Enrique MartinoMay 20, 2023
Recruiting Indentured Labor in the Gulf of Guinea
de Gruyter 2022
Touts: Recruiting Indentured Labor in the Gulf of Guinea (de Gruyter, 2022) is a historical account of the troubled formation of a colonial labor market in the Gulf of Guinea and a major contribution to the historiography of indentured labor, which has relatively few reference points in Africa. The setting is West Africa’s largest island, Fernando Po or Bioko in today’s Equatorial Guinea, 100 kilometers off the coast of Nigeria. The Spanish ruled this often-ignored island from the mid-nineteenth century until 1968. A booming plantation economy led to the arrival of several hundred thousand West African, principally Nigerian, contract workers on steamships and canoes. In Touts, Enrique Martino traces the confusing transition from slavery to other labor regimes, paying particular attention to the labor brokers and their financial, logistical, and clandestine techniques for bringing workers to the island.
Martino combines multi-sited archival research with the concept of touts as "lumpen-brokers" to offer a detailed study of how commercial labor relations could develop, shift and collapse through the recruiters’ own techniques, such as large wage advances and elaborate deceptions. The result is a pathbreaking reconnection of labor mobility, contract law, informal credit structures and exchange practices in African history.
Dr. Enrique Martino is currently a faculty member at the Complutense University of Madrid, and was previously a fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies.
Dr. Sara Katz is a Postdoctoral Associate in the History Department at Duke University.