • 8 Labat 1728: III, 337-8; Durand 1802: 357, though he might have borrowed this from Labat.
  • 9 Law identified a similar procedure on the Gold Coast (Law 2018: 20-21). The question of the “just p (...)

10A similar picture to that of Gajaaga emerged from Bambouk : “Ce païs est extrêmement peuplé, on le voit par le nombre des Villages qui sont sur le bord Oriental de la Rivière de Falemé” (Labat 1728 : IV, 3). But his depiction of the region further away from the course of the river, suggested that population became scarce, the land being too dry to allow the cultivation of millet, rice and vegetables (Labat 1728: IV, 4). The French resident in Bambouk, Boucard, who knew the country well, objected to the assumption that production was less promising further from the river: “Pourquoi”, he wrote, responding to Labat, “un homme de cette reputation s’en rapporte il aux memoires d’un voyageur infidelle qui metamorphose un païs beau et fertile dans un desert sec et aride...6 ” In a similar vein, some thirty years later, the commander of Fort Saint-Joseph noted with regard to the interior of Bambouk: “On y trouve de bonne eau, assez abondamment en tous temps. Plusieurs villages s’y succèdent les uns aux autres7 ”. Occasionally we can even gain some insights into fundamental economic mechanisms such as the establishment of prices. Prices, at least for the more valuable goods, were commonly fixed by the head of the village after discussion with the most important merchants. This price then provided the “règle que tous les autres suivent sans contestation8 ”. The obvious intention was to find the “just price”, binding for everyone9.

  • 10 ANOM C 6, 14, 25. April 1754, Mémoire sur le site St. Joseph.

11Labat’s book set the tone for later perceptions of the Upper Senegal Valley as a densely populated region with rich and efficiently farmed soils. A memoir on the site of Fort St. Joseph even called the valley of the Falémé “le pays le plus fertile et le plus cultivé de la négritie10 ”. I tress the significance of the high population density of this region for two reasons. First, it is an indicator of the economic and agricultural capacities of a specific place. Secondly, a widely held assumption among economic historians of Africa has been that its purported underdevelopment was due to a lack of population combined with an abundance of (unused) land. This hypothesis goes back to Antony Hopkins, whose Economic History of West Africa (Hopkins 1973) is still a valuable reference. The idea behind this concept can occasionally be found among nineteenth century authors, such as Charles Colin who was concerned about shortcomings in colonial trade which he wanted to see expand (Colin 1883: 13).

  • 11 ANOM, C 6, 2, Mémoire du Sieur de la Courbe sur le commerce de Guinée, 26. March 1693, fo. 6v.
  • 12 ANOM C 6, 9, Mémoire Charpentier, 1. April 1725, fo. 2r, 24v.

12Direct eyewitnesses offer more precise information on the topics under consideration in this article. One of the first was the Sieur de la Courbe. As early as 1693 he described Gajaaga in these terms : “Il y a aussy beaucoup de millet, et a bon marché, dont on peut fournir les autres departements”. He continued : “On trouve aussy dans ceste rivierre, touttes les choses necessaires a la vie, horsmis le pain, et le vin11 ”. Thus, he not only identified the abundance of grain in this region, he also confirmed that it circulated in the markets, long before there was any marked presence of Europeans, and he evoked the possibility of exporting it to other areas. Among the few authors writing in the early eighteenth century are the already mentioned Boucard and the Sieur Charpentier, commander of Fort Saint-Joseph in Gajaaga. In 1725, Charpentier sent a comprehensive memorandum to the directorate of the Compagnie des Indes containing descriptions of Gajaaga, Bambouk and Boundou. In accordance with his mission he emphasized the potential of the trade in gold and of goldmining, but he also depicted the country and its inhabitants, thereby touching on questions of agriculture. Charpentier too found the region between the Senegal and the Falémé rivers to be fertile and densely populated. He described Gajaaga as “fort fertile”, while the villages in Bambouk were situated “proches les uns des autres12 ”.

  • 13 Ibid., fo. 2r, 11r.
  • 14 Ibid., fo. 2r : “produisant jusqu’a trois recoltes par an”.
  • 15 Not Bambara groundnut, Voandzeia subterranea, but Arachis hypogaea.

13Millet, rice, corn (maize), tobacco, cotton, indigo, onions and other vegetables were grown in large quantities13. The author says that up to three harvests were produced each year14, suggesting that rain-fed farming was combined with flood recession agriculture (culture de décrue). Boucard’s observations in Bambouk a few years later produced details that are more precise (Boucard 1974 [1729]: 266-270). Beyond the field crops already mentioned by Charpentier, he found groundnuts15 and other pulses. Groundnuts were grown interspersed with millet, making it possible to obtain three harvests in the following three years. This raises some questions: even if a perennial variety of groundnuts had been used, millet is an annual plant. The evidence of mixed agriculture is nonetheless plausible and noteworthy, and what Boucard notes is the cultivation of the same soil for several years. The fields were worked in an intensive manner, “comme en Europe”, as Rubault added (in Durand 1802: 298). Farmers applied the method of erecting planting mounds, which demanded a considerable earth-moving effort.

14Cultivation of maize was confirmed from the 1720s. Boucard pointed to the advantages this new crop offered to peasants: maize takes a short time from sowing to harvest and could be consumed before reaching complete maturity. “Ils le mangent en coque bien grillée au feu lorsqu’il n’a point atteint sa parfaite maturité” (Boucard 1974 [1729] : 268). Thus, maize helped to bridge the difficult period before the next harvest. Additionally this crop offered potentially high yields, and the grains are protected by its bracts against the attacks by birds. On the other hand, maize cultivation is quite demanding, since it is highly sensitive to drought (McCann 2005: 19-20).

  • 16 McCann 2005: 24-25; Chastanet 1998. Both contain a discussion of the ways in which maize reached We (...)
  • 17 Relation du Sr Chambonneau, commis de la Compagnie de Sénégal, du voyage par luy fait en remontant (...)
  • 18 This is plausible on the archaeological evidence; see McIntosh et al. 2016: 307-309, 391.

15Its integration into the farming systems of the Upper Senegal region must have taken place at the turn of the eighteenth century16. Chambonneau, writing in 1689, did not mention maize17. The association of maize with existing crops was not the first attempt to improve farming practices with the introduction of a new crop. At an unknown time, maybe around A.D. 1000, sorghum reached West Africa and made it possible to achieve two harvests, one of pearl millet through rain-fed agriculture, the other of sorghum by flood recession cultivation. The latter was not possible with millet, which is not suited to waterlogged soils in the way that sorghum is18.

16In addition to diversified agriculture, Boucard makes reference to widespread animal husbandry of the region: “nombre infini de Cabris, peu de Moutons, mais beaucoup de Vaches dont ils prennent un soin extrème” (Boucard 1974 [1729]: 266-267). The country is said to have excellent pastures; the animals were not kept in the villages, but outside. Durand informs us that one of the reasons for this was that it made it easier to collect manure to fertilize the fields (Durand 1802: 349). The milk was immediately consumed or made into butter for both cooking and body care. Honey was collected : “les Negres le gardent pour le vendre” (Boucard 1974 [1729] : 266). The cotton harvest provided the basis for textile manufacture, the products of which were sold as well.

  • 19 ANOM, Mémoire Charpentier, fo. 2v.
  • 20 Ibid., fo. 3v.
  • 21 Ibid., fo. 29v.
  • 22 These forms of trade are abundantly documented in the sources. See in addition to the above quote D (...)
  • 23 Pruneau 1983 [1752]: 36. See also Rubault in Durand 1802: 314.

17This points at a lively commerce in agricultural or agriculture-based articles; more information about this is given by Charpentier. He noted the presence of a social group in Gajaaga which he called “marabous” and who were involved in commerce19. Already the existence of such a clearly demarcated group corroborates the existence of well-established trading relationships long before Europeans reached the Upper Senegal. Charpentier continued : “Ces peuples font commerce avec leurs voisins de tabac, sel et autres marchandises qu’ils echangent pour de l’or ; lequel or ils echangent ensuite avec des arabes pour des bestiaux et chevaux ; pareillement avec des maûres interlopes pour du sel20 ”. Elsewhere millet was also traded in exchange for salt21. A triangular trade therefore took place, which included populations in the immediate neighborhood, as well as the more northerly “Arabs” and “Moors”22. And, importantly, there was obviously the slave trade, to which I shall return. At this point, I note merely that it was closely linked with local forms of commerce, notably the trade in agricultural products, which was necessary to the subsistence of the slave caravans. These caravans were reported to pass by a large village near the French trading post of Le Caignoux (not far from the waterfalls of Félou), which was inhabited by “marabous et marchands” and where food provisions were available “en grande abondance23 ”.

  • 24 ANOM C 6, 12, 15. December 1749, Memoire contenant quelques observations que le Sr. Duliron [...] à (...)
  • 25 ANOM C 6, 12, Mémoire Duliron, 15. Dec. 1749. This part is not included in Machat.
  • 26 ANOM, C 6, 9, 10. July 1725, Compte que rend a la compagnie des Indes le sieur Levens de ce qu’il a (...)

18Within this general trading relationship, some local and regional specificities could be observed. Sieur Duliron, a French commercial representative, remarked in 1749 that the inhabitants of the central valley of the Falémé devoted themselves almost exclusively to goldmining. They obtained their necessary foodstuffs, consisting of millet and dried fish, and their clothes from the lower valley in exchange for gold24. To facilitate fishing, which, as we can see, had a commercial dimension, special techniques were applied: rocks were positioned in the river to narrow its course and to direct the fish in to the passages thus created25. However, dependence on food imports could have negative consequences. For a long time, Boundou and Gajaaga26, were the granary of the neighboring Bambouk. When war broke out and the trade relations came to an end, the people of Bambouk were obliged to produce their own food. In this they succeeded remarkably : “aujourd’huy Bambouc se nourrit luy même des grains qu’il recueille” (David 1974 [1744] : 166). For the first time the written sources give evidence of the adaptation and expansion of the productive capacities of these historical formations in response to a changing situation. It seems that neither fertile soils nor the required labour force were lacking. This flexibility would be essential a century later.

  • 27 ANOM, C 6, 14, Mémoire général sur le commerce du Sénégal, not dated, around 1720, fo. 11v. For fur (...)
  • 28 The trade flows are displayed graphically by Monique Chastanet 1987.
  • 29 ANOM, C 6, 10, 1. April 1732, Mémoire en forme de lettre touchant le commerce de Galam.

19So far, I have described trade within the Upper Senegal region and on the frontier between the savanna and the desert, attending to the capacity of the production system to provide a surplus. From the eighteenth century, the trade system was complemented by commerce resulting from the transatlantic economy. The European powers needed millet and other agricultural products, such as corn, rice, vegetables and cattle, in order to feed the inhabitants of their establishments, as well as the slaves who were brought to the coast in order to be shipped to the Americas. By the early eighteenth century, French representatives were aware of the important role that the Upper Valley was to play in the supply of millet: “Il ne faut pas manquer l’occasion [...] d’en faire venir du haut de la riviere, tant pour la nourriture des negres a la colonie, que pour leur traversée aux islets francaises.” The same report mentioned two species of millet, “l’un gros, et l’autre petit”, and gave detailed information on how and when best to buy it27. The relative importance of the different forms of trade (one in the interior of the country, the other with the coast) cannot be established quantitatively for this early period. Only in the nineteenth century does some scarce data become available28, to which I will return. From that time on, the producers of millet on the Senegal and Falémé rivers had a choice of outlet for their surpluses. Claude Boucard mentioned problems in obtaining the necessary quantities of millet, since the Moors were also engaged in this trade and offered better conditions: “[Les habitants de] Galam n’ont plus besoin de nous pour vendre leur mill29 ”.

  • 30 It was estimated that one year out of four was a year of grain shortages; ANOM, C 6, 14, 25. April (...)

20Wars and droughts30 repeatedly interrupted supplies downstream without cutting them off completely. On the whole, they increased in response to the amplified activities of Europeans in Senegal. On this, Bathily held that already in the eighteenth century, and increasingly in the following period, the region experienced a decline in agricultural and artisanal production, as well as in trade, as a result of these external influences (Bathily 1989: 327-329, 340). By contrast I believe, and will show later in detail, that he fails to recognize the adaptability of West African economic structures to changing conditions. So long as its basic features were not touched, the agro-pastoral system met increased demand with increased supply. Only at the end of the nineteenth century did the intrusions of the European powers transform markets and production qualitatively.

  • 31 Boucard 1974 [1729]: 257. Useful information, in spite of some chronological vagueness, about land (...)

21Access to land was an issue of some importance for this capacity to adapt. Boucard was quite surprised to find that in Bambouk every man had a right to the fields that he needed to nourish his family and was able to cultivate with household labour31. Consequently, the most industrious people, or those with abundant labour at their disposal, were the wealthiest. In contrast, according to Boucard the ruler of the country was poor. His position and his official duties prevented him from working the fields, and he lacked the power to force his subjects to do it for him. So his lands were poorly cultivated, and the crop was scant. Boucard’s remarks lead us to the question of slave labour – why was it not possible for the ruler (assuming Boucard’s observation to be correct) to employ slaves? We will come back to this crucial question soon.

Farming in the nineteenth century

  • 32 The basic stability of the main farming systems makes it unnecessary for me to discuss possible cli (...)
  • 33 Archives AOF, now located in the Archives nationales du Sénégal (ANS), Dakar, 1 G 8, Rapport de M. (...)

22From the available sources it seems that the character of the rural economy did not change much between the early seventeenth and the late eighteenth century 32. At the turn of the nineteenth century Africa, especially the interior of the continent was regarded as densely populated and endowed with huge economic potential. In 1820 Colonel Schmaltz, commander of the French territories in Senegal (recently recovered from England), instructed the future director of Fort Bakel as follows: “il n’existe plus de doutes sur sa nombreuse population, la richesse des produits qui peuvent être extraits, [...]”. (Marty 1925 : 103) Ferdinand Duranton wrote in 1824 : “Les bords de la Falémé sont très peuplés et offrent tous les signes de l’abondance 33”. Toward the end of the century, André Rançon could still write : “Le Bondou a été jusqu’au milieu du xixe siècle un des pays les plus riches sous le rapport de la production. Grâce à la nombreuse population qu’il renfermait alors, il possédait de vastes plaines entièrement cultivées et situées près des villages qui s’échelonnaient sur les rives de la Falémé et dans l’intérieur des terres” (Rançon 1894 : 460). All the travel narratives from that time, the best-known is that by Mungo Park, described the well-cultivated fields that not only provided the inhabitants with sufficient food but produced a surplus feeding local and regional trade. Artisans like weavers and dyers processed agricultural goods like cotton and indigo and sold their products. Others supplied manufactured tools and household utensils. There is no evidence that local production was disturbed by the impact of the French presence, which in any case remained marginal till mid-century. On the contrary, that presence created new market opportunities (Gray and Dochard 1825: 180-181).

  • 34 In the neighboring Futa Toro Gaspar Mollien identified, 25 years before Raffenel, seven species or (...)

23Colonial official and member of the Geographic Society Anne Raffenel counts among those authors who, because of their interest in the subject and their observational skills, allow us a better understanding of agricultural practices. He described Boundou as a region where only a little arable land was left uncultivated : “Le pays [...] n’offre que peu de parties incultes” (Raffenel 1846 : 133, also 70, 100, 143). Not only the riverbanks, but the interior of the country as well were densely populated and farmed 34. Millet, groundnuts, corn, cotton and indigo were grown, often in mixed cultivation. The fields were used for several consecutive years. To this end, they were fertilized with animal manure and household wastes, or by burning the residues of the previous cropping period (Raffenel 1846 : 347). Raffenel was not too pleased to spend one night in the vicinity of such a dung heap (ibid : 349). Cotton was cultivated with great care on large plots : “Les mils et les cucurbitacées sont actuellement presque en maturité ; le coton qui le sera bientôt est disposé dans une grande étendue de terrain en plants alignés avec soin et assez écartés les uns des autres pour que chacun occupe la place nécessaire à son libre développement” (ibid. : 444). Similarly Mollien observed : “Les terres sont généralement bien cultivées ; celles qu’on laisse en friche sont destinées à la nourriture des troupeaux, qui sont très-nombreux et qui forment la richesse des habitans ; le reste des terres est occupé par des champs de cotonniers entourés de haies soigneusement entretenues ; les plantes sont à deux pieds les unes des autres” (Mollien 1822 : 250).

  • 35 Archives AOF, 13 G 195, doc. 128, Organisation foncière des indigènes dans le cercle de Bakel (unda (...)
  • 36 Park 1799: 51. With regard to the designation of different types of grains, which was sometimes inc (...)
  • 37 Archives AOF, 13 G 195, Rapport agricole cercle de Bakel, March 1894.

24From these observations it becomes clear that the area available for agriculture was almost completely in use, whether for cropping, pasture, or fallow. As Raffenel found, cotton was grown systematically, the plots being surrounded by hedges to protect them from wind erosion and damage caused by cattle. At the end of the century, the commander of the Bakel district (“Commandant de cercle”) came to the same conclusions in his memorandum on agricultural practices. He stated : “Il existe dans le cercle des terrains non cultivés, environ la moitié. Ces terrains ne sont pas toujours incultes. Les indigènes ont l’habitude, après avoir cultivé pendant un certain nombre d’années un endroit, de laisser reposer les terres et vont alors cultiver autre part 35”. According to this, there was a system of fallow-management ; about one half of the land was cultivated for several years, at least a part of the other half being left fallow. Once again it becomes clear that the area available for agriculture was almost completely used up, whether by cropping or as pasture and fallow. It is always Raffenel to whom we owe a precise description of the flood recession agriculture that has already been mentioned (1846 : 444). At the end of January 1844, long after the growing period under rain-fed cultivation, he noticed that the river bank had luxuriant fields growing several varieties of millet, cotton plants and cucurbits. As soon as the river receded, the formerly flooded areas were sown in several stages. By the time the water reached its lowest point, all the wet zones near the rivers had been sown, and several consecutive crops were possible. In December 1795, Mungo Park observed the same phenomenon on the banks of the Falémé River, and was equally surprised : “I thought it very singular, at this season of the year, to find the banks of the Falemé everywhere covered with large and beautiful fields of corn”. He added that the corn grown was Holcus cernuus, sorghum36. In a late nineteenth century French agricultural report we learn the following about this method : “Ce mil [sorghum “Gadiaba”, V. St.] se sème après l’hivernage et se récolte au mois d’avril. Les terrains bas et ceux avoisinants les cours d’eau et qui conservent encore assez d’humidité pendant la saison sèche sont seuls propres à cette culture, et donnent aux habitants la faculté de faire deux récoltes par an37 ”.

  • 38 Couture 1997: 144. Couture did not undertake a historical study of the origins of the technologies (...)

25Flood recession cultivation was not limited to narrow strips along the banks of the great rivers. In his 1998 dissertation, agronomist Jean-Louis Couture describes the broad application of water-management techniques on large areas in the Kayes region of Mali, near small watercourses and on inundation plains. He characterizes them as “protohydraulique paysanne”. Alluvial terraces were created, water ponds were linked, and channels were dug in order to direct and regulate the inflow and outflow of the tide. According to his sources, this system was based on slave labour. Later, when slaves were no longer available and family labour was not enough to fill the gap, this labour intensive method had to be abandoned : “Le détournement de la main-d’œuvre vers les cultures de rente du bassin arachidier Sénégalais, les réquisitions militaires puis la migration ouvrière en France ont bloqué toute évolution ultérieure du système38 ”.

26Millet-trading was omnipresent at the time of Raffenel’s explorations (Raffenel 1846 : 66). He characterized the people of the Upper Senegal as a “peuple éminemment industrieux et voyageur qu’on pourrait à peu près comparer aux marchands de nos campagnes” (1846 : 118). They were farmers and at the same time traders who had established wide networks of economic contacts (1846 : 280). Some of them acquired great wealth.

  • 39 ANOM C 6, 1, 1664, État de l’habitation du Sénégal, arts. 15 and 16 (“bastiments... bastis et const (...)
  • 40 This date is based on Jacob Le Maire, who wrote in 1682 : “Il y a environ 15 ans [...] Messieurs de (...)
  • 41 ANOM, C 6, 2, Mémoire du S. de la Courbe sur le commerce de Guinée, 26 March 1693, fo. 6r.
  • 42 For a general and still useful overview, see Prosper Cultru 1910.

27In the middle of the nineteenth century, the colonial penetration of Senegal was intensified, a process that culminated in the formal creation of French West Africa (AOF) in 1895, which federated the colonies of the wider region, among them Senegal. This process had its origins much earlier, in the seventeenth century, but for a long time colonizing the Senegal Valley remained a rather sporadic project, limited to certain missions of exploration and to the installation of trading stations on the Upper Senegal and Lower Falémé. In 1659, Saint-Louis was founded at the mouth of the Senegal River, after two previous settlements had been washed away39. In 1667, the first attempt was made to reach the upper river40. But as late as 1693 de la Courbe wrote that there was a land on the Upper Senegal called “Gallam”, which had only been discovered six or seven years earlier41. Only around 1700 were the first fortified trading posts established, namely Fort Saint-Joseph and Fort Saint-Pierre. The successive trading companies were not able to occupy them continuously, and the French and interim British presence in the region remained marginal42 until the final acceleration of the colonial conquest, which was closely associated with the name of the French officer Faidherbe. The treaty he concluded in August 1858 ended Gajaaga’s sovereignty (Chastanet 1987).

  • 43 Archives AOF, 13 G 165, doc. 42. Memorandum of July 30th, 1847, without title, 2.

28The need of the colonial and supporting forces for food supplies, in particular grain, increased considerably. Based on its long-term experience with market-oriented production, the Upper Senegal was in a position to satisfy the increased demand for grain : “The main grain markets in the region clearly expanded throughout the second half of the nineteenth century”, states Clark, and “Every area of the region, no matter how isolated, engaged in some sort of commerce” (Clark 1999 : 81, 75, see also 148, 165). Unfortunately, quantitative data on the extended trade in grain are only occasionally available. Around 1750 grain consumption in Saint-Louis amounted to 750 tons p.a. ; a hundred years later, millet consumption alone was 2,100 to 2,400 tons p.a., to which other grains such as maize and rice must be added (Searing 1993 : 85, 189). About 20 per cent of this provision, in Pasquier’s estimate, came from Gajaaga (Pasquier 1987 :185). This figure is consistent with Philippe Curtin’s data on grain exports from Gajaaga to Saint-Louis : in 1755 they accounted for 24.5 tons, in 1756 to 200 tons and in 1812 had increased to 300 (Curtin 1975 : II, 74-75). Then, in the 1880s, exports from Bakel and Médine reached 600 to 700 tons (Clark 1999 : 146). More millet was required for the fast-growing gum trade, its raw material coming from regions north of the Senegal River. The quantity of corn needed in exchange for it may have resembled the consumption of Saint-Louis (Searing 1993 : 190). Although the available data by no means form a complete series, there is no doubt about the rapid increase in the grain trade and thus in its production. In 1851, the Revue Coloniale called the Upper Senegal the granary of the French colonial settlements (Caillé 1851). The capacity of agricultural producers to adapt was noticed by French representatives. In 1847, the commander of Fort Bakel noted : “Déjà nous en avons un exemple frappant sous les yeux. Depuis que le prix du mil s’est élevé par les achats des maures, la quantité de terrain cultivé est deux fois aussi considérable que celle d’autrefois43 ”.

29However, how was it possible to produce the required additional quantities ? In order to reply to this question, we have to go back to the northern grain trade and consider François Manchuelle’s analysis. According to him, the pastoralists from the desert regions brought cattle and salt to the Senegal River and exchanged them for local millet surpluses. The millet farmers traded in this salt and in cotton tissues they themselves manufactured, moving them south and acquiring slaves in return. The slaves were employed on the fields “in order to produce more millet to be sold to desert nomads” (Manchuelle 1997 : 29). The production-trade cycle we encountered earlier made it possible to invest in order to reproduce it at a higher level. The Soninké Manchuelle studied did not accumulate wealth, but rather capital. They were not merely merchants whose profits came from trade, but also agricultural producers who worked to generate a surplus and push it on to the market (Manchuelle 1997 : 37-38 ; Searing 1993 : 51, 59).

  • 44 Bathily 1975: 235. By the generic term jula the author understands the groups of merchants.

30The prevailing mode of production, at least on the bigger farms, was thus based on slave labour. This makes it clear how the farmers succeeded in increasing their capacities, provided the internal slave trade was not disturbed. Abdoulaye Bathily discussed the potential for the development of this system in 1975, coming to the following conclusion : “The foregoing evidence does suggest that what prevented the jula from becoming an industrial tycoon was not certainly a lack of ideological motives or of an entrepreneurial ethic. For my own part I think that it is the objective economic conditions of the time that did not give the jula genuine opportunity to revolutionize society by conquering the field of production as they did for the sphere of circulation44 ”. That such an entrepreneurial ethic existed was also remarked on by Mungo Park, who described the same population as “indefatigable in their exertions to acquire wealth” (Park 1799 : 64).

  • 45 Accumulation is understood in its Marxian sense, as the transformation of surplus value in capital, (...)
  • 46 The most complete and most reliable data on the transatlantic slave trade are those in the database (...)
  • 47 Charpentier, Mémoire, fo. 3v.

31The distinction Bathily made between spheres of production and commodity circulation is precisely the critical point at which we can decide whether what happens is really an accumulation of productive capital or the hoarding of wealth. But contrary to his further developments on this topic, I am inclined to believe that we can recognize signs of emerging accumulation45. If the wealth of the farmer-merchants of the Upper Senegal was based on slave labour, this also means that slaves were employed productively, in the fields or in manufacturing, and not sold. Hence exports of slaves from the region were limited, but the rate of internal slavery was considerable.46 The small numbers of slaves who were sold had already attracted Charpentier’s attention : “Il me reste a dire sur cet article, que cette nation [Gajaaga, V. St.] se pique d’etre libre et franche, ne se vendant jamais. [...] Ils se servent d’esclaves Bambaras pour travailler la terre, dans leurs cazes, et dans les autres necessités qu’ils en ont 47”. This is confirmed by Joseph Pruneau : “Les Saracolets ne se font point captifs” (Pruneau 1983 [1752] : 35).

32Bathily’s expectation that he would meet “industrial tycoons” is obviously anachronistic, but it is clear that some of the profits were reinvested in agricultural production and textile-manufacturing. Gray and Dochard mentioned such manufactures, but unfortunately did not go into details about production methods or the legal status of the workers (Gray and Dochard 1825 : 180-181). By studying archival sources and conducting interviews, Clark concluded that both male and female slaves were employed (Clark 1999 : 148). Raffenel estimated that they were “un excellent capital, très productif, et dont le travail est tout profit” (Raffenel 1846 : 148).

33The assumption that capital was beginning to be accumulated in the hands of local merchant-farmers is obviously a hypothesis which at present cannot be supported by conclusive evidence. Rather, it results from the observation that, in order to achieve a higher output of cereals, without significant technological progress the input of land and labour had to be increased. Household labour was more or less a given in the medium term, so the only way to increase production was to employ more slaves. And as they had to be bought, investment took place, which I define as a form of accumulation, though a strange one.

  • 48 Fall’s reference to the rise of a “proto-bourgeoisie” remains too vague to provide specific insight (...)

34These are the basic elements of the “model” I propose. Stringent proof can only be obtained from statistical farm-level data or from biographical information concerning these economic actors in order to show how the benefits derived from trade and agriculture were used. Neither type of source is available at present48.

  • 49 Archives AOF, K 14, Étude sur la captivité dans le cercle de Nioro, 20. March 1894.
  • 50 Ibid., K 14, Rapport sur la captivité dans le cercle de Médine, 23. April 1894.
  • 51 Manchuelle 1997: 33-34. Compare for the Niger region Klein 1983.
  • 52 Archives AOF, 13 G 195, Doc. 130, De la captivité, 20 May 1894. See also K 14, Rapport captivité Mé (...)

35The internal slavery on which these advanced productive processes were based was neither a homogenous nor a static condition. In some cases, this relationship of dependence came close to serfdom, or even to a tenancy system. Slaves in the second or later generations of captivity lived on plots left to them by their masters, with an obligation to provide the latter with a share of their labour or with fixed quantities of grain. A report from the district of Nioro stated in this respect : “Certains maîtres se contentent de faire payer à leurs captifs une redevance de cent moules de mil par tête et par an et leur permettent de s’établir comme s’ils étaient libres49 ”. In the district of Médine, “beaucoup [des captifs de case, V. St.] ne donnent qu’une faible part de ce qu’ils produisent50 ”. This may be interpreted as a rent in labour or in kind, due from those suffering strict personal subordination51. According to Monteil’s observations in and around Médine at the end of the nineteenth century, practices allowing slaves to exempt themselves from labour services (not to be confused with ransom from slavery itself) were widespread (Monteil 1966 :113). In addition there were transitional forms from slavery to paid labour. Desmarets, the French commander at Bakel, stated in his report “De la captivité” in May 1894 : “Lorsque le captif de case ne travaille pas pour son maitre, et gagne de l’argent en travaillant pour d’autres, il doit à son maitre la moitié de son gain. Certains captifs de case, avec l’autorisation du maître, s’en vont à Saint Louis, en Gambie, à Kayes etc. etc. travailler pendant 2 ou 3 ans. Lorsqu’ils rentrent, ils partagent leurs économies avec leur maitre, ce qui leur reste leur sert très souvent à se racheter52 ”.

  • 53 This process could also be observed in early periods of European history, as stressed by Laurent Fe (...)

36I do not wish to enter here into a discussion of the differences between slavery and serfdom, differences that largely depend on underlying definitions. Rather, I prefer to insist on the manifold nature of forms of African slavery and on their inherent capacity to evolve53. It must be noted that only slaves who had lived for a long time in a rural household were able to benefit from any such evolution of the system of slavery, not those who were intended to be sold.

Again, the sources

  • 54 For a more complete discussion of this both crucial and controversial subject, see Stamm 2018: 30-3 (...)

37Before moving on to the beginnings of the period of generalized recession around 1900, I will take a critical look at the sources I have drawn upon54. They were of European origin, and almost always lacked information about the contribution of women to agricultural activities, let alone included female voices. It is evident that the picture we obtain from these sources cannot be other than biased by the interests of the different authors, by their insufficient instruction and state of information, and by the prejudices they had, even if in differing degrees. More specifically, it could be argued that the records were mostly written by the agents of the trading companies, who were commissioned to extend the commerce and who for this reason tended to overstate the potential of the region in which they operated.

38But this seems to be an over-simplified reading. The reports, letters and books of travelers are very different in their respective approaches, backgrounds, aims, interests and attitudes. Furthermore, the instructions they received went far beyond the immediate concerns of the sending organization. Isabelle Surun observed that an agent of a Senegalese trading house was not only asked to explore business opportunities on the Upper Senegal River, but also to describe the natural and ethnological characteristics of this region (Surun 2018 : 54). The travelers were commissioned by rather different institutions, commercial companies, governments and scientific associations, and some of them travelled on their own, like. To assume that all of them must have come more or less to the same assessment of what they saw, on the basis that they shared the same interests and objectives, misjudges the complex reality of early encounters between Africans and European explorers. Even when we regard those who were driven by the principal goal of expanding European influence, whether commercial, political or both, the question arises whether they exaggerated African wealth in order to promote further expansion, or whether they promoted expansion since they had found the prosperity they described.

39To claim that over a period of some two hundred years only fake news came out of Africa seems to be the less likely assumption. The contact between Africans and Europeans may have had different emphases in different periods, commercial interests at its beginning, then scientific exploration from the end of the eighteenth century and colonial expansion later in the nineteenth century. But at every stage in this process the motives of the emissaries were composite and intermingled. The priorities they set depended to a great extent on their backgrounds and personalities. In any case, this kind of sources is the only one we have available, and they are far from being worthless, especially at their most concrete sections, for instance – particularly important in the present context – when they deal with technical methods of farming. In these moments, possible preconceptions may disappear behind direct observation. I have tried to concentrate on such references.

  • 55 Besides I. Bathily (1969), see the writings of Cheikh Moussa Kamara (1975; 1998). It is quite proba (...)
  • 56 It is remarkable that Abdoulaye Bathily, who stressed the importance of oral traditions and who had (...)

40Furthermore, I have consulted the few extant internal sources55, as well as, obviously, the works of authors who had collected and analysed oral traditions. Unfortunately, the informative value of the latter when it comes to questions of economic and agricultural structures and techniques is particularly poor56. Nor have intensive archeological investigations been carried out in the Upper Senegal Valley, at least not regarding the second half of the past millennium with a focus on economic activities, although they were the most appropriate means of filling the gaps in our knowledge, as Ibrahima Thiaw has correctly underlined : “Given the paucity of historical sources and their Euro-centric nature, archaeology is the most promising approach for understanding this period” (Thiaw 1999 : 89).

41Hardly any of the early authors showed an interest in the contribution of women to agriculture. One remarkable exception was the colonial officer Saint-Père, commander of the district of Guidimakha. I will consider his findings even though they extend slightly beyond the time horizon of this paper, being in the 1920s. He differentiated family fields that provided the staple food product, millet, from women’s fields that were used to grow rice, corn, groundnuts and cotton. “Le produit de la récolte appartient aux cultivatrices, qui en font ce qu’elles veulent. Le chef de famille n’y a aucun droit” (Saint-Père 1925 : 33 ; Pollet and Winter 1971 : 147 ; Blanchard de La Brosse 1989). Saint-Père describes precisely the elaborate cultivation methods, which began in May with the weeding of the fields. The weeds were burnt, their ashes being spread and worked into the soil as fertilizer. As soon as the earth had been sufficiently saturated with water from the first rains, it was sown, and the rice plots were inundated. A system of dykes and dams prevented the water from coming in too quickly or too abundantly and thus causing damage to the seedlings. All these works were undertaken by the women, who, as already noted, alone benefitted from the harvest.

  • 57 Pollet and Winter (1971: 99) mention seed quantities of ten kilograms per hectare, but this would r (...)

42In connection with the obvious reliance of the quantities harvested on the variations in rainfall, both in time and in quantity, and on the most suitable date for the sowing, Saint-Père also pointed out the system used to store grain. Millet and rice were stored whenever possible until the moment when the following crop seemed to be guaranteed (Saint-Père 1925 : 36). Only then was the surplus brought to market (Saint-Père 1925 : 51), and the farmers became merchants, not only of grain, but also of textiles. Saint-Père gives also some information on the yield of millet per unit of seed, quoting ratios of 1 :200, 1 :300 and even 1 :500 (1925 : 33). If we knew the seed quantity per hectare, we could calculate the yield per unit of area. Supposed the seed per hectare was four kilograms, as recommended at present by the agricultural extension services in Senegal (Direction de l’agriculture 2001 : 72), then the per-hectare production was 0.8 to 2 tons, higher than today57. Obviously, all this is based on rough estimates.

The beginnings of the depression

  • 58 For a concise overview, see Abdoulaye Bathily 1972. Cf. also the well-known general works such as A (...)

43Saint-Père’s monograph describes the state of agriculture as he was able to capture it at the beginning of the twentieth century. Much of his account evokes practices that were already in existence previously, the author’s precise observations making his account very valuable. And yet the memories of contemporary witnesses and the findings of present-day researchers converge in judging that the situation in the Upper Senegal Region had begun to deteriorate greatly. The reasons for this change were closely connected with the increase in colonial domination. Given the broad existing literature on the French subjection of West Africa58, I will only review briefly some of the factors which contributed to the decline in the Upper Valley, without entering into detail. Their specific features are well known from studies of early colonial rule. Nor will I treat the general decline of the region comprehensively. Rather, I will present some reflections on the impact of the changes that did occur on modes of rural production.

  • 59 Archives AOF, 13 G 195, Rapport Agricole Cercle Bakel, March 1894.

44We have seen that throughout the whole period of our study, agricultural activities, besides ensuring the subsistence of the farmers, have a commercial aspect as well. In the second half of the nineteenth century they were expanded significantly. The temporary upswing of an already prosperous region, which in retrospect turned out to be nothing but a flash in the pan, was largely the result of the expansion of the French colonial economy. The French presence and the number of auxiliary personnel increased considerably. New centres of administration (Bakel, Médine, Kayes) were founded on the upper course of the Senegal River. The farmers of the region were able to satisfy the higher demand for grain and other foodstuffs, and more of it was shipped downstream to Saint-Louis. The boom in the gum trade also played an important role, further increasing the demand for grain supplies. In part, grain was delivered directly to the gum-sellers, while other parts were supplied to middlemen, who brought the grain to the trading stations on the lower Senegal and exchanged it there for the gum. However, by the end of the eighties the West African gum market, faced with Egyptian-British competitors, had collapsed. Between 1884 and 1896, prices fell by about a half (Clark 1999: 170). The agricultural report for the Bakel district of March 1894 clearly describes the situation: “La cause en est due à la substitution d’un produit similaire dans la fabrication des tissues, et à la grande quantité de cette matière [i. e. gum, V. St.] que l’on tire de l’Égypte59 ”. This implied a lower demand on the grain markets. It was thus fluctuations in the world market that rendered the first blow to agricultural production on the Upper Senegal.

45Other factors would follow. After the colonial territory had been extended, its administrative centre was moved to the south-east, from Kayes to Bamako. The marketplaces near the Senegal River lost their importance; the grain market of Bamako, on the other hand, flourished. Finally – and we have now reached the twentieth century – the railroad from Dakar to Bamako replaced the river as a trade route. The trading posts along the river were abandoned, and people left the region. Ibrahima Bathily described this exodus vividly : “Le commerce étant mort à Bakel comme dans toute la vallée du Fleuve Sénégal [...], le travail intense, les industries locales et les initiatives industrielles et collectives sont devenues inexistants. Alors les commerçants ont fermé leurs boutiques pour s’installer aux escales du D.N. (railway Dakar-Niger, V. St.). Les Administrateurs, craignant l’isolement [...] les ont suivis. Les enfants du pays désireux d’exercer pleinement leur activité, ont également subi l’attraction [...] vers Dakar, Kaolack, Thiès” (Bathily 1969 : 98).

  • 60 Tandjigora (2012: 249-250) noted a revival of intraregional trade and of vivid traditional channels (...)

46As already noted, the development of farming systems on the Upper Senegal was not the result of the process of colonization, as such systems had existed long before. Saint-Père found that the intensive cultivation techniques were still used at the beginning of the last century and were producing high yields. It seems as if the rural areas away from the course of the rivers and the urban centres of Bakel, Médine and Kayes were able to resist the economic decline longer. But they did not succeed in maintaining the precolonial modes of production, at least in the long run60. The reasons for this were the mass migration of the necessary labour force to the rising zones of colonial “mise en valeur”, but above all the impossibility of carrying on with earlier systems of production that had been based on slave labour. Early, timid attempts to transform slavery into tenancy relations or wage labour were interrupted, leaving open to question the direction they would have taken, provided, that is, they ever had a chance to evolve at all.

47Then, in the years after 1905, the economy, which had already been weakened, was struck by a series of ecological crises (Chastanet 1992), a situation aggravated by the tax-collecting activities of the colonial administration (Clark 1999: 208). Previously, monetary functions had been assumed by specific goods such as cloths or steel bars (Chastanet 1992). Colonial tax payment required cash, which obliged people to migrate in search for coined money and further eroded the locally available labour force.

  • 61 In earlier periods, its attitude was rather ambivalent; see Renault (1972); for the a.m. decree the (...)
  • 62 Archives AOF, 13 G 195, De la captivité.
  • 63 Both trade directions still existed at the end of the nineteenth century : “Ce mil sera transporté (...)

48To conclude, we found that until the end of the nineteenth century the Upper Senegal Valley was characterized by forms of agriculture which, when we compare them with other preindustrial societies, could be considered productive, viable and prosperous, and which had a strong commercial orientation. The occupants of this area were able to adapt their farming to the requirements of the increasing presence of Europeans and to profit temporarily from this expansion, turning their region into the granary of the French settlements. A rudimentary process of capital accumulation could be observed. However, the resulting economic upturn must be interpreted as a sign of strong external dependency. Soon it led to a marked change for the worse, as it became evident that promoting or upholding regional economic activities were not among the objectives of the colonial power. On the Upper Senegal, not only did the demand for agricultural products decrease, the system of production also changed. Labour became scarce when the workers migrated to the new centres of export-oriented agriculture producing mainly groundnuts. But above all it was now almost impossible to acquire slaves, and employing them became subject to prosecution. By a decree of 12 December 1905, the colonial administrators were urged to adopt a more consistent approach to slavery. As late as 1894, the commander of the district of Bakel had written61: “L’application de la loi de 1848 [abolition of slavery, V. St.] ne pourra se faire qu’à la longue. [...] Dans le cercle, les captifs sont en général employés aux cultures. Sans eux le pays deviendrait pauvre et la famine ne tarderait pas à se faire sentir 62”. Such latitude was no longer to be tolerated. Slave labour and trading grain both north along the river and downstream63 had been the bases of the incipient accumulation of capital, but then they had broken down. Henceforth the Upper Senegal was regarded as a labour reservoir. All the necessary conditions for its internal development had disappeared. What happened was a “reversal of fortune”, but not in the way Acemoğlu et al. formulated their well-known hypothesis (Acemoğlu et al. 2002). Instead of the absence of western institutions, which these authors believed formed an obstacle to development, it was rather the expansion of European colonial structures and institutions into Senegal, which put an end to its former prosperity.

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Bibliographie

References of the archive documents used for this article are given in footnotes.

Acemoğlu Daron, Johnson Simon, Robinson James A., 2002, Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution, Quarterly Journal of Economics 117 (4): 1231-1294.

Adams Adrian, 1977, Le Long Voyage des gens du Fleuve, Paris, Maspero.

Ajayi Jacob F., Crowder Michael (eds.), 1987, History of West Africa, vol. 2, Harlow, Longman.

Ba Konaré Adame, 2018, Le griot m’a raconté... Ferdinand Duranton, le prince français du Khasso (1797-1838), Paris, Présence Africaine.

Bathily Abdoulaye, 1972, La conquête française du Haut-Fleuve (Sénégal) 1818-1887, Bulletin I.F.A.N sér. B 34 : 67-112.

— 1975, Imperialism and Colonial Expansion in Senegal in the Nineteenth Century with Particular Reference to the Economic, Social and Political Developments of the Kingdom of Gajaaga (Galam), University of Birmingham (unpublished diss.).

1989, Les Portes de l’or. Le royaume de Galam (Sénégal) de l’ère musulmane au temps des négriers (viiie-xviiie siècle), Paris, L’Harmattan.

Bathily Ibrahima, 1969, Notices socio-historiques sur l’ancien royaume Soninké du Gadiaga, ed. by Abdoulaye Bathily, Bulletin I.F.A.N. sér. B, 31: 31-105.

Bellagamba Alice, Greene Sandra E., Klein Martin A. (eds.), 2013, African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Blanchard de La Brosse Véronique, 1989, Riz des femmes, riz des hommes au Guidimaka (Mauritanie), Études rurales 115/116 : 37-58.

Boucard Claude, 1974, Relation de Bambouc (1729), ed. Philip D. Curtin,

Bulletin I.F.A.N., sér. B, 36 : 246-275.

Cdt Caille,1851, Tableau statistique du fleuve du Sénégal, Revue coloniale, janv. 1851 : 5-19.

Chastanet Monique, 1987, De la traite à la conquête coloniale dans le haut Sénégal : L’État soninke du Gajaaga de 1818 à 1858, in Jean Boulègue (ed.), Contributions à l’histoire du Sénégal, Paris, Karthala : 87-108.

— 1992, Survival Strategies of a Sahelian Society: The Case of the Soninke in Senegal from the Middle of the Nineteenth Century to the Present, Food and Foodways 5 (2): 127-149.

1998, Introduction et place du maïs au Sahel occidental (Sénégal-Mauritanie), in ead. (ed.) Plantes et paysages d’Afrique. Une histoire à explorer, Paris, Karthala : 251-182.

2010, Couscous « à la sahélienne » (Sénégal, Mali, Mauritanie), in Hélène Franconie, Monique Chastanet, François Sigaut (dir.), Couscous, boulgour et polenta : Transformer et consommer les céréales dans le monde, Paris, Karthala : 149-187.

Clark Andrew F., 1999, From Frontier to Backwater: Economy and Society in the Upper Senegal Valley (West Africa) 1850-1920, Lanham, New York, Oxford, University Press of America.

Colin Charles, 1883, Le Soudan occidental, Revue maritime et coloniale 78 : 5-32.

Coquery-Vidrovitch Catherine (ed.), 1992, L’Afrique occidentale au temps des Français : colonisateurs et colonisés, ca. 1860-1960, Paris, La Découverte.

Couture Jean-Louis, 1997, Les « bouches de l’eau » du pays soninké : Protohydraulique paysanne, gestion des ressources naturelles, aménagement des terroirs et développement rural en région de Kayes, République du Mali, Mémoire DEA, Paris, EHESS.

Cultru Prosper, 1910, Histoire du Sénégal du xve siècle à 1870, Paris, Larose.

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Notes

1 See Stamm 2018: 48-51. The primary source material was edited by Levtzion and Hopkins 2000 and by Cuoq 1975.

2 The seminal work is Webb 1995.

3 The Kingdom of Kajaaga, in which I was now arrived, is called by the French, Gallam; but the name that I have adopted is universally used by the natives.’ (Park 1799: 63). The problem of differing and often incorrect designations for places and people in West Africa is well known. In this article I generally use the most common placenames, following the official French maps (IGN). However, source materials may have many different versions of names, which I always accept so long as they are understandable to the reader. I do not change the orthography or language used in old records, nor do I indicate unusual spellings.

4 There are potentially risks involved in any such undertaking. If Martin Heidegger had not insisted on linking his critique of technical civilization to the invented role of “world Jewry” (Weltjudentum), a construction as lacking in reason as it was unnecessary for his argument, and reflected instead on the essence of global capitalism, his reputation would have been less damaged.

5 Le Journal de son voyage [...] tel qu’il a été écrit par luy-même, et qu’il m’est tombé entre les mains” (Labat 1728 : vol. III, 295).

6 Boucard 1974 [1729 ] : 268. Four years earlier, Levens had mentioned ‘des petits ruisseaux qu’on nomme marigots, qui se remplissent a la moindre pluye.’ Archives Nationales d’Outre-Mer (ANOM), Aix-en-Provence, Fonds ministériels, C 6, 9, 10. July 1725, Compte que rend a la compagnie des Indes le sieur Levens de ce qu’il a appris des mines situées aux environs de Galam.

7 In Machat 1906: 60.

8 Labat 1728: III, 337-8; Durand 1802: 357, though he might have borrowed this from Labat.

9 Law identified a similar procedure on the Gold Coast (Law 2018: 20-21). The question of the “just price” was a major concern in pre-capitalist societies for theologians-philosophers, economic practioners (see above) and ordinary people. The subject is further developed in Stamm (2015).

10 ANOM C 6, 14, 25. April 1754, Mémoire sur le site St. Joseph.

11 ANOM, C 6, 2, Mémoire du Sieur de la Courbe sur le commerce de Guinée, 26. March 1693, fo. 6v.

12 ANOM C 6, 9, Mémoire Charpentier, 1. April 1725, fo. 2r, 24v.

13 Ibid., fo. 2r, 11r.

14 Ibid., fo. 2r : “produisant jusqu’a trois recoltes par an”.

15 Not Bambara groundnut, Voandzeia subterranea, but Arachis hypogaea.

16 McCann 2005: 24-25; Chastanet 1998. Both contain a discussion of the ways in which maize reached West Africa.

17 Relation du Sr Chambonneau, commis de la Compagnie de Sénégal, du voyage par luy fait en remontant le Niger (juillet 1688), in Froidevaux 1898 : 300-321.

18 This is plausible on the archaeological evidence; see McIntosh et al. 2016: 307-309, 391.

19 ANOM, Mémoire Charpentier, fo. 2v.

20 Ibid., fo. 3v.

21 Ibid., fo. 29v.

22 These forms of trade are abundantly documented in the sources. See in addition to the above quote Durand 1802: 323 and Goldberry 1802: 416-17.

23 Pruneau 1983 [1752]: 36. See also Rubault in Durand 1802: 314.

24 ANOM C 6, 12, 15. December 1749, Memoire contenant quelques observations que le Sr. Duliron [...] à faites lorsqu’il a parcouru et levé le plan de la rivière de Falemé, extensive extracts in Machat 1906 : 51-55, here 55.

25 ANOM C 6, 12, Mémoire Duliron, 15. Dec. 1749. This part is not included in Machat.

26 ANOM, C 6, 9, 10. July 1725, Compte que rend a la compagnie des Indes le sieur Levens de ce qu’il a appris des mines situées aux environs de Galam.

27 ANOM, C 6, 14, Mémoire général sur le commerce du Sénégal, not dated, around 1720, fo. 11v. For further documentary proof, see Bathily 1989: 278-282, 291.

28 The trade flows are displayed graphically by Monique Chastanet 1987.

29 ANOM, C 6, 10, 1. April 1732, Mémoire en forme de lettre touchant le commerce de Galam.

30 It was estimated that one year out of four was a year of grain shortages; ANOM, C 6, 14, 25. April 1754, untitled memoir on commerce.

31 Boucard 1974 [1729]: 257. Useful information, in spite of some chronological vagueness, about land tenure practices are found in an unpublished paper by professor of law Samba Traoré (1987). His study makes it clear how different these rules were, even on a small scale, without, however, compromising the above principle.

32 The basic stability of the main farming systems makes it unnecessary for me to discuss possible climatic change, even though this may appear as a shortcoming given current public debates over this topic. If there were such changes in the period under consideration beyond routine variations, then they were not on such a scale as to lead to changes in farming methods recognizable in the sources. For a more complete discussion, see Stamm 2018: 41-48, 76-78.

33 Archives AOF, now located in the Archives nationales du Sénégal (ANS), Dakar, 1 G 8, Rapport de M. Duranton, Bakel, 2. April 1824. On this unusual individual, see now Ba Konaré (2018). Copies of most documents of the Archives AOF have been transferred from the ANS to the ANOM in the form of microfilms. I read them there in Aix-en-Provence.

34 In the neighboring Futa Toro Gaspar Mollien identified, 25 years before Raffenel, seven species or varieties of millet (Mollien 1822: I, 343).

35 Archives AOF, 13 G 195, doc. 128, Organisation foncière des indigènes dans le cercle de Bakel (undated, about 1894/5).

36 Park 1799: 51. With regard to the designation of different types of grains, which was sometimes inconsistent, but not in the present case, see Chastanet 2010:163-165.

37 Archives AOF, 13 G 195, Rapport agricole cercle de Bakel, March 1894.

38 Couture 1997: 144. Couture did not undertake a historical study of the origins of the technologies he analyses, but he makes clear that they date from the precolonial era.

39 ANOM C 6, 1, 1664, État de l’habitation du Sénégal, arts. 15 and 16 (“bastiments... bastis et construits depuis 5 ans”, and “l’ancienne habitation ruynée par la mer…”).

40 This date is based on Jacob Le Maire, who wrote in 1682 : “Il y a environ 15 ans [...] Messieurs de la Compagnie voulant profiter de l’inondation envoyérent des Barques à la découverte des peuples, vers l’endroit de la séparation de ce bras du Niger” (Le Maire 1695 : 91). The author mistook the Senegal and the Gambia Rivers for two arms of the Niger.

41 ANOM, C 6, 2, Mémoire du S. de la Courbe sur le commerce de Guinée, 26 March 1693, fo. 6r.

42 For a general and still useful overview, see Prosper Cultru 1910.

43 Archives AOF, 13 G 165, doc. 42. Memorandum of July 30th, 1847, without title, 2.

44 Bathily 1975: 235. By the generic term jula the author understands the groups of merchants.

45 Accumulation is understood in its Marxian sense, as the transformation of surplus value in capital, capital meaning wealth used to bear profit (“Rückverwandlung von Mehrwert in Kapital heißt Akkumulation des Kapitals”, Marx 1972 [1867]: 605.) Today’s readers might wish to substitute the term surplus value by profit, without any change in the idea.

46 The most complete and most reliable data on the transatlantic slave trade are those in the databases of slavevoyages.org. For the whole of Senegambia in the eighteenth century they record the shipping of some 363,000 slaves, including an estimate of data not yet included in the database. About 20 per cent of these slaves were shipped from Saint-Louis, which means they came from the Senegal Valley and its catchment area, especially from its vast hinterland towards the Niger Valley. These estimates result in an absolute number of roughly 75,000 people in the eighteenth century, only a small proportion of whom originated in the Upper Senegal. With regard to internal slavery, Martin Klein found that at the beginning of the twentieth century 42 per cent of the total population of the district of Kayes were slaves (Klein 1998: 254). Finally, the trans-Saharan slave trade out of Senegal must not been forgotten, as it was considerable, although no reliable data are available; see Eltis and Engermann 2011: 64-65.

47 Charpentier, Mémoire, fo. 3v.

48 Fall’s reference to the rise of a “proto-bourgeoisie” remains too vague to provide specific insights into this process (Fall 1992: 59-105, 76).

49 Archives AOF, K 14, Étude sur la captivité dans le cercle de Nioro, 20. March 1894.

50 Ibid., K 14, Rapport sur la captivité dans le cercle de Médine, 23. April 1894.

51 Manchuelle 1997: 33-34. Compare for the Niger region Klein 1983.

52 Archives AOF, 13 G 195, Doc. 130, De la captivité, 20 May 1894. See also K 14, Rapport captivité Médine, 23. April 1894.

53 This process could also be observed in early periods of European history, as stressed by Laurent Feller : “Ils [the slaves, V. St.] ne doivent pas l’intégralité de leur travail à leur maître et s’inscrivent aussi dans un système de rente” (Feller 2017 : 43).

54 For a more complete discussion of this both crucial and controversial subject, see Stamm 2018: 30-31, 143-144. In brief, I strongly believe that African history is not fundamentally different from that of other regions of the world and that, as a consequence, the methods needed to study and record it are basically the same as those used elsewhere.

55 Besides I. Bathily (1969), see the writings of Cheikh Moussa Kamara (1975; 1998). It is quite probable that a systematic search for Arabic manuscripts would allow more source materials to be identified.

56 It is remarkable that Abdoulaye Bathily, who stressed the importance of oral traditions and who had privileged access to them, nevertheless based the chapters of his book, treating economic matters from the seventeenth century (Bathily 1989, chap. VIII), almost exclusively on archival and other written material. Jean-Louis Triaud expressed a desire for an interpretation of and comment on European editions of sources from an African perspective, but so far in vain (Triaud 1977). The first volume of Bellagamba et al. (2013), contains a case study which is close to the subject treated here and reveals some of the problems involved in using oral sources. It is a family biography of two Soninké recorded by Paolo Gaibazzi in 2007/8. From it we learn about two people, the father and grandfather of the informant, who came from Boundou and settled on the Gambia River. They became wealthy through a combination of farming and commerce, which we know well, and which confirms our results so far, but what else? For some reason or another (it seems in connection with a marriage), they became dependent on a master (obviously, although not explicitly mentioned, they were his slaves), but the exact circumstances, as well as the form of dependency and their duties to the master (or tutor?) remain vague. (Gaibazzi 2013).

57 Pollet and Winter (1971: 99) mention seed quantities of ten kilograms per hectare, but this would result in unreasonably high outputs.

58 For a concise overview, see Abdoulaye Bathily 1972. Cf. also the well-known general works such as Ajayi and Crowder (1987), Coquery-Vidrovitch (1992), as well as Adams (1977:44-49). An in-depth analysis is provided by Tandjigora (2012).

59 Archives AOF, 13 G 195, Rapport Agricole Cercle Bakel, March 1894.

60 Tandjigora (2012: 249-250) noted a revival of intraregional trade and of vivid traditional channels of trade during the First World War.

61 In earlier periods, its attitude was rather ambivalent; see Renault (1972); for the a.m. decree there, see pp. 102-104.

62 Archives AOF, 13 G 195, De la captivité.

63 Both trade directions still existed at the end of the nineteenth century : “Ce mil sera transporté dans le bas du fleuve où ce produit manque”, and “Les maures chef de caravane apportent aussi du sel ; les marchandises sont échangées en grande partie à Sélibaly contre du mil et un peu de guinée, un mouton vaut environ 50 kilos de mil” (Archives AOF, 13 G 195, Rapport agricole January 1894).

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Volker Stamm, « The rural economy of the upper Senegal valley before the consolidation of colonial rule (ca. A. D. 1680-1900) », Journal des africanistes, 90-1 | 2020, 52-79.

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Volker Stamm, « The rural economy of the upper Senegal valley before the consolidation of colonial rule (ca. A. D. 1680-1900) », Journal des africanistes [En ligne], 90-1 | 2020, mis en ligne le 01 janvier 2021, consulté le 28 février 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/africanistes/9717 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/africanistes.9717

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Volker Stamm

Darmstadt

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Société des africanistes

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