Currency as Commodity, as Symbol of Sovereignty and as Subject of Legal Dispute: Henri Greffülhe and the Coinage of Zanzibar in the Late Nineteenth Century

  • Catherine Eagleton
Part of the Palgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies book series (IOWS)


This chapter considers silver and copper coins issued for Zanzibar in the l880s in the name of Sultan Barghash. Minted in Belgium by a syndicate led by the French merchant Henri Greffülhe, these coins became the subject of a legal dispute involving Great Britain which was settled by international arbitration. Eagleton argues that these coins are more than just a numismatic curiosity and that this case study can be a way of understanding changing and competing ideas of sovereignty, connected to legal and territorial disputes during this critical period in East African history. The chapter ends by showing that this symbolic power of money endures, since Zanzibaris still saw these coins symbols of the Sultan’s sovereignty in the 1930s, after the island had been under British rule for more than 40 years.

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine Eagleton
    • 1
  1. 1.University of St AndrewsSt AndrewsScotland, UK

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