Of stocks and barter: John Holt and the Kongo rubber trade, 1906–1910

Vos, J. (2013) Of stocks and barter: John Holt and the Kongo rubber trade, 1906–1910. In: Curry-Machado, J. (ed.) Global Histories, Imperial Commodities, Local Interactions. Series: Cambridge imperial and post-colonial studies series. Palgrave Macmillan: London, pp. 77-99. ISBN 9781349448982 (doi: 10.1057/9781137283603_5)

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Not long after the Atlantic slave trade was phased out in the Kongo region south of the river Zaire in the 1860s, rubber came to dominate the regional export economy.1 Vegetable oils, which had defined the economic transition from capturing slaves to producing commodities in many West African regions earlier in the century, were also exported from Kongo, as was cultivated coffee, but none of these commodities characterised the new economic era as much as extracted wild rubber. During the West-Central African rubber boom, which lasted from 1879 to 1913, Kongo formed the core of British commercial interests in this part of Africa, especially since Portuguese protectionist measures kept foreign traders out of the Angolan ports of Luanda and Benguela to the south. Of several British companies operating in Kongo since the mid-nineteenth century, however, only two firms from Liverpool managed to endure the competitive environment of the trade in commodities. One was the house of Hatton & Cookson, pioneers of ‘legitimate’ commerce in the wider Congo region. The other was a company managed by John Holt, who had built his fortune in the produce trade of the Bight of Biafra but had relatively little experience in West-Central Africa. Historians have neglected Holt’s presence on the coast of West-Central Africa, although the Holt company archives are unique in the detail they provide on the rubber trade in this region.

Item Type:Book Sections
Additional Information:This chapter was previously published in the Portuguese Studies Review 19: 1–2 (2011), pp. 153–175.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Vos, Dr Jelmer
Authors: Vos, J.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Publisher:Palgrave Macmillan

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