|Part of a series on|
Panyarring was the practice of seizing and holding persons until the repayment of debt or resolution of a dispute which became a common activity along the Atlantic coast of Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries.The practice developed from pawnship, a common practice in West Africa where members of a family borrowing money would be pledged as collateral to the family providing credit until the repayment of the debt. Panyarring though is different from this practice as it involves the forced seizure of persons when a debt was not repaid.
When the Atlantic slave trade came to be a prominent economic force along the Atlantic coast, panyarring became a means for securing additional persons to trade, disrupting the trade of rivals, in some instances of protecting members of a person's family from being taken in the slave trade, and a political and economic tool used by European forces.
The practice was banned by a number of African kingdoms, notably by the Ashanti Empire in 1838. The British took a strong stance against panyarring when they established their administration on the coast and banned the practice in 1903. The prominence of the activity decreased and it has not been widely used in West Africa since that time. Pawnship was a form of slavery.
Pawnship was a common form of collateral in West Africa, which involved the pledge of a person (or a member of the person's family) to service to a person providing credit. Pawnship was related but distinct from slavery in that the arrangement could include limited, specific terms of services to be provided and because kinship ties would protect the person from being sold into slavery. Pawnship was a common practice prior to European contact throughout West Africa, including amongst the Akan people, the Ewe people, the Ga people, the Yoruba people, and the Edo people (in modified forms, it also existed amongst the Efik people, the Igbo people, the Ijaw people, and the Fon people).
John Atkins, Voyage to Guinea, Brazil, and the West Indies 1737.
In contrast to pawnship, panyarring involved the arbitrary seizure of persons in order to force repayment for a debt or to recoup the loss by selling the person into slavery.Panyarring was one of many forms of debt repayment in the region, but was one of the most extreme forms of forcing repayment. Panyarring could include the person who was provided credit, a member of that person's family, or even a member of the community or a trade associate of that person (as a result of the belief in collective responsibility for debts). In addition to forcing debt repayment, panyarring could also be used to force a person to a palver or palaver, a court-like process for repayment of loss. Evidence of panyarring prior to European contact is scant and not well documented, and it is generally believed to have been rarely used.
The root of the word is based on the Portuguese words penhóràr (to distrain or to seize) and penhór (a surety or a pawn). When the Portuguese came to the Gold Coast in the 16th century, they used the word penhóràr to describe the local practice among the Akan people of pawnship.Gradually, the word became commonly used by Europeans to describe the practice of seizing a person for repayment of debt or to remedy an injury along the whole coast of Africa.
Panyarring became a large-scale activity in West Africa largely with the increase in the Atlantic slave trade. The lengthy trade networks from hundreds of miles inland to the coast required similarly complex forms of credit relationships and pawnship was used extensively by both Africans and European traders.However, it had different system and structure in each different area along the Atlantic coast.
Along the Gold Coast, in present-day Ghana, panyarring became a tool used in the slave trade and in the contest between the Dutch, British, and other European powers for trade along the coast. Politically, in the 18th century, that area of Africa was populated by a number of fragmented Akan polities without an organized central power.With the increase of slave trading, panyarring became a means of seizing persons, sometimes regardless of whether there was a pre-existing loan agreement and holding them hostage, selling them into slavery, or simply seizing their goods. It also regulated relationships between the different communities by bringing persons to palaver courts for settlement in front of a judge.
Panyarring became a means of securing people for sale into the Atlantic slave trade. Debts could be real or invented, persons would be seized, and quickly sold to European slavers and transported before families of those persons seized could respond. In addition, slave traders operating away from the coast were sometimes panyarred before they could reach the port cities and all the slaves they were bringing to the ports would be seized and quickly sold.
In one case in 1773, an Obutong chief's sons who had been pawns in an arrangement were sold to a European slave ship. The chief, Robin John Ephraim, was left with little choice but to panyar the ships and release his sons and other members of his tribe seized for the slave trade.
Both Europeans and Africans began using panyarring as an extension of political and economic policies in the region and for a range of purported offenses. For example, in 1709 British slave traders were upset with an African slave trader who allegedly sold them a "mad" slave. When the dispute increased, the African slave traders panyarred the British captain and held him until both sides negotiated an outcome. Similarly, in 1797 Archibald Dalzel, the British governor of the Gold Coast, panyarred a Fante priest in Anomabo when members of the village had refused to repay debts to British officers because those officers had died. Dalzel held the priest at the Cape Coast Castle for a week until the chief of Anomabo agreed to repay the debts.
Europeans would use panyarring in order to secure food or goods when it seemed opportune. One British commander noted that whenever the English wanted any goat, sheep, or chicken, they would simply go into the town and take the animal. The owner would then come to the British fort and be paid for the animal, not always at the fair market rate.
The British and the Dutch incorporated panyarring into their competitive strategies with one another. African traders and merchants associated with the other power would be panyarred in order to disrupt the trade or attempt to change the allegiance of the trader.For example, in 1688 in the port of Komenda, the Dutch panyarred John Cabess, a powerful African trader loyal to the British, and although he was quickly released they kept all of the goods he had carried with him. This insult to Cabess may have been a prominent contributor to the attacks he launched against the Dutch starting the Komenda Wars (1694–1700), a conflict where the British, Dutch, and African parties used panyarring regularly as an extension of the attacks against other parties.
The active panyarring along the Gold Coast in the 17th and 18th centuries eventually resulted in a situation where communities were extremely vulnerable to its members being seized and sold in the slave trade or held for payment. Travel between communities became very dangerous and even working alone away from communities could make one vulnerable to seizure. Initially, communities adopted practices to try to protect themselves from panyarring practices with the creation of Asafo, military units which could provide travel protection or protection to communities.
As the Ashanti Empire rose to prominence and began consolidating authority it tried to end the practice of panyarring. King Kwaku Dua I Panyin banned the practice of panyarring around 1838.This prohibition required use of the military and administrative function of the Ashanti, and was continued until 1883 until the overthrow of Mensa Bonsu and chaos which followed. Panyarring then became an active means of securing repayment of debt and for political and economic ends again. In 1902, the British took over the Ashanti area and created the area of modern-day Ghana into a formal protectorate. One of the first achievements of the new administration was to end the practice of panyarring in the colony. They brought persons engaged in panyarring to court and punished them resulting in a large-scale end of the practice by 1903.
Evidence of panyarring in Yorùbáland, in present-day Nigeria, before the 1830s is fairly limited. European traders were threatened with panyarring on occasions when disputes arose, but it did not reach the level it did along the Gold Coast. In the mid-19th century however, documentation shows a number of examples of panyarring occurring as a form of political struggle between the various tribes. Chiefs could allow panyarring within their territory, decide to use panyarring in rivalry with other chiefs, or agree to panyarring in exchange for money. Historian Olatunji Ojo has discovered a number of cases in Yorubaland of such activities, including, in 1879, the deputy king of a city called Itebu who panyarred a Mahi man in exchange for a small fee from another Mahi man who accused the first of adultery with one of his wives. Similarly, an Egba chief once panyarred members of an Awori tribe which had panyarred a young girl in his village.
Panyarring thus was a prime cause of deteriorating relations between different Yoruba chiefs, causing significant periods of tensions between different groups and directly causing the Ondo-Ikale war of 1891.With British expansion in the 1880s and 1890s, panyarring decreased in importance throughout Yorubaland.
The Kingdom of Dahomey, along the coast in present-day Benin, took over the kingdoms of Allada and Whydah in the 1720s and established control over part of the Atlantic coast and became one of the main participants in the slave trade. Allada and Whydah had been prominent users of panyarring for much of their contact with Europeans. The king of Allada, toward the end of the 17th century, was recorded as threatening local traders who were in default on loans that "all their wives would be taken." Similarly, Whydah was known for being particularly hard on debtors because it allowed panyarring of persons or goods whenever loans were not paid.pg. 75
Dahomey had banned the practice of panyarring in the early 17th century under King Houegbadja, requiring that all debt disputes be handled in royal courts. When Dahomey conquered Allada and Whydah the practice was banned. Although the kingdom was known for its militarism and slave raids, Dahomey did not use panyarring and the practice was not prominent along what was known as the Slave Coast in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Panyarring has been described in some form during the 18th and 19th centuries from present-day Sierra Leone to Angola along the coast of Africa. Other than the Gold Coast or Yorubaland, panyarring never reached significant levels. Lovejoy and Richardson claim that the prevalence of panyarring is largely related to the structure and ability for debt repayment through authorized channels. When credit and debt relationships lack structure, pawnship and panyarring became prominent.
However, panyarring did still affect trade relationships throughout the coast at a number of points. The most prominent was the Bimbia affair. In 1788, a British trader bought 30 persons held in pawnship in Bimbia, in present-day Cameroon, for transport to the Americas. Among those included were the sons and daughters of the king of Bimbia who gathered significant slaves and ivory to pay for their release, but the British captain would not release them and sailed away. As a result, the locals panyarred two other British ships in retaliation until a Dutch ship captured the British ship and returned to Bimbia with the persons held on the ship. Throughout the coast, Europeans and Africans participated in panyarring more rarely until it became nonexistent in the early 20th century.
The Kingdom of Dahomey was an African kingdom that existed from about 1600 until 1904, when the last king, Béhanzin, was defeated by the French, and the country was annexed into the French colonial empire. Dahomey developed on the Abomey Plateau amongst the Fon people in the early 17th century and became a regional power in the 18th century by conquering key cities on the Atlantic coast.
The Atlantic slave trade or transatlantic slave trade involved the transportation by slave traders of enslaved African people, mainly to the Americas. The slave trade regularly used the triangular trade route and its Middle Passage, and existed from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The vast majority of those who were enslaved and transported in the transatlantic slave trade were people from Central and West Africa, who had been sold by other West Africans to Western European slave traders, who brought them to the Americas. The South Atlantic and Caribbean economies were particularly dependent on labour for the production of sugarcane and other commodities. This was viewed as crucial by those Western European states which, in the late 17th and 18th centuries, were vying with each other to create overseas empires.
Agaja was a king of the Kingdom of Dahomey, in present-day Benin, who ruled from 1718 until 1740. He came to the throne after his brother King Akaba. During his reign, Dahomey expanded significantly and took control of key trade routes for the Atlantic slave trade by conquering Allada (1724) and Whydah (1727). Wars with the powerful Oyo Empire to the east of Dahomey resulted in Agaja accepting tributary status to that empire and providing yearly gifts. After this, Agaja attempted to control the new territory of the kingdom of Dahomey through militarily suppressing revolts and creating administrative and ceremonial systems. Agaja died in 1740 after another war with the Oyo Empire and his son Tegbessou became the new king. Agaja is credited with creating many of the key government structures of Dahomey, including the Yovogan and the Mehu.
Tegbesu or Bossa Ahadee was a king of the Kingdom of Dahomey, in present-day Benin, from 1740 until 1774. While not the oldest son of King Agaja (1718-1740), he became king after Agaja's death following a succession struggle with a brother.
Kpengla was a King of the Kingdom of Dahomey, in present-day Benin, from 1774 until 1789. Kpengla followed his father Tegbessou to the throne and much of his administration was defined by the increasing Atlantic slave trade and regional rivalry over the profits from this trade. His attempts to control the slave trade generally failed, and when he died of smallpox in 1789, his son Agonglo came to the throne and ended many of his policies.
Agonglo was a King of the Kingdom of Dahomey, in present-day Benin, from 1789 until 1797. Agonglo took over from his father King Kpengla in 1789 and inherited many of the economic problems that developed during Kpengla's reign. Because of the poor economy, Agonglo was often constrained by domestic opposition. As a response, he reformed many of the economic policies and did military expeditions to try to increase the supply for the Atlantic slave trade. Many of these efforts were unsuccessful and European traders became less active in the ports of the kingdom. As a final effort, Agonglo accepted two Portuguese Catholic missionaries which resulted in a large outcry in royal circles and resulted in his assassination on May 1, 1797. Adandozan, his second oldest son, was named the new king.
Adandozan was a king of the Kingdom of Dahomey, in present-day Benin, from 1797 until 1818. His rule ended with a coup by his brother Ghezo who then erased Adandozan from the official history resulting in high uncertainty about many aspects of his life. Adandozan took over from his father Agonglo in 1797 but was quite young at the time and so there was a regent in charge of the kingdom until 1804. Dealing with the economic depression that had defined the administrations of his father Agonglo and grandfather Kpengla, Adandozan tried to increase slave raiding, increase European trade, and when these failed reform the economy to focus on agriculture. Unfortunately, these efforts did not end domestic dissent and in 1818 at the Annual Customs of Dahomey, Ghezo and Francisco Félix de Sousa, a powerful Brazilian slave trader, organized a coup d'état and replaced Adandozan. He was left alive and lived until the 1860s hidden in the palaces while he was largely erased from official royal history.
The Fon people, also called Fon nu, Agadja or Dahomey, are a major African ethnic and linguistic group. They are the largest ethnic group in Benin found particularly in its south region; they are also found in southwest Nigeria and Togo. Their total population is estimated to be about 3,500,000 people, and they speak the Fon language, a member of the Gbe languages.
The Royal African Company (RAC) was an English mercantile (trading) company set up by the royal Stuart family and City of London merchants to trade along the west coast of Africa. It was led by the Duke of York, who was the brother of Charles II and later took the throne as James II.
The Slave Coast is a historical name formerly used for that part of coastal West Africa along the Bight of Benin that is located between the Volta River and the Lagos Lagoon. The name is derived from the region's history as a major source of Africans that were taken into slavery during the Atlantic slave trade from the early 16th century to the late 19th century. Other nearby coastal regions historically known by their prime colonial export are the Gold Coast, the Ivory Coast, and the Pepper Coast.
Ouidah or Whydah, formerly the Kingdom of Whydah, is a city on the coast of the Republic of Benin. The commune covers an area of 364 km2 (141 sq mi) and as of 2002 had a population of 76,555 people.
The Fort of São João Baptista de Ajudá is a small restored fort in Ouidah, Benin. Built in 1721, it was the last of three European forts built in that town to tap the slave trade of the Slave Coast. Following the legal abolition of the slave trade early in the 19th century, the Portuguese fort lay abandoned most of the time until it was permanently reoccupied in 1865.
Slavery has historically been widespread in Africa, and still continues today in some countries.
The Kingdom of Whydah was a kingdom on the coast of West Africa in what is now Benin. It was a major slave trading area. In 1700, it had a coastline of around 16 kilometres (10 mi); under King Haffon, this was expanded to 64 km (40 mi), and stretching 40 km (25 mi) inland.
Savi was the capital of the Kingdom of Whydah prior to its capture by the forces of Dahomey in 1727.
Bimbia was an independent state of the Isubu people of Cameroon. In 1884, it was annexed by the Germans and incorporated in the colony of Kamerun. It lies in Southwest Region, to the south of Mount Cameroon and to the west of the Wouri estuary. Is situated at the East coast of the Limbé sub-division.
The History of the Kingdom of Dahomey spans 300 years from around 1600 until 1904 with the rise of the Kingdom of Dahomey as a major power on the Atlantic coast of modern-day Benin until French conquest. The kingdom became a major regional power in the 1720s when it conquered the coastal kingdoms of Allada and Whydah. With control over these key coastal cities, Dahomey became a major center in the Atlantic Slave Trade until 1852 when the British imposed a naval blockade to stop the trade. War with the French began in 1892 and the French took over the Kingdom of Dahomey in 1894. The throne was vacated by the French in 1900, but the royal families and key administrative positions of the administration continued to have a large impact in the politics of the French administration and the post-independence Republic of Dahomey, renamed Benin in 1975. Historiography of the kingdom has had a significant impact on work far beyond African history and the history of the kingdom forms the backdrop for a number of novels and plays.
The Komenda Wars were a series of wars from 1694 until 1700 largely between the Dutch West India Company and the British Royal African Company in the Eguafo Kingdom in the present day state of Ghana, over trade rights. The Dutch were trying to keep the British out of the region to maintain a trade monopoly while the British were attempting to re-establish a fort in the city of Komenda. The fighting included forces of the Dutch West India Company, the Royal African Company, the Eguafo Kingdom, a prince of the kingdom attempting to rise to the throne, the forces of a powerful merchant named John Cabess, other Akan tribes and kingdoms like Twifo and Denkyira. There were four separate periods of warfare, including a civil war in the Eguafo Kingdom, and the wars ended with the British placing Takyi Kuma into power in Eguafo. Because of the rapidly shifting alliances between European and African powers, historian John Thornton has found that "there is no finer example of [the] complicated combination of European rivalry merging with African rivalry than the Komenda Wars."
John Cabess was a prominent African trader in the port city of Komenda, part of the Eguafo Kingdom, in modern-day Ghana. He was a major British ally and was a supplier to the British Royal African Company. As a trader, he became a strong economic and political force in the coastal region in the early 1700s, playing an active role in the Komenda Wars, the rise of the Ashanti Empire, the expansion of British involvement in West Africa, and the beginnings of large-scale Atlantic slave trade. Because of his combined economic and political power, historian Kwame Daaku named Cabess one of the "merchant princes" of the Gold Coast in the 1700s. He died in 1722, but his heirs continued to exert economic power in the port for the remainder of the 18th century.
The Kingdom of Ardra, also known as the Kingdom of Allada, was a coastal West African kingdom in what is now southern Benin. It was named for its capital, the modern Allada, which was also the main city and major port of the realm.