This thesis addresses how and why West African consumers, especially those along the Senegal River valley, imported and consumed Indian cotton textiles from the eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century, despite the fact that they produced textiles of various kinds. Using quantitative and qualitative sources collected from France, India, Senegal and the United Kingdom, the thesis fulfils this gap in the existing literature. Throughout this study, it will be shown that local textile production and consumption in West Africa based on factor endowments and natural environment shaped consumer demand and preferences for Indian cotton textiles whose quality was perceived to be more suitable to the life of inhabitants in the region (especially in the savannah and desert areas) than European textiles. In addition, Indian textiles not only suited conspicuous consumption among Africans but also regional economies in which cloth was used as an exchange medium. In the eighteenth century, West African demand for Indian cotton textiles of various types was central to the purchase by European merchants of slaves along coastal areas of West Africa. In the early nineteenth century, which witnessed the transition from the Atlantic slave trade to the trade in commercial agriculture, dark-blue cotton textiles produced in Pondicherry, called ‘guinées’, were of essential importance in the trade in gum Arabic in the lower Senegal River as a currency that replaced a domestically-produced cloth currency. The gum from the region was indispensable in the development of the textile industry in Western Europe at that time. This regional demand influenced the Euro-West African trade and the procurements by Europeans of cotton textiles in India. The thesis argues that historically constructed consumer agency in pre-colonial West Africa had global repercussions from the eighteenth to midnineteenth century.
Most fascinating story of Indian Ocean trade in textiles and interconnections with slavery