Uncertainty, risk, and trust in nineteenth-century East African longdistance trade


  • Marek Pawełczak University of Warsaw, Faculty of History




East Africa, Arabs, Indians, Swahili, Islam, moral community, caravan trade, risk, trust


This article discusses the sources and symptoms of uncertainty and risk that accompanied East African caravan trade in the nineteenth century, and the trustbuilding measures that minimized them. The author addresses long-distance trade of goods imported from Europe, India and the United States, as well as African products that were exported abroad, such as ivory and copal. Findings are interpreted in the context of the historical events that ensued in the region in the second half of the nineteenth century, including the centralization of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, development of mainland agriculture, penetration of the African interior by Muslim culture, and destabilization of the interior in conjunction with the emergence of stronger political structures. This work relies on late-nineteenth-century Swahili texts, including accounts by caravan participants, western travel accounts, archival documents from the homes of merchants established in Zanzibar, and consular sources.



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II. Archives :

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C. Gissing to Kirk, 11 May 1884, AA 10/1.

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How to Cite

Pawełczak, M. (2018). Uncertainty, risk, and trust in nineteenth-century East African longdistance trade. Studies in African Languages and Cultures, (52), 9–48. https://doi.org/10.32690/SALC52.1