Slavery in Sokoto City


Slavery in Sokoto City


Many references have been made to slavery in ‘Sokoto City’ by scholars who have written on the political, social, economic, military and intellectual history of the Sokoto Caliphate. These references, which are scattered in their nature, suggest that slavery was important to the society, economy and political life of the centre of the Caliphate during the nineteenth century and even after. But apart from these scattered references, which mostly focused at Caliphate level, no specific work or research has been done to show the ways and the extent to which slavery was important to the society, economy, and political life of Sokoto City itself as the centre of the Caliphate during the period in question. This only implies that the role of slavery in the centre of the Caliphate (Sokoto City), which was a slave-receiving centre, has not been given enough attention. Therefore, this study hopes to give more light on the role played by slavery towards the socio-economic transformations of the centre of the Caliphate during the nineteenth century and also hopes to provide stimulation of the study of social history at micro levels in the other parts of the Caliphate so that the imbalance existing in the historiography of the Caliphate could be redressed. And again, a lot of changes have occurred within the institution of slavery itself in Sokoto City, yet such V changes have hitherto not been explained in the studies so far done on Sokoto City. So it is therefore in view of this that this study seeks to demonstrate why and how such changes occurred over time within the institution of slavery in Sokoto City. Hence one of the important contributions of this study in the field of social history is the discussion on the phenomenon of concubinage which has undergone many changes in its persistence in Sokoto but yet it has almost been totally neglected by the historians of the Sokoto Caliphate. The first chapter of the study provides the antecedents of the historical background and evolution of Sokoto City, definition of some useful concepts such as slavery, servitude, subordinate and slave-owning mode of production as well as brief explanation on the views of Islam as it relates to the role of state in the practice of slavery as an institution in Sokoto with a view to providing a conceptual framework for the study. The second chapter discusses the various sources of procurement of slaves and position accorded to the slaves at the bottom of the social structure of Sokoto City society. The chapter has also examined the roles played by slaves in the various units of the jihad army such as light and heavy cavalry, infantry and in the musketeer corps. The last section of the chapter deals with the roles played by slaves in vi the various sectors of Sokoto economy like commerce, craft production and manufacturing. Chapter three traces the historical background of the establishment of slave agricultural settlements in Sokoto area to the pre-jihad period and argued that the concept of ‘plantation’ is not applicable to these settlements because of its historicity and racial connotations. In the chapter, we have also focused attention on the foundations, management, organization of labour and significance of the Sarauta slave agricultural settlements in view of their dominance. The fourth chapter which discusses the phenomenon of concubinage is broadly divided into three sections – nineteenth century concubinage, twentieth century concubinage, and the impacts of the practice on Sokoto society. The changes and persistence of the phenomenon were also examined in the chapter. The chapter has also discussed the social and political significance of the practice of concubinage. The last chapter discusses the various processes of de-enslavement of domestic slavery and the shortcomings of the processes under the Caliphate authority and British colonial rule in Sokoto City. Through re-interpretation and analysis of colonial sources, it is shown in the chapter that right from April 1901 when the first British proclamation on slavery was made, several other laws on the status of slaves were passed. But most of the laws, as argued vii in the chapter, were more or less a formalization of the Caliphate system of de-enslavement and were only pre-supposed to be effective on the future generations of domestic slaves. The chapter has also focused attention on the real factors responsible for both the decline and partial disappearance of slavery, showing the roles played by Emirs, Alkali Courts, and colonial administrators. The chapter concludes by examining the processes of emancipation of slaves and the consequences of the complete abolishing of slavery in Sokoto.

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