Nineteenth-Century Arab Trade: the Growth of a Commercial Empire

  • R. M. A. van Zwanenberg
  • Anne King


The expansion of Arab caravans and Arab personnel into the interior of East Africa throughout the nineteenth century was in a sense the first stage of imperialism which was to transform the face of Africa in the twentieth century. Nineteenth-century Arab trade did not produce such radical changes as the European imperial trade which followed. The technology of transport was still based on human muscle power, the main export goods were ivory and human beings which were exchanged for cloth and a few iron goods. The Arabs were concerned almost exclusively with the export-import trade. Unlike the Europeans they did not have the physical means to set up central government controls in any part of Eastern Africa. Yet, despite this lack of innovation, by the 1880s there were very few areas that had not been influenced by the Arabs’ activities in one way or another.


Indian Ocean Nineteenth Century Economic History Slave Trade Slave Labour 
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Copyright information

© R. M. A. van Zwanenberg with Anne King 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. M. A. van Zwanenberg
  • Anne King

There are no affiliations available

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