The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:

Open location in Google Maps: 9.938194, -11.363820

9 Annotations

First Reading

Terry F  •  Link

"Guinea" in its various linguistic permutations was the name used in early modern Europe for sub-Saharan coastal Africa, from what is now Senegal to Ivory Coast. "The modern state of Guinea [shown on the Google map, above] did not come into existence until 1898 but the history of the area stretches back much further. West Africa saw many empires rise and fall in the period before European intervention and Guinea fell within many of them....The slave trade came to the coastal region of Guinea with European adventurers in the 16th century. Slavery had always been part of every day life but the scale increased as slaves were exported to work elsewhere in the triangular trade."…

Pedro  •  Link


"the name used in early modern Europe for sub-Saharan coastal Africa, from what is now Senegal to Ivory Coast."

From Terry's post above the term Guiny was used very loosely, and for a position in 1639 ish see Jansson's Atlas and Guinea...…

In those days it seems that it was between Benin and The Ivory Coast, in the region of Toga and Ghana. Therefore our google map may not be relevant?

Michael Robinson  •  Link

For a modern summary history see:-

P.E. H. Hair and Robin Law
The English in Western Africa to 1700 (with select bibliography)
in Nicholas Canny ed. The Origins of Empire. British Overseas Enterprise to the Close of the Seventeenth Century [Oxford History of the British Empire Vol 1] Oxford: OUP, 1998 pp. 241 - 263,

Michael Robinson  •  Link

"Guinea Company" -- Company of Adventurers of London Trading to the Parts of Africa.

Granted a monopoly of trade 'for ever hereafter' by James I in 1618 for "Guinney and Bynney" - "a formula which encompassed the whole west African coast from Senegal to what is today Nigeria."... although a trading station was established up the Gambia River, this was evidently abandoned after 1621. The company could not enforce its monopoly effectively, due to its dependence on royal favor, and in 1624 its monopoly was declared a grievance by Parliament.

The company was taken over by Nicholas Crispe (1598 - 1666) a London merchant who invested from 1625 and bought a controlling interest in 1628. An additional charter was granted in 1631 to a body called "The Company of Merchants Trading to Guinea" - the wording of the charter implies a new body distinct from the1618 group but those involved were Crispe and the members of the existing company, - given a monopoly for 31 years of trade from Cape Blanco to the Cape of Good Hope. The new charter asserted territorial as well as purely commercial rights and promised government support against foreign competitors, explicitly the Dutch. The company's main concern was now gold; Crisp later claimed to have imported gold to a total value of pounds sterling 500,000, probably over the twelve years. 1633 - 44.

The Guinea Company proved ineffective in challenging the dominance of the Dutch West India Company and English interlopers; in 1634 a Scottish "Guinea Company". was chartered -but by other London merchants. The English company suffered through Crispe's identification with the Royalist cause: in 1640 he was ordered to Parliament to surrender his patent and in 1644 his shares were confiscated in lieu of a debt owed to the state. Control of the Company passed to merchants loyal to Parliament The Company's difficulties with English interlopers lead to a challenge by a group of merchants led by Samuel Vassall which led to a Parliamentary Committee of Trade inquiry, 1650-51. Vassall now joined the Company; the Company's monopoly was extended for a further 14 years but geographically restricted to an area twenty leagues either side of its two principal trading centers - Sherbro Sierra Leone and Kormantin on the Gold Cost - in effect it retained a monopoly of the redwood and gold trades but the trade further east mainly in slaves became free.

It suffered severe financial losses from the depredations of the Royalist fleet under Prince Rupert and the Anglo-Dutch War of 1652-54. By the mid 1650's the Guinea Company had ceased to function as an effective trading body. In 1657 it leased its rights and factories to the East India Company who were seeking gold and ivory for the India market.

Brief summary, from P.E. H. Hair and Robin Law, above, pp 251 -5
citing "the only substantial account, itself frequently neglected" John W. Blake 'The English Guinea Company, 1618 - 1660' Proc. Belfast Natural History & Philosophical Society, III, 1, (1945/46), pp. 14 - 27

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Vlankenburgh, Jan (1623-1667)

Dutch West India Company Director general of the Coast of Guinea, stationed at Elmina in 1656-1659 and 1663-1667. Portrait, circa 1660-2, with Fort St. George in the background, and biographical details:-…

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Dr. Carina Ray of Brandeis University published a book a couple of years ago
"Crossing the Color: Line Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana"

It's mostly concerns 19th and 20th century mores, but I have excerpted bits from the Introduction about Pepys' times and Dutch and British behavior at Elmina:

The historical moment and socioeconomic and political imperatives that informed Dutch policies and practices [in what is now Ghana] in the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries were wholly different from those of the British in the early 20th century.

The power relations of bygone Dutch times contrast with those of the British in 1915. Despite their long tenure on the [Gold] coast, the almost exclusively male Dutch presence remained small and was dependent on support — partly through customary law marriages with African women — from local populations.

This was hardly the case for the much larger, self-imposed British presence in the opening decades of the 20th century. The institutionalization of alien political rule, as Ato Quayson astutely observes, was characterized by “a fundamental ... conversion of what had been the relations of dependency and accommodation that had defined the commercial interactions between Europeans and local groups since the 15th century to one of domination without accountability by the end of the 19th.”

Part of this pronounced but incomplete transformation was the shift away from intermarriage. This had less to do with a distinctively British viewpoint — after all, they too had once embraced it, if less systematically than the Dutch — and more to do with the racial politics and grossly uneven power relations of formal colonialism in early 20th-century Africa and Asia.

The Dutch similarly renounced intermarriage as Dutch East India Company rule gave way to colonial rule in Indonesia and eventually condemned concubinage, albeit selectively and ineffectively. Atu’s remarks remind us that Gold Coasters remembered precolonial interracial sexual relationships in ways that emphasized their honor and respectability, not unlike many historians in more recent times.

Historical narratives about the ubiquitous nature of publicly-recognized intermarriages between entrepreneurial African women and European men during the precolonial period are important in their own right, but frequently gloss over the range of other kinds of sexual encounters, including concubinage, prostitution, and rape, that formed less visible — and hence less documented — strata of the interracial sexual economies of the Gold Coast’s precolonial trading hubs.

Although the rape of enslaved women during the Middle Passage is well documented, much less has been written about the pre-embarkation period when female captives were confined in the coast’s slave forts and castles. It is memorialized in the harrowing narratives many of the castles’ tour guides tell visitors in places like Elmina and Cape Coast.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Part 2

Recently scholars have begun to grapple with the rape and sexual exploitation of the female slaves who worked for the castles’ European residents. Even where marriages were concerned, these unions were a constitutive part of the Gold Coast littoral’s trade-based economies, which became almost exclusively focused on the slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries. While these commercially-minded interracial unions predated and outlived the slave trade, they were nonetheless an integral part of the development of a highly functioning and elaborate slave-trading system that enriched some at the expense of many.

European traders, and the companies they represented, obviously profited the most, but many of the women in these relationships also benefited from being able to exploit the labor of those they enslaved, or to profit from their sale.

Like their counterparts in Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, and Madagascar, these women were “individuals, who, through chance or by design, were not victims but beneficiaries of the [slave] trade.” Thus, the model of female agency that they have often been made to represent is worthy of critical appraisal rather than applause.

It would be a gross oversimplification to assume that African women either enjoyed the status of wife and reaped the respect and financial benefits associated with their lucrative marital ties to European men, or else suffered rape in the bowels of the coast’s slave dungeons, or were bought and sold to meet the sexual and domestic needs of European men temporarily living on the coast. The binary opposition between consent and coercion obscures the complex, overlapping, and changing nature of the range of sexual relationships between African women and European men during the precolonial period, as well as the changing dynamics of power between Africans and Europeans within which these relationships were situated.

The consent/coercion binary is even less helpful for the formal colonial period, when the sexual terror associated with the slave trade ended as the slave castles were transformed into administrative centers of British colonial power, or fell into disrepair, and publicly recognized intermarriages — no longer of use to a British regime that asserted rather than negotiated its power and presence — were almost unheard of. Indeed, during the opening decades of the 20th century, Africans and Europeans alike commented on the paucity of marriages between African women and European men.

... This marked a break with the precolonial past, when European men had readily availed themselves of customary marriage rights to African women as part of a wider complex of indigenous sociocultural practices for integrating strangers into local societies and fostering trade. Accommodation and assimilation, whether through marriage or through other practices, including polygyny and concubinage, ran counter to the premise of Britain’s “civilizing mission.”

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Part 3

While colonial ideologues argued that through education and religious conversion, Africans could move from the domain of “barbarism” into “civilization,” it was out of the question for European men to “go native.”
Colonial officers were expected to become conversant with the traditions and customs of the people they presided over, but they were not supposed to participate in those practices, as many European men before them once had.

Crucially, the demise of publicly legitimized interracial marriages occurred at a time when ideas and expectations about marriage among Africans were rapidly changing in the Gold Coast as the result of the spread of Christianity and Western education and the creation of a dual legal system based on English and indigenous customary law, the latter of which remained malleable and responsive to social change despite its increasing codification.

Of particular importance here, the 1884 Marriage Ordinance gave Gold Coasters an alternative to customary marriage. There was no more hotly debated topic in the African-owned Gold Coast press during the decades after its introduction than the 1884 ordinance. With its Christian underpinnings, the ordinance became synonymous with “European marriage,” otherwise defined as a monogamous companionate union.

Although many elites, especially the small but growing number of educated Christian women, as well as newly educated and recently converted aspirant elites, praised the merits of ordinance marriage, a group of vocal male elites — who were typically Christian themselves — defended the institution of customary marriage and rejected ordinance marriage as an intrusive colonial imposition that fomented moral decay and social chaos by endowing women with too many rights. But even this group of men doubted the legitimacy of customary marriages when contracted across the color line. Thus, regardless of what marriage form Gold Coast elites favored, there was a consensus among this group of literate, relatively prosperous, and politically active Africans that interracial customary marriages were a thin veil for profiting from the sale of the colony’s young women to “demoralized white men,” as one Gold Coast writer put it.

In this way elite ideas about interracial customary marriages echoed colonial ideologies that cast the institution of customary marriage among Africans as “slavery in disguise.”

Much, much more can be found in her book, of course.
Published by
ohio university press, w athens, ohio

The full Introduction is at…

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