The End of Slave Trade in Egypt


Essay, 2016
10 Pages, Grade: 28

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We will also compare the Egyptian experience and the Sudanese one. The largest part of the actual Sudan
6
,
was under Ottoman-Egyptian rule at that time and it had the same legal obligations of the Egyptian
territories. The Mahdist revolution
7
(1881-1898) interrupted the Ottoman rule on Sudan, increasing the
internal use of slaves. The later British-Egyptian administration of Sudan (called Condominium, 1898-1956)
could not eliminate slavery in Sudan as well. In 1923 Great Britain protested because Ethiopia, entering in
the League of Nations, had on its territory people subject to slavery. Some voices pointed out, against British
position, that in Sudan the situation was pretty much the same
8
.
The importance of the slavery in the XIXth Century Egypt can be hardly over-estimated. The peak of the
slave imports from Sudan to Egypt has verified between 1860 and 1867 with 10.000 slaves imported yearly.
But, only then years later, the law against slave trade was promulgated (1873) and the legal condition of
slavery was abolished (1877). A clandestine import of slaves continued for many years, but with very
reduced quantities
9
.
The trade route (see chart 1) through which the highest amount of slaves was traded into Egypt, was called
"the Forty days route". The prices of slaves are reported in Table 1 In 1837 a British Pound corresponded to
100 Egyptian piasters.
10
Table 1
Year
Black Male in CAIRO
1800
185-340 piastres
1813
230-280 piastres
1837
800-900 piastres
1840
636 piastres
1845
848 piastres
1850
1038 piastres
1877
1000-2000 piastres
11
6
With the exception of Darfur, which was conquered in 1874. Darfur was an independent Sultanate
and its main source of income was slave trade. It is very likely that the aim of ending slave trade, by British,
could have been strengthened by geopolitical considerations about cutting revenues of independent territories
such as Darfur was.
7
Mahdi revolution was an Islamist revolution guided by a figure called Mahdi, who fought against
foreign rule in the country with an eschatological propaganda who associated the fighting against the Evil
with the Prophet Jesus. The Mahdi conquered Sudan and established his power in Khartoum between 1881
and 1885. When the English-Egyptian troops conquered Khartoum in 1885, the Mahdi died. However, his
successors had the control on other parts of Sudan, being defeated only in 1898. In the Chart 1 it is possible
to see the maximal extension of Madhya (1882-1885 ).
8
"Slavery in the Twentieth Century: the evolution of a global problem", Suzanne Miers, 2003
9
Estimated around 500 people yearly
10
Reda Mowafi "Slavery, Slave Trade and Abolition Attempts in Egypt and the Sudan 1820-1882",
Lund Studies in international History 14, &ESSELTESTUDIUM, 1981
11
Reda Mowafi "Slavery, Slave Trade and Abolition Attempts in Egypt and the Sudan 1820-1882",
Lund Studies in international History 14, &ESSELTESTUDIUM, 1981
2

Chart 1:
the forty days route (Darb el Arbain), which connected El Fasher to Asyut on
the Nile. The Mahdist state (1881-1885) interrupted the furniture
Source:
https://712c6c1c-a-62cb3a1a-s-
sites.googlegroups.com/site/eraselahistoria/home/1o-eso-ciencias-
sociales/las-culturas-de-asia-anterior-mesopotamia-the-egyptian-
civilization/the-egyptian-
civilization/nilebasin.gif?attachauth=ANoY7cpX7KQH0uRjeEs9P16dg4Jqn9
3nco2LQVO9mYlKsJzj0ScIKl7ru5hZCP1zCJOHHFUTljy-
aXuo7JE11HsxM0 7GrB23bnixsy41VjrvKAwU3a9IYtiHXHQ3s4ezpwY 0DY
3

12
The Egyptian necessity of workforce: cotton production in Egypt
Table 2 ­Cotton production in Egypt
cotton prod In bales (each 480 lbs. Net)
Year Average Crop (ginned cotton)
1850-1859
687
1860-1869
250,743
1870-1879
469,356
1880-1889
576,133
1890-1899
1,061,187
13
In 1838 a treaty between Great Britain and Ottoman Empire created the possibility, for the British subjects,
to send capitals in Egypt
14
. On monetary side, the Egyptian currency reform in 1835, gave to Egypt a
bimetallic standard and allowed the following growth of banking activity since 1850s, improved by the
invention of telegraph. These new measures gave to Egyptian governors the capitals
15
which were necessary
to modernize Egypt, financing the perennial irrigation in Nile Delta and cultivated long-staple cotton,
sugarcane and rice (and finally the Suez Canal).
16
12
Data in table 1 are from: Reda Mowafi "Slavery, Slave Trade and Abolition Attempts in Egypt and
the Sudan 1820-1882", Lund Studies in international History 14, &ESSELTESTUDIUM, 1981
13
Data in Table 2 are from Cotton in Egypt, Read P. Dunn, JR. Director of Foreign Trade, National
Cotton Council of America 1948
14
The treaty, applied in 1842 in Egypt, made possible to send British capitals in Ottoman Empire.
15
Tariq M. Yousef, "Egypt's growth performance under economic liberalism: a reassessment with new
GDP estimates 1886­1945" Georgetown University, Washington, D.C, 2002. The fact that capital
investments and cotton trade deeply linked Egypt and Great Britain, can be proved by the study of Yousef.
He provides evidences of a long-term equilibrium between UK and Egyptian monetary values, evidencing
the prices' convergence between the two countries.
16
Despite the high growth rate, Egyptian government started since 1858 to be strangled by foreign
debts.
4

The integration with world trade is reflected by the Egyptian trade balance. 1823 imports counted for
656,000 English Pounds, exports for 1,455,000 E Pounds. In 1838, the total value of trade increased to 3.5
million E Pounds, in 1850 to 3.7 million E Pounds, in 1880 to 21.8 million E Pounds (moreover, Egyptian
trade measures are officially stated to be undervalued until 1911).
17
Between 1838 and 1865 cotton export
increased 10.5 times in volume and 21 in value. The introduction of the Ashmouni cotton gave also a boost
in production in Upper Egypt, due to the development of a perennial irrigation system .
18
(Table 2)
The last boom of foreign demand was notably due to American Civil War. In these years (1861-1865), the
cotton area grew from 200'000 to 500'000 acres. After the war, the cotton price started a decline which
would continue until 1900.
The growth could probably have been still higher, if Egypt would not have been affected by
workforce scarcity. The harsh treatment (expropriation, forced labor and high taxation) reserved by
government to fellahin, made them flee to Palestine between 1830s and 1840s. Moreover, at the starting of
XIX century, mortality rate was very high. The end of wars and the rise in nutrition and life standard brought
to an increase in birthrate along the XIXth Century, but this change became important only in the last part of
the century, as we can see through Table 3.
The population growth in Egypt and the end of Slavery
Table 3
Year
Population of Egypt
wages compared in % of
Great Britain
1846
4,476,439
1860
5,506,253
1882
7,840,271
11.90%
1897
9,734,405
13.80%
19
The large increase of Egyptian population during the XIX century (table 3) was due to a higher quantity of
food, to the regime stability and a lower mortality rate with respect to the former years.
20
The Napoleonic
war and the poor administration of Mamelukes had made of Egypt a country with few million people in the
1810/1820s. Since 1830s until 1880s, the country needed workforce of every kind in order of actuating those
land intensive cultivation plans, which 'Ali had planned and started and the Ottomans had pursued after him.
One of the responses to this difficulty was the slave import. Another response was the use of forced labor by
17
Charles Issawi "De-Industrialization and Re-Industrialization in the Middle East since 1800",
International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 12, No.
18
P. Dunn, JR "Cotton in Egypt",. Director of Foreign Trade, National Cotton Council of America
1948
19
Data
on wages are from Jeffrey G. Williamson, "Real Wages and Relative Factor Prices in the Third
World 1820-1940: The Mediterranean Basin", Harvard University Discussion Paper Number 1842 July
1998. Data on Population are from Justin A. McCarthy, "Nineteenth-Century Egyptian Population", Middle
Eastern Studies, Vol. 12, No. 3, Special Issue on the Middle Eastern Economy, 1976
20
McCarthy, "Nineteenth-Century Egyptian Population", Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 12, No. 3,
Special Issue on the Middle Eastern Economy, 1976. He evidence in the years 1800-1846 the deep impact of
plagues such as pestilence and Cholera and the Mohammed'Ali's wars on the Egyptian population in urban
and rural areas.
5

fellahin
21
, which was important in the construction of infrastructures such as Suez Canal.
22
As the scholar
Henry Verhoeven suggested, the growth in slave import was the natural outcome of both the will of Ottoman
Empire and Great Britain. The Empire needed a growth in tax revenue
23
from Egypt and Great Britain
needed cheap cotton. In fact, Egyptian cotton was absorbed mainly by Great Britain (at the 80% in 1900)
24
.
How could this dependence on slavery be broken? There were different events, all happening at a
same time. On one side, the British Empire and the Egyptian governors wanted to apply a Western
development model to Egypt, using consequently salaried workers and not slaves. This trend of legal
abolition of slavery is common to all the countries which were under the British sphere of influence even if,
as I anticipated, its enforcement was not always attended. Another important fact was surely the Mahdi
revolution in Sudan, which impeded the use of the Forty Days Route since 1881.
But, probably, the most efficacious element in the elimination of slavery was the decreasing cost of
the free workforce, a decrease due mainly to the effects of the population growth. Since the 1870s, wages
were at 11.90% and in 1890 their annual growth was at -0.21.
25
The negative growth of salaries suggests a
very low demand of workforce compared with its increasing quantity. A free worker earning from 5 to 10
piastre each month was an incentive to abolish slavery.
26
Moreover, at that time, the cost of a slave amounted
to 1000-2000 piastre and this was not an incentive for slaves demand. Finally, the free workers protection
was almost inexistent at that time but the mortality on workplaces was high. Even this can have made more
risky the investment of buying a slave than that of hiring a free worker.
27
Now, one must consider that the cotton production had become less profitable after the end of the
Civil War in the USA (1865), but that Egyptian cotton producers decided to go ahead with the cotton
production even if a lower prices. In these new conditions, all the reason for the choice of free workers
hereby mentioned became very efficacious. Of course, one cannot point the risqué cost of buying a slave
(compared to the cheaper salaries of a daily worker) as the only reason why slavery was abolished. The
21
fellahin means agricultural laborer, peasant
22
For the amount of fellahin utilized and their conditions, in the construction of Suez Canal, see
Vladimir Borisovich Lutsky, "Modern History of Arab Countries",
1969
23
Considering that this project transformed Egypt into an indebted country, changing its role of tax
contributor for Istanbul, one must be surprised by the lack of foresight of the leaders of the Ottoman Empire.
But one must also remember that the whole Empire was going to fall.
24
Harry Verhoeven "Water, civilization and power in Sudan, the political economy of Military-Islamist
State Building", African Studies, Cambridge University Press ,2015
25
Jeffrey G. Williamson, "Real Wages and Relative Factor Prices in the Third World 1820-1940: The
Mediterranean Basin," Harvard University Discussion Paper Number 1842 July 1998
26
Zvi Yehuda Hershlag "Introduction to the Modern Economic History of the Middle East", Brill
Archive, 1980
27
Tariq M. Yousef, "Egypt's growth performance under economic liberalism: a reassessment with new
GDP estimates 1886­1945" Georgetown University, Washington, D.C, 2002"The historical claim that
income per capita improved little or not at all in the first half of the 20th century is supported by our
results". This condition is clearly related to the lack of improvement of wages of low-skilled workforce (see
table 3)
6

abolition of slavery was also a form to give a form of "nobility" to the imperialist action of firstly Eguptian
and then British forces in Sudan.
Since 1830s, slavery was increasingly denounced by the Europeans as an uncivil heritage of the
past. Both France and in particularly Great Britain, during the XIX century, saw abolition as a
central issue of their foreign relations with Egypt
28
. In Khartoum, however, the slave trade
continued as normal, since the authority had very little control over the regions between the Nile
and the Red Sea coast. It seemed necessary, since the 1860s, to penetrate till the lakes of Equator,
principal sources of the Nile, to stop slave trade. This also gave a reason to the Egypt Government
wish to extend its control over a region which was rich in water resources
29
. In the 1870s, Egypt
was able finally to abolish really the slave trade from Sudan, thanks also to the fact that it took the
control of Red Sea ports at the place of the Ottoman Empire. However, this would have been
probably not enough without a scarcely perceptible but continuous change of mind toward slavery
in the Egyptian society and, most of all, without the Mahdist revolution, which, after 1881, cut the
roads, which made possible the arrival of the slaves
30
.
Sudan and Slavery
The previous explanation of the sudden decrease of slavery in Egypt can be confirmed through the
observation of Sudan. Darfur Sultanate, the only part of the actual Sudan which did resisted to British or
Egyptian penetration, fell finally in 1874; according to Mahmood Mamdani, a Darfur historian,
It was the collapse of the royal monopoly over the slave trade that led to the collapse of the Sultanate, which
came when the demand for slaves skyrocketed in the late eighteenth century with the incorporation of the
region into the larger slave plantation economy.
31
In Sudan, during the XIX century, each landowner normally owned from 20 to 200 slaves. There are no
precise estimation of the number of slaves in the country but Mowafi, through an analogy with similar
economies, estimates them as 20-30% of the whole population. The various nomadic tribes were composed
by slaves from the 8% to the 40% of population; in the urban center slaves were about the 15.25%. In 1838 it
is reported that 20000 slaves pro year, coming from Trans-Saharan and Nile valley, joined the Red Sea coast,
the great pole of slave trade in North/East Africa. Another supplier of slaves was Abyssinia: in 1860s from
Abyssinia to Darfur, arrived 18'000 slaves per annum. Then, 12'000-15'000 slaves were exported from the
South of Darfur to Khartoum. Over 1,250,000 slaves were exported from Abyssinia to Darfur between 1800
28
Reda Mowafi
29
Harry Verhoeven, 2015
30
Reda Mowafi
31
Mahmood Mamdani, "Saviors and Survivors : Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror", Three
Rivers Press 2010.
7

and 1850. By 1876, also if diminished, the overall trade in slaves from Red Sea to Arabia was about 30'000
annually
32
.
Sudan and the Arabic Gum production
Turkish administration established a centralized cultivation in Sudan and taxed it, at the goal of financing
Egyptian transformation. The racial antagonism between tribes increased.
33
The Turkiyya started some
irrigation processes in Kordofan, often with foreign technical support, which rose the production:
the export of Arabic Gum amounted at 3000 quantars
34
of the early XIX to 20'000 quantars (900
tons) in the 1850s
35
.
The Arabic Gum was the most important product of Sudanese economy and its
market was liberalized in 1849, letting rise the Gum export from the 3000 quantars
36
of the early XIX
century to the 20'000 quantars (900 tons) in the 1850s. With the reconquer of Khartoum (1891), Ottoman
government decided to boost the export of Arabic Gum, from the2'000 tons of 1891 to the 11,816 from the
only Kordofan in 1904.
37
At the end of XIX century, foreign workforce arrived from Chad
38
and Niger and
became the class of fellata. These people populated the Oriental and Northern Sudan and worked in
cultivations. After the Mahdist parenthesis, Sudan fell under the rule of a joint British and Egyptian rule,
from 1898 to 1956. The British were, as we saw, one of the world's political antagonists of the slavery.
Nevertheless, the way in which the country was developed left outside of the patterns of modernization a the
high majority of the country, instead focusing only on single industries as cotton
39
. No wonder that, in spaces
outside of the Anglo-Egyptian attention, the local slavery may have continued: he anthropologist Suzanne
Miers states that still in 1923 "agriculture in Northern Sudan was still based on slave labor".
40
Conclusions ­ The end of the Red Sea slave route
32
Reda Mowafi "Slavery, Slave Trade and Abolition Attempts in Egypt and the Sudan 1820-1882",
Lund Studies in international History 14, ESSELTESTUDIUM, 1981.
33
Harry Verhoeven "Water, civilization and power in Sudan, the political economy of Military-
Islamist State Building, African Studies, Cambridge University Press , 2015" the Dongola and Shendi
communities were forced to increase their agricultural outputs and all this brought to a massive depopulation
of rural areas; Danagla and Ja'aliyyin tribes on the contrary profited by the labor intensive agriculture and
the Shaiggiyya tribe became the Turkish taxes collector.
34
One quantar was 45 kg (Egypt)
35
Endre Stiansen, Michael Kevane, "Kordofan invaded: peripheral incorporation and social transformation in
Islamic Africa"Brill, 1998
36
One quantar was 45 kg (Egypt)
37
Endre Stiansen, Michael Kevane, "Kordofan invaded: peripheral incorporation and social
transformation in Islamic Africa", Brill, 1998
38
Following the French invasion in Chad, 1891
39
See P.K. Norris" Cotton production in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan" Library of Congress,
1934
40
Daniel Pipes, "Chattel slavery in Sudan" 2002.
8

Egyptian and Sudanese slave trade were the main countries of the Red Sea Market area of slave trade.
41
Since 1800 till 1884, this area provided a sum of 250,000 slaves from the Gulf of Aden, 111,000 from
Massawa, 24,000 from Northern Danikil and 107,000 from Suakin. The available datas from West Arabia are
of 31,100 slaves imported since 1856 to 1884
42
. During the years after 1884, there is certainly a decrease of
the slave trade in this area, but we have not reliable sources on its rhythm. One must consider even that the
technological change in transport (especially with steamship) may have influenced the traditional routes of
the slave trade, making them different and less traceable than in the past times. Anyway, it is evident that the
decrease is due chiefly to the changes in social structure, which destroyed the slavery environment in many
countries of the area. Therefore, one can conclude that the first wave of globalization, if ­ on one hand ­
boosted the demand for slaves and slave trade, it created also ­ on the other hand ­ those social conditions
which allowed to overtake this social phenomenon.
Bibliography
1.
Charles Issawi "De-Industrialization and Re-Industrialization in the Middle East since
1800", International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 12, No.
2.
Daniel Pipes, "Chattel slavery in Sudan" 2002.
3.
Endre Stiansen, " Kordofan invaded: peripheral incorporation and social transformation in
Islamic Africa", Michael Kevane, Brill, 1998
4.
Fage and Roland Oliver "The Cambridge History of Africa".D. Fage and Roland Oliver,
Volume V
5.
Gabriel Baer, "Slavery in the XIX century Egypt", Journal of African History, 1967
6.
Harry Verhoeven "Water, civilization and power in Sudan, the political economy of Military-
Islamist State Building"- African Studies, Cambdridge University Press, 2015
7.
Justin A. McCarthy, "Nineteenth-Century Egyptian Population", Middle Eastern Studies,
Vol. 12, No. 3, Special Issue on the Middle Eastern Economy, Taylor Francis. 1976
8.
Mahmood Mamdani "Saviors and Survivors : Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror", 2010
Three Rivers Press
9.
Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, "A Modern Economic History of Africa: The nineteenth century"
figures in table by Roger Owen (1969)
10.
Ralph A. Austen, "The 19th century Islamic Slave Trade from East Africa (Swahili and Red
Sea Coasts): A Tentative Census". 2008.
11.
P. Dunn, JR. " Cotton in Egypt, " National Cotton Council of America 1948
41
The Red Sea Market's centers were : (from the North to the South) Suakin, Massawa, Norther
Danikil, Gulf of Aden)
42
Ralph A. Austen,"The 19th century Islamic Slave Trade from East Africa (Swahili and Red Sea
Coasts): A Tentative Census", University of Chicago Published online: 13 Jun 2008.
9

12.
Reda Mowafi "Slavery, Slave Trade and Abolition Attempts in Egypt and the Sudan 1820-
1882", Lund Studies in international History 14, ESSELTESTUDIUM, 1981
13.
Suzanne Miers, "Slavery in the Twentieth Century: the evolution of a global problem" 2003
14.
Norris, P.K.
" Cotton production in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan" Library of Congress,
1934
15.
Tariq M. Yousef, "Egypt's growth performance under economic liberalism: a reassessment
with ne
w GDP estimates 1886­1945" Georgetown University, Washington, D.C, Review of
Income and Wealth Series 48, Number 4,
2002
16.
Zvi Yehuda Hershlag "Introduction to the Modern Economic History of the Middle East",
E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1964
10
10 of 10 pages

Details

Title
The End of Slave Trade in Egypt
Grade
28
Author
Year
2016
Pages
10
Catalog Number
V387743
ISBN (Book)
9783668620803
File size
1259 KB
Language
English
Notes
I am a master's graduate in International Relations at LUISS Guido Carli University of Rome, with the grade of 110 on 110 cum laude. I spent three months abroad with an Internship in Khartoum and I wrote my final dissertation on "Political Islam in Sudan for state and non-state actors and its role for regional alliances and stability" under the chair of "Islam, culture and politics"
Tags
XIX century, Egypt, slave, Sudan, trade
Quote paper
Olga Piro (Author), 2016, The End of Slave Trade in Egypt, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/387743

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