Appendix 1: Discussion Questions


  1. What countries and peoples were participating in Indian Ocean trade during the late 18th century? What commodities were merchants looking for? Why do you think trade was increasing? How was this commerce related to European mercantilism and rivalries? What part did Oman play in this system? (Note that trade in the western Indian Ocean—between India, the Persian Gulf, southern Arabia, and the East Coast of Africa — was important prior to the appearance of Europeans.) What place on the East Coast of Africa became a commercial entrepôt?
  2. By the early nineteenth century, how were goods from the interior of eastern Africa reaching the coast? What did the Nyamwezi bring to the East Coast? Why would they undertake such a difficult journey? Why did East Coast traders begin to lead caravans into the interior? What were the major trade routes and bases of the caravan trade? (Emphasize that African peoples pioneered these routes.)
  3. What do you think people on the East Coast and in the interior wanted in exchange for the commodities being sold to foreign merchants? (Explain the demand for firearms.) Discuss the Industrial Revolution as an enabling factor and how low prices for imports resulted in favorable terms of trade for eastern Africa. Did the Industrial Revolution increase demand for African goods (ivory, copal, copra)?
  4. How did the Omani ruler Seyyid Said respond to opportunities provided by expanding commerce? What happened when he died?
  5. What nation was the first to sign a commercial treaty with Oman? (Provide more information about American trade with Zanzibar.) What new European traders arrived in the 1840s? How did the Germans link East Africa with West Africa?
  6. What cash crop did the Omanis develop on Zanzibar? What motivated them to invest in clove plantations? Discuss how profits from ivory exports and the low price of slaves "transformed the slave sector." Do you think Zanzibar's plantations were similar to, or different from, those in the Atlantic world?
  7. What new areas were drawn into Zanzibar's "commercial empire" in the period from 1840-1880? What impact did the moving frontier of the ivory and slave trade have on the Nyamwezi, the kingdom of Buganda, northern Uganda, and eastern Congo? What role did Msiri, Tippu Tip, Mirambo, John Speke, David Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley play in opening up eastern Africa to the world economy?
  8. What steps did the British take to restrict the slave trade? Do you think treaties and British naval patrols were effective? Why might they be difficult to enforce? Why did the East African slave trade reach its peak in the 1860s? Why was Zanzibar able to absorb slaves as the export trade (from Zanzibar) was curtailed?
  9. How did the opening of the Suez Canal and European steamships change commerce and communications in the Indian Ocean system?
  10. What impact did articulation with the world economy have on eastern Africa? Did the expansion of trade in the nineteenth century provide a basis for long-term development? (Explain the four ironies of British efforts to abolish the slave trade in the larger context of the Zanzibar's and the region's commercial expansion.)