Guinea


Guinea
   Guinea, or Guinea Coast, is a geographical term of Berber origins used by Europeans from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries to designate varying sections of the western coast of Africa, a region that formed one apex of the Atlantic Triangle trade, and lay along the route to the Asian lands formerly known as the East Indies. Taken in the broadest sense, that is, stretching from the southern edge of the Sahara Desert to Angola, it was divided into Upper and Lower Guinea at the Equator. Further subdivisions indicated the most lucrative export commodities, hence the Pepper or Grain Coast, the Ivory Coast, the Mina or Gold Coast, and the Slave Coast. Given that these items originated in the hinterland, and their procurers were known to have supplied the Trans-Saharan and internal Sudan trade beforehand, such labels point to the existence of an extensive and efficient distribution system.
   It is well documented in Arabic written sources that the region’s resources prompted the rise of indigenous empires especially from the tenth century onward and occasionally lasting into the twentieth century, including those of the Mande, Soninke, Yoruba, Edo, Akan, and Fulbe people. Enabled by a technological revolution, and pressed by a shortage of bullion, the Portuguese Prince Henry the Navigator (1394–1460) initiated the European exploration of the Atlantic seaboard, primarily to gain direct access to the goldfields of the western Sudan. A further advantage of establishing trading posts on the Guinea Coast lay in their utility as a stepping stone to the spice trade of Asia, until then monopolized by the Levant traders of Genoa and Venice, and also disrupted by the expansion of the Ottoman Empire.
   Even though the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494 made the region a formal Portuguese sphere of interest, Portugal’s emerging seaborne empire was soon challenged by Dutch, English, French, Danish, Swedish, Brandenburger, and even Courland competitors from the 1520s on. Having organized chartered companies with commercial monopolies, Europeans constructed a network of factories and forts along the seaboard and built up a profitable trade first in gold then slaves to satisfy the need of an emerging plantation complex in the Americas. The capital thus accumulated and access to lubricants derived from palm or peanut oil contributed to the rise of industrial Europe. Imports included European metal ware, textiles, and firearms; American silver and tobacco; and Asian and African cowries and cloth. Such early commercial links to the Guinea helped establish the modern interdependent world economy. Partaking in the Columbian exchange, the transfer of disease, plant and animal species, as well as technology, ideas and religious currents across continents formed part of the transactions at the same time. The hinterland, however, was less affected until the so-called Scramble for Africa, the period of direct territorial annexation that is commonly dated from the 1870s. Obstacles included resistance by the powerful indigenous states of the interior, efficient competition from other trading systems, the limited length of navigable rivers, few suitable natural harbors, a disease environment that earned the coast the epithet “White Man’s Grave,” and finally the lack of sufficient funds or official support. By the 1870s, France and Britain remained the two dominant European powers that also carried the lead in colonization and territorial annexations.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Birmingham, David. Trade and Empire in the Atlantic, 1400–1600. New York: Routledge, 2000;
    Hopkins, Anthony G. An Economic History of West Africa. New York: Longman, 1973.
   GÁBOR BERCZELI

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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  • Guinea — Guinea …   Deutsch Wörterbuch

  • Guinea — Guin ea (g[i^]n [ e]), n. 1. A district on the west coast of Africa (formerly noted for its export of gold and slaves) after which the Guinea fowl, Guinea grass, Guinea peach, etc., are named. [1913 Webster] 2. A gold coin of England current for… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • guinea — former British coin, 1660s, from Guinea, region along the west coast of Africa, presumably from an African word (perhaps Tuareg aginaw black people ); the 20 shilling coins so called because they were first minted for British trade with Guinea… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Guinea —  , Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea  They are separate countries, all in West Africa. Guinea was formerly French Guinea. GuineaBissau was formerly Portuguese Guinea. Equatorial Guinea was formerly Spanish Guinea …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Guinea — Ober Guinea und West Sudan …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Guinea [2] — Guinēa (spr. gi ), Küstenland in Westafrika, vom Kap Roxo bis zum Kap Negro, vom Kap Lopez geteilt in Ober oder Nord G. (G. im engern Sinne) und in Nieder oder Süd G. In der Nordostecke von Ober G. dringt der Golf von G. mit den Baien von Benin… …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • GUINEA — vulgo la Guinee, regio Aficae perampla, inter Nigrititam ad Bor. et mare Atlanticum ad Austr. et inter regnum Congi ad Ort. et montem Leonis ad Occas. Regio est abundans et fertilis, ab Ort. in Occas. valde extensa, et ab Europaeis admodum… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • guinea — [gin′ē] n. [the gold of which it was first made came from Guinea] 1. a former English gold coin, last minted in 1813, equal to 21 shillings: the word is still used in England in giving prices of luxury items 2. GUINEA FOWL 3. Slang an Italian or… …   English World dictionary

  • Guinēa — Guinēa, ein großer Theil der Westseite Afrikas, zu beiden Seiten des Äquator. Gewöhnlich versteht man aber unter G. den Küstenstrich zwischen dem Äquator u. 10° nördl. Br., welcher zum Unterschiede von dem südlich vom Äquator liegenden… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Guinēa — (spr. gi ; hierzu die Karte »Ober Guinea und West Sudân«), Teil der Westküste Afrikas, vom Kap Roxo (12°19´ nördl. Br.) bis Kap Negro (16° südl. Br.), zerfällt in zwei Teile: Oberguinea und Niederguinea, deren Grenze von Kap Lopez im… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon


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