In 1976 I made my first trip to the African Continent. On my return I started a small collection of African coins. What started out as a curious study quickly became an addiction. I began collecting common world coins at an alarming rate by the pound. Fortunate my ability to sell coins was almost as good as my ability to buy and collect. I sold the common coins as fast as I could so that if the price of silver dropped I could then buy silver by the roll. I figured if I could buy silver I might be able to resale silver in order to buy larger quantities of silver. Several of the Hunt brothers in Texas were on trial in federal courts for trying to buy the worlds silver. Though I was new at the game, I figured that if they lost the court case silver might suddenly flood the market lowering the price of silver coins. Fortunate for me I was correct. The prices came tumbling down fast and over a short period of time slowly began to rise.This presentation was first titled "SCRIBE: AFRICAN WORLDVIEW" and appeared in Black Family Community Web Site, the spring of 1999. Next the essay title was changed to "HOW AFRICA WAS UNDERDEVELOPED ECONOMICALLY" Then in the fall of 2002 the title of this essay changed to "COIN CONSPIRACY". The topic has remained the same. We are getting better at defining it. This article was written to show the importance economics has in understanding Colonial African History. You can take this same topic; "How Africa Was Underdeveloped" and discuss it from a political slant, cultural rape, or technology disadvantage and get entirely different results concerning Africa's plight in the 21st century. All of these views are important and you miss something by not having them. If you presented all three articles on this same platform, I think the reader would come away totally confused. I would hesitate to say that my view is the correct one. For some one else it may not work. All I know is the economic view works for me. Many topics concerning our past left me completely confused as a reader. So it meant that I would have to rewrite the pages of history that didn't suite me, so that I could then understand what I didn't understand before. Many of us in humanities view money making as a shallow subject. I share the same view. It is not only shallow; it's boring. However if I find by ignoring a subject that I continue to not realize my goals, then I am willing to change. After all, why reinvent the wheel? MODERN STONE AGE
EUROPEAN PRACTICE OF COLONAZATION BEGAN IN GREECEPeople in civilizations along rivers traded for goods along the path of the river. Most river people were farmers. In contrast people of the acropolis had land which was arid and dry, so the Greeks produced colonies so that they could gain access to food and materials needed to sustain their civilization. These people use a combination of trade and occupation to obtain the things they wanted. Most of the food consumed by Greek City States was supplied by their colonies because they did not have enough fertal land to produce the quantity of food needed to sustain city states. The city of Athens developed their philosophy (way of life) and government to meet the needs of cultural domonance and political occupation. The Greeks grew basically grapes and olives. The Greek peninsula was surrounded on three sides by sea, thus the Greeks focused on Mediterainian settlements near their area. Village settlements began appearing in Greece around 1500 B.C. About 750 B.C. Greece began building cities in other countries and establishing colonies. Without colonies Greek Civilization would not have taken on the characterstics it did in arts, government and philosophies as we know them. As Greek civilization grew the number of colonies multiplied. This early economic dependency became a characteristic of other Northern Civilizations that followed. Producing colonies became a practice of European civilization. The Greeks produced several more practices that European Civilization adopted secularism, democracy, Plato's Utopia and the use of the coin. All together Europeans had 5 important contributions from Greece that would enable them to control other people around the world; colonialism, secularism, democracy, Plato's Utopia and the use of the coin. The Greek five principles appear again in European Civilization. Colonialism, secularism, democracy, Plato's Utopia and the use of the coin were imporant for several reasons. First colonialism allowed Europeans to accumulate their wealth by enslaving other people on lands outside Europe. Europeans could import resources from colonies not available in Europe. Goods could be sold to colonies for profit. Secularism separated church from state, civil affairs and public education. This allowed people to develop institutions that had a set of laws value system and ethics separate from religion. Democracy allowed more people to become involved in the decision making process governing their lives. This made people more committed to inforcing laws and a way of life that they themselves helped put into action. In countries that did not practice democracy the people that lived there were less commited to supporting government decission. Palto's Utopia was a cast system designed to help Greek oppressors rule and control the world. Europeans later used the same principles under the heading Globalization or New World Order. During the Wilsonian Democracy, after World War I an attempt was made to put Plato's Utopia in place by the League of Nations failed. During the Roosevelt Administration the utopia was set up in the form of three economic levels - 1st, 2nd and 3rd World People and its implementation through the United Nation succeeded. As the 21st Century approches, the 1st World (in therory) should manage and store electronic information used by itself and the rest of the world. The 2nd world aquired manufacturing used by itself plus 1st and 3rd world people to produce machines and machine made goods. The 3rd world would supply agriculture and mineral resources for itself and world. Under Plato's Utopia each of the 3 cast was suppose to be satisfied with their place in society. No one could move up in cast, but one could "develop with-in their present state of existance". Thus we have "Developing 3rd World Nationss". AMERICA'S CHILDREN & THE COIN I would like to leave you with one last note. Making use of a coin is not hard to learn or practice. Children seven and eight years old can organize and implement a very complex system of their own. I witnessed such a system at an elementary school, Richmond California, during the fall of 2005. Students stole a teacher aid's hourglass and the teacher tried in vain to get it back. She first tried explaining why the glass was important for her to have in order to effectively teach them lessons. She was giving them rational information concerning the loss and this "rational approach thing" wasn't working very well. One student went into the teacher aid's box and pulled out another hourglass to show the teacher that she already had a second hourglass to replace the missing glass. Another student tried to console the instructor by giving her a choice of several stuffed animal toys he had tucked away in his cubby. They were not able or ready to process her concerns. Her requests went way over their heads. Teacher even turned off the lights several times so that the item could be placed on the table without teacher noticing it. All students were in volved in the search and the hourglass failed to surface. The teacher finally had to leave to go to another class. I told her that the search would continue. My approach was different however. I began watching activities of the students. My objective was to find -- "THEIR CURRENCY". I first began shutting down their access to game and indoor toy activities with the pretext that if parts to the games and other indoor activities got lost they would not be able to use them again. The hope was that it would force them to gravitate toward a single activity that they equally enjoyed the most. The plan worked. Students began producing small blue square paper tickets. These paper tickets were given to them by teachers and administrators for citizenship, good grades and good deeds. The tickets were called by different names at different schools. For our purpose we will call them 'Bear Hugs'. At some schools the colors for the Bear Hugs changed each markinhg period. Making the previous colors worthless. This school apparently kept the same color the year round. The seven-year-olds had developed a value system of their own to which they were addicted. Some students were selling toys and candy to acquire Bear Hugs. Two girls had clear plastic bags about two feet long, filled with Bear Hugs. Apparently they may have had a banking system. One boy was asking for a loan from one of the bankers. She carefully meassured a fist full of Bear Hugs and gave them to him. I made an announcement "that a missing hourglass had not been found. All purchases, bank transactions and loan collections must be put on hold until the missing hourglass was found." My ultimatum received instant results. Students turned the lights off and in less than ten seconds the missing hourglass was placed on a table. Apparently money and math have few age and language barrier. For children of seven and eight to grasp the magnitude of numbers and money at such an early age tells us something about the ability to transmit what appears to be a complex culture. On the down side the goods and services system they were using required a high rate of theft since these children did not have the technical know how or skills to produce the goods they were selling. It also sheds some light on how people can be made to depend on money for almost everything they do. The Bear Hugs were of no use to adults. We couldn't pay bills with them. Children were using Bear Hugs to purchase items which required real money. Their Bear Hugs were working perhaps for the following reasons: Their monitary system could not be forged by such a young age and the two girls knew how to secure their banks against theft [something which was a big problem in that class]. The Bear Hugs could be used to trade for any object or service they wanted, therefore a student would never be stuck with money they could not trade. The amount of cash flow among the students was controled by the two bankers. The pricing of items was something they could all agree on and all students had faith that their monitary system would work. If there was no faith built into the Bear Hug monitary system the children would not have use the Bear Hugs for money. I hope you get as much enjoyment out of reading this presentation as I enjoyed writing it. At the end is an e-mail address. Be sure to let me know what you think, didn't understand or suggestions for improving this article.
As we enter the 21st century, we need to first look at the last 100 years in retrospect, so that we can access our accomplishments and address our failures. Once we are aware of what works in our favor and what seems to be holding us back, we can begin to move forward.
SANKOFA PART I
AN ANCIENT COIN CONSPIRACY?
The monetary evolution of ancient economies has much to do with human fait in today's economy, but we can hardly call that a conspiracy. Expert conspirators created the conspiracy. The conspirators were those groups or individuals who took it upon themselves to distinguish a difference between people operating with a given economic system as different and superior to those people operating without that economic system. Europeans found that people with economic systems similar to theirs could easily interact with their system of trade. People without a similar economics had to be worked with differently. Europeans sought to put a coin economy in place for themselves, which would favor them (the oppressors) and never favor their victims.
When trading with coin economies Europeans were forced to set up "commerce trade agreements" and where there was an absence of coins Europeans established "trinket agreements". People with coins had their own elaborate recording systems, currency coin exchange, social civil services and bureaucracies setup for coin economics, therefore Europeans exploited what was in place rather than set up new systems. China accepted only gold and silver in payment for goods.
It would cost Europeans less money; time and energy if a populace had their own civil services in place needed to make trading easier. In economies without coins many of those services were missing which gave the conspirators an opportunity to put the missing systems in place and exploit those subjects differently.
In societies were colonial economies replaced earlier trade systems, these people became colonial victims and their currency was put in place by the colonialist to benefit colonialist and never to benefit the colonies. These colonies would continue to be colonies even after independence (Neocolonialism). Coin economies that established trade relations with Europe before becoming colonies under Europe were able to re-establish their own trade after colonialism, because they never lost their currency culture and currency infrastructure. When these colonies became free from their tyranny they were able to re-establish themselves taking part in "international trade agreements and produce their own currency" because their pre-colonial commerce tools and culture were still in tact.
Under Neocolonialism subjects had to have their coins struck and their paper currency printed by European Colonialist and sold back to them in order to have money to sell and buy commodities with. Just imagine having to purchase both your money and your goods and services with credit. How were you ever going to get out of debt? Some countries sold an entire cash crop a year in advance in order to obtain better credit.
Simple Numeral Systems
By the time European Civilization began Roman Numerals were no longer being used in economic transactions.
Zero and The Nine Character Numbering System
How people count was very important. There weren't always nine characters and a zero. The nine numeral system and zero had to be invented. The invention took place in India and worked it's way into the Fertile Cresent where it received the name "Arab Numeral". In the Arab World the numbers received promotion and eventually spread to the rest of the world. This numbering system was simple enough so that large numbers of people could adopt and use the nine character system easily. The Indian numbering system and the coin gave Europeans the tools they needed to conquer the world economically. Without the Indian numbers and the coin European Global Conquest probably would not have been possible.
Zero, and The Two Character Numbering System
In another part of the world Americas people developed the zero. The Mayans had a zero and two additional characters - a one and a five. Their numbering system was simpler than the Indian Numerals, but never spead to the rest of the world. Mayan develop one of the worlds best calendar systems.
The metric system divides weights, measurements and money into sets of tens. In the United States money was the only thing used in metrics. Everything else was done the hard way. Twelve inches equal a foot and three feet equal a yard.
Our Personal Computers use a bynary code consisting of ones and zeroes. All software was developed using this code as its foundation. The one and zero codes were placed in sets of eight. One set of eight ones and zeros represent a single letter or number. It is a series eight sets that make up a single word. Programing software arranges the code for the programer so that they don't have to re-envent the weel before writing a software program.
Early Coin Origins
Trade and Commerce was all about "NUMBERS". Bartering was a form of trade by exchanging goods and/or services. Bartering was a form of trade using numbers in the exchange of goods and/or services. When one traded goods and services, two traders were involved. Each trader had to establish a set of numbers suitable for exchanging their commodities or services. Coins were not commodities. Coins represented a consistent system of numbers established to make trading for commodities and services easier. Coin culture was easy for the masses of people to learn. Numbers were represented in the form of physical objects, (coins). Instead of two traders you now had a buyer and a trader. The trader bartered for numbers from the buyer. The buyer then decided if he or she wanted to part with their numbers for the goods or services to be offered by the trader. With two trade items you had to astablish numbers for each item before astablishing the trade. With coins and item purchase the trader decide how many numbers he wanted for his item. The numbers contained in the coins were already astablished. Numbers, in the form of coins, could be used as tools to purchase goods and services anywhere and at any time by a consumer in a society as long as everyone could agree on using those numbers or coins for exchange. Numbers vs. commodities in exchange was a quicker way of doing business, than numbers mixed with commodity vs. commodity exchange.
If two countries had different currencies they would decide how they were going to evaluate each other's money. Much of their success in rating the currency exchange would depend on the quality and interest in products and services each country had to offer. Countries lacking in quality services and products of interest would receive short end of the stick. Natural resources and cash crops were not considered quality products. You had to make something of value; a product someone else would be willing to buy that was produced from natural resources and agriculture crops. And in many cases that product was something that could only be acquired from you.
With the new numbering system came a ("coin culture"). Coin culture brought about changes in (commerce culture) the way people traded. There was a desire to claim and hoard numbers. The person collecting the most numbers was considered wealthier than the person collecting the most commodities. Person with the most numbers could purchase what he or she wanted; where-as the person with commodities had to sell something first in order to buy and that wasn't always easy. The cost of a commodity or service could fluctuate either deflating or inflating in price depending on what the public was willing to pay; however the number of units in each coin remained the same. It was that consistent ability to represent precise numbers and remain predictable that made coins a valuable asset. The coin became both dependable and indispensable in trade. The use of coins was easy to learn and it was transferable accross different cultures.
A new vocabulary developed with the intervention of the coin. The coin became a convient host for negociating and identifing numbers. With commodities and money commbined one could now use terms like leveraging, inflation hedge, liquidy, safety, yield and interest to describe various changes occuring with their wealth.
When we collected coins, we used other coins to do so and we still valued our collection of gold and silver coins as money no matter how new or old the coins were.
We don't have enough information yet to know how coins came about. We suspect that the invention occurred in several places throughout the world at different times. The earliest Civilization to use coins was China. Coins from the Shang Dynasty in China seem to suggest that coins may have started out as "Rare Valued Copies". Chinese copied rare images used in trade which were considered secred by the masses. Copies were made to make the item accessible to a wide public. The copied images often had holes for stringing or warring, such as in a necklace or charm. In China one of the earliest rare copied images was a cowry shell. The Chinese populous had a spiritual involvement with their coins. Charms and coins became mixed. At times it was difficult to tell them apart.
Notice cowrie shells were not considered the forunner of coins. It was the ("copied cowrie") that were considered to be coins. Some of the early Shang copies were (hand carved from shell, stone, bone). During the Shang and Zhou Dynasties in China some cowrie shells were copied in bronze and given a gold leaf cover (bronze substitute cowrie 1766-1122 B.C.). If rare copied images can be said to be the beginings of coin culture, then they should be seen as that and not as true coins. Such cultures may have also been under develpment in parts of Africa, but would not have been sufficticated enough to survive the modern coin age under slavery and colonialsm.
Next the Chinese began using animals in nature and mythology to develop their own coin art forms in bronze.
The following currency (Chinese Bridge Dragon Coin) was from the Western Zhou Dynasty, dating back between 1027-771 B.C. Next is an example of Chinese Fish Money, from a period (1122-770 B.C.) During the Eastern Zhou Dynasty coins took on a more abstract appearance similar to Chinese Characters (Round Shouldered Spade Money 770-476 B.C.) For (more samples of spade coins) click on this link. The first round square hole coin appeared around 265 B.C. during the collapes of the Eastern Zhou or Chou Dynasty. This Korean Seed-Coin was defaced and used as a lucky charm. Japanese Tosa Family Coin were issued (1866-1871 A.D.). In India a silver bent bar coin was used (600-303 B.C.).
20th CENTURY DAWN IN AFRICA
During the late 18th century Europeans increased their exploration and trade in Africa. From about 1880 to 1905, most of Africa was partitioned among six European Countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, and Portugal.
In the grab for riches of Africa, Europeans were coming close to carving each other apart. At the height of the African slave trade Europeans were blasting each other's ships out of the ocean with canons hidden behind fort walls lining the coast of West and Central Africa. As the European economic stage shifted from feudalism to an industrial capitalist economy, depending heavily on global traded, something had to be worked out so that all of Europe could get a piece of the pie. If something didn't happen soon, the battles between Europeans on the Africa Coast might shift from killing each other in Africa to squaring off in each other's backyards in Europe.
Global trade required an open access to ocean and sea. The invention of air power was a long ways off. Most European countries were surrounded by either ice, or land, which blocked them from gaining access to sea. These countries had to depend on countries with seaports and ships to gain access to resources produced elsewhere. The Berlin Conference in (1884-1885) should first be viewed as a European Peace Conference before discussing its merits concerning Africa, because if not for the conference Europe would have ended up repairing its own shambles as a result of a continental war. This would have delayed further European exploitations in Africa. The "Berlin Peace Settlement of (1884-1885)" was held to prevent war from taking place throughout the European Continent like it did during the French Revolution of (1789 - 1815). Europe was on the verge of Continental war concerning events in Africa. World War I and World War II started out as European Wars over some of the same issues. Each of the two European conflicts quickly escalated into global conflict. Europeans fighting for more resources and global markets for their goods and services were key issues during each war. Representatives attending the conference could not foresee the events coming in 1914 and 1935, but they did see war coming their way before 1900 and it was that war they managed to avoid.
The dawn of the 20th Century brought colonization to the continent of Africa. At the Berlin Conference in (1884-1885), Europe's colonial nations defined their spheres of influence and established rules for nearly total occupation of Africa. Under the "General Act of the Congress of Berlin of 1885" guidelines were spelled out in detail. Europeans did not involve the African states in negotiating these agreements, and implementation of decisions. Europeans were often met with stanch resistance and insurrection. Ethiopians under the leadership of Emperor Menelik II, were an exception to the rule; they successfully resisted European conquest, defeating the Italians in 1896.
This intrusion on African populous was made possible by the Atlantic Slave Trade, which took place over several centuries. In the process an estimated one hundred million people went to their deaths as a result of war, middle passage and "breaking process of the Caribbean"; enough people to rival the current populations of China and India had they survived to reproduce.COLLAPSE OF AFRICAN PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE
By contrast Africans killed very few Europeans. During colonialism Europeans were more than eager to show Africans how to make themselves sick and die early. Africa became known as "the white man's grave", because Europeans died in such large numbers. They started by trying to settle themselves in tropical Africa and as long as Africans left them alone very few Europeans lived long enough to become Albert Schweizers. Europeans thought Africans had nothing to contribute in the field of medicine. They called African medicine witchcraft, and refused to be helped. Most Europeans ended up becoming anonymous John Does with only a wooden stick to mark their presence.
Tropical environments and diseases were too much for them. Thus Europeans used divide and conquer and 'trickonomics' to take Africa, because they were never able to produce enough of their own human manpower in Africa.
When Europeans encountered a new desease they tried to produce a drug to get rid of the desease. When Africans encountered a desease they produced a medicine or vaccine that prevented you from getting sick. Europeans didn't develop their first vaccine until the early twentieth century. African doctors kept track of all of their clients and informed them of when their peiodic medical exams were due. Everyone lived in a close community so it was easy to keep track of each other. When colonialization came all of that changed.
When Africans were pulled away from their communities and village doctors to work for Europeans in distant farms, mines, cities and factories, they too suffered the same fate and began dying like flies. Africans had preventative medicines and vaccines they needed to take in order to stay healthy and keep from getting sick. Their doctors did not know how to make them well again if they got sick, but they did know how to keep their clients healthy and well. If these medicines were not made available to their clients on regular bases they became victims of the same diseases that Europeans suffered. Europeans tried to correct this problem by inventing Albert Schweizer, to validate their culture and condemn African culture. They used the Albert Schweizers and Christian religion to force African "heathens" from visiting their "witchdoctors" on regular bases to take "concoctions, or potions for one type of witchcraft or another". When African doctors could not cure the sick, Europeans had the weapon they needed to condemn African culture and validate their own culture. Thus Africans became victims European drug pharmaceuticals, drug side effects and theocracy. Africans eventually lost their infrastructure in medicine.
The trade routes in West and Central Africa were heavily guarded at the coast and Sahara margins, by the people who lived in those regions. They extracted tolls from foreigners and often wouldn't let them explore the region or deliver their goods in person. This barrier did not prevent a big problem for Europeans. Chattel slavery changed all of that. We will not cover that topic here however.
Africans were designated to third world status in the early stages of trade with Europe during the fifteen hundreds. Europeans only bought natural resources, human livestock and agricultural items from Africans. Products made by Africans in Africa were of no interest to Europeans. Products made by Africans living under European control was of interest.
Africans never had large inventories of textile, clothing, ivory products or woodcarving for sale. They had no concept of selling hand made objects just for “money” only. These items were commissioned for social and spiritual needs, not manufactured for consumption sake only. They were not sold at the marketplace, were food and raw materials were sold. Without the coin and coin culture Africans were not encouraged to produce in volume for prospect consumers. They were still bartering with product for product, even when beads and cowries were being used as “money”. Africans did not have shops or stores like some Asian countries did. Metal tools, clothing, decorative items in bronze, ivory and wood had to be commissioned. We will talk more on this later on in this publication.
A few Europeans liked the ivory work that craftsmen in the Congo and Benin were making. The quality of carved work during the 1600's was better in quality than the ivory carvings of Europe and China. Africans did not understand the importance of tailoring their products to meet European taste, so the Europeans bought African slaves and trained them to design products that would suit European taste. They then took those products and sold them to other Europeans. Africans, who sold Europeans slaves, received none of the profits made from sales of ivory products produced by the slaves. Europeans were engaged in buying human livestock, minerals, cash crops and other natural resources. This process was repeated with other trade skills as well. Europeans wanted highly skilled Africans that they could control.
Europeans used military force and trade to gain a foothold on the Africa continent. Military force served only as a short-term solution. Once the first was achieved one was required to come up with an economic plan quickly if they wished to maintain control over a people. Our study was designed to show how economic control of Africa served to defeat self-reliance of a people who once had been independent and productive. Control of African economy achieved dimensions slavery never met.
GAINING CONTROL OF TRADE THOUGH ECONOMICS
Europeans introduced spun glass beads as trade items. They were easy to transport over rugged terrain and Africans were already familiar with beads in the form of trade. Before the coming of the French and British cowries were universal currency throughout Central and West Africa. The Dutch took care of that problem several centuries earlier by bring ship loads of cowry shells from the Indian Ocean and dumping them in West and Central Africa. By doing so, thus they managed to devaluate the cowry and increase the value of European glass beads. From this point on Europe would control the availbility of currency used in Africa and eventually control the African Economy.
The Dutch were the first to sell glass beads, but they were not able to get the market that the British and other Europeans obtained. The Dutch used the same glass beads they manufactured for domestic use in Holland to sell. Most Africans wanted something different.
The British did not try to manufacture beads themselves. They collected the best quality beads in West Africa, all which proved to be superior to Dutch beads. Next the British took the best African beads to the best European bead companies, all which happened to be located on the Island of Venice. This glass center produced glass beads similar to glass beads produced in Egypt many centuries ago. The British asked Venetian bead suppliers to copy the beads and sell those designs only to them. They then showed the beads to Africans and ask them what other designs did they wish to see in beads. Africans made drawings and specified the colors they wanted. The British showed the drawings and specifications to their suppliers and asked them to supply them with the designer beads. Again the same instructions were given, "Sell these designs only to the British and no one else".
There was evidence that Africans copied many of the Venetian trade beads sent to Africa, but Africans did not have the advanced fast technology, nor marketing strategies the British were using.
Africans viewed the European glass, much like their own glass and shell beads; but African People were not prepared for what came next; the coin. This exchange item had a fixed value and you couldn't bargain with it like you did with beads. Beads were both a commodity and an exchange item, but coins were used for exchange only. All coins of a given size and value looked exactly the same. There were no imperfections in a coin.
When coins came on the market glass beads were the next item to lose their market value. Africans then had to learn an entirely new commerce. They had to learn to use money for purchases rather than use beads and shells to trade. It became more practical to carry coins in pocket rather than push a wheelbarrow full of shells and beads to market in order to make a purchase or perform some other economic transaction.
Seeds and shells presented another problem. Beads and shells were seen as a commodity. Coins were not a commodity.
First, Europeans viewed the African continent as a supplier of natural resources and agriculture resources. Second, Europe was only interested in developing an African consumer economy among Africans; fore as far as Europe was concerned Africans didn't nave any human resources worth developing. Mentally Europe had devalued that possibility as a result of the African slave trade.
With the arival of coins banks soon followed in the major cities. It was necessary to keep people from stealing money and control the amount of cash flow on the streets.
In West Africa, the nearest item Africans had resembling a coin was a horseshoe like brass bracelet. It presented a problem however. Even though the shape and design were standard, the small ones as well as the large ones were too big and bulky for easy transport. They were also used as ingots by brass casters. Coins were almost never used in this fashion. Last, manufacturing availability was most important. Ingots could be cast by anyone with knowledge of metallurgy. Plus you could cast as many bracelets as you wanted, because they were always being melted down and fashioned into more "practical things" such-as sculptures, boxes and jewelery.
Colonial coins were struck and milled using a high speed manufacturing process. Africans would have to raise money to buy coin minting equipment and machines from Europe.
COLONIAL MONETARY SYSTEM
For coins to work, you had to follow these three things; restrict their production, increase the availability and guard against forgeries.
Colonial coins were minted in Europe (some samples of British African coins). The British put holes in the center of most of their coins so that their subjects would identify them with the beads. The experiment worked. Africans decorated themselves and their artwork with coins. The silver coins with faces presented a different problem. They didn't have holes. So it became clear that these coins were not a commodity, fore if one put a hole in these coins it would be considered defacing the coin; thus the value of such coins would drop. Also if you melted the coin down and decided to sell the coin for its going rate in silver ounces, nine times out of ten, you might come out with less than the coin was worth before the change. After all silver by itself was no longer coin money. Once you melted the coin it became a commodity.
More serious steps would be needed to get Africans to use these coins however.
By contrast Ethiopia minted its own coins. Menelik II had his coin dies cut in Paris then sent back to Ethiopia. Ethiopian coins were struck in Ethiopia and not struck in Paris, thus Ethiopians were able to control their wealth and economy. The Ethiopian mint was in Addis Ababa. When Haile Salassie came to power he repeated the same coin policies.
Akan speaking people of Ghana came close to figuring out how the money game was being played, but they had one problem. The Akan monetary system was very sophisticated, but its evolutionary process was headed in the wrong direction. No one else on the plant was doing what these people were doing. Their monetary culture was too complicated to learn or transfer to people living outside the culture. Akan people were trading in bullion. The rest of the world viewed bullion differently. Gold dust had to be weighed at each transaction. The rest of the world was gravitating towards an easy to learn coin culture. Akan monetary system centered around gold dust or gold bullion. They used weights to give accurate weight measurements of gold dust, but this principle was much like the one used for weighing salt, just south of the Sahara. They even had an early prototype of today's bank and safe, a kuduo used for storing gold dust. Their idea was better than most Africans, but not close enough. Had the Akan people stored the gold and started using the weights as currency they may have gotten some where; however before the Akan had a chance to figure out the purpose of the coin and convert to it, British outlawed gold mining in 1913.
Africans would supply Europeans with cash crops and natural resources to feed Europes industrial economy. Europe would then sell the manufactured goods and resources in much smaller quantities and at higher prices back to Africa and the rest of the world, thus were the major objectives of the colonialist.
In order to achieve this goal Europeans had to gain control of the African economy. They achieved this by gaining control of the food production first. The theory being, if you had a need and a desire to eat you were going to respond to demands quicker. European Colonialist taxed village chiefs. If chiefs didn't pay taxes they went to jail. In order to pay taxes chiefs sent a constant labor supply to support European interest. The workers were paid only in coins; therefore the chief collected tax in the form of coins from his villagers, then paid the colonialist their share of the same tax in coins. With a shortage of labor in towns and villages there were not enough people left to farm the land, so Africans needed money to buy food as well. Thus Africans became dependent on the coin.
In Africa the economic setup was fixed. If not managed properly, after independence, African countries would not be able to pay off colonial nor neocolonial depts. For example: The highest denomination in coins offered by the British in West Africa was two shillings. Much of the coinage was in pence and pennies. It took twelve pence to equal a shilling. While Britains economy operated at the pound sterling, which amounted to about twenty shillings, African labors were paid in pennies and pence, while top management positions were paid in shillings: Thus we were always owing on something valued at the pound.
Three or four European nations would produce a single can of yams. One country would process imported metal used to produce tin cans. A second country would produce the can. A third prepared and seasoned the yams and a fourth country would package and label finished product. Only one of those Nations was a colonial power; the rest were European Nations who did not have access to colonies. Thus Africa was not colonized by just six nations, but in theory and practice; Africas economy was under siege by all of Europe.
SPIRITUAL THOUGHT VERSUS SECULAR THINKING
In Africa any form of creation was considered secret. Fire arms were first introduced to West and Central Africans by the Portuguese. Basic properties of fire arm metalurgy and principles of fire arm construction were easy for African smelters and blacksmiths to figure out. The problem was not with understanding phisical makeup of the weapon itself, but understanding the social culture that produced it. They had a contruction skill that would not be of much use to them until they made some basic changes in their way of thinking.
Spirrtuality and secular culture may have had an effect on similar concepts in African and European cultures evolving differently.
In 1798 Eli Whitney developed industries first standardized, "interchangeable gun parts system". Whitney designed templates for each of the gun parts. This idea was first used in making dress patterns to replicate clothing. Second Whitney developed the production process by which the guns would be manufactured and assembled (an "assembly line"). And third Eli developed a political social culture for the American Manufacturing Industry. All of these ideas and developments were results of Whitney's European secular culture heritage, which in no way interfered with Eli's Christian spiritual culture. Both worlds coexisted separately.
In Africa a single steel blade could perform many tasks. The task would be determined in part by the handle attached to the blade. Changing both the handle and use of the tool changed the name of the task. Notice "name of the task" and "name of the tool" does not mean the same thing. When you changed the parts of a gun or rifle the name of the tool changed, but not the task. The task for the gun remained the same; "...to launch a miniature projectile in order to puncture something". Task required a different physical make up and/or transition plus a different course of action in order to obtain a different name.
In the example above "African Interchangeable Technology" dealt less with material values and was more concerned with action and spiritual values (see article titled - "Iron Against Wood", by Claude Lockhart Clark).
Nubian warriors wore a large circular woven umbrella like object over their heads that protected and shield them from the scorching hot sun and frequent showers of pointed arrows during battle. When Nubians met their adversaries in hand to hand combat, they removed the circular object from their heads and used it as a body shield.
When a fire arm was made, in Africa, secret spiritual rights had to be preformed for each individual weapon; its creation, creator and its user. People like the Ashanti had no problems converting iron to steel in order to make canons and rifles that were both equal and superior to European fire arms, but they did have a serious problem with "spiritual thought versus secular thinking". "Secular Thinking" what was that? We didn't have even a clue as to what "Secular" was. The European secular world was constantly in conflict with African spirituality. The two very different types of thought were running a serious collision course, which would result in serious consequences for Africans.
Eli Whitney manufactured guns to make money. His factory produced and sold guns to clients that needed them to make war on people and win. Eli Whitney was a very good businessman in competition with other gun makers who were trying sell to his clients. Whitney had to keep improving the quality of his product in order to keep his competitors away from his clients, so that he could continue to make money. It was important for Whitney to always have more money on hand than guns and never the other way around; fore Whitney was not a gun collector. Eli Whitney was a coin collector.
Europe was made up of many special interest groups all after the same goals. The European mercenaries that faught wars for their clients were coin collectors. They were in the business of making money. They could only make money if they won. Mercenaries didn't make money by losing conflicts. They had to win.
Europeans employed to put Africans to work extracting the meneral riches of Africa were coin collectors. That was how they earned a living, collecting coins and putting Africans to work.
The people running the whole opperation made the most money and they too were coin collectors. These people owned the factories that made items to sell to people.
The people running the show put elected government officials in power to help them stake geographical claims though-out the world. Government officials were in their jobs to make money by performing the tasks that powerful people wanted them to perform. Government officials were coin collectors. If the geographical claims could be made by peaceful means then so it be, but if violence was needed, it was government people's job to figure out how to get the job done, so that they could continue to make money.
This coin money thing that Europeans were into would have made no sense to Africans.
Africans were able to copy each new weapon that appeared on the African continent, but they were never able to create a secular cultural process for developing and running a "Manufacturing Industry". What they had was a physical object that launched a miniature projectile and that was all they ever learned and understood about the European gun culture. Africans were missing the social political culture that went with this item. African people were trying to replicate this new weapon using the tools and ideas provided them from their own culture and it wasn't working very well for them.
African people already understood the concept of "interchangeable tool parts" (read article titled - "Iron Against Wood", by Claude Lockhart Clark). This concept went back thousands of years in Africa, but the cultural concept was different from Europe. In Africa interchangeable parts was applied to "use or (action)", where-as in Europe interchangeable could become either a series, or "single physical item - (thing oriented)". That was because in one culture the final physical make up of an item defined its use where-as in the other there wasn't any single physical item to identify. There was only a use to identify. These two totally different views were worlds apart. In one culture a person saw an object or series of objects while in the other culture one witnessed a series of activities.
Africans would have to learn how to distinguish spirituality and religious ideas from state and secular ideas. This spiritual conflict with secular technology would plague them in the monetary and commerce disciplines as well.
TECHNOLOGY AND INDUSTRY
In any economy that wishes to be self-sufficient, in to days world, it is important that its citizens produce and maintain a productive tool infrastructure. One of the main ingredients of this infrastructure is metallurgy ["The science that deals with procedures used in extracting metals from their ores, purifying and alloying metals, and creating useful objects from metals."] This definition comes from The American Heritage Dictionary. Notice the use of the word "science". It seems to suggest that any one mastering the art of extracting, purifying, alloying and creation of useful objects in metal is involved in some sort of science.
Rev. Samuel Johnson, a Yoruba man living in Nigeria, at the turn of the 20th century describes his peoples fate in the iron businesses. "Iron smelting was carried on more largely in earlier than modern times. Certain districts are rich in iron ores, its iron production gave its name to the city of Ilo irin, iron grinding, also to Eleta a district of Ibadan Eta being the term for iron ore. Certain districts in Ekiti province are also famous for their iron ores from which good steel was made, such as Oke Mesi. Charcoal from hard wood and shells of palm nuts are the materials generally used for generating the great heat required for the furnace (called Ileru) which is kept going all the year round. Iron rods and bars of European commerce being cheaper are fast displacing home made products and here and there all over the country the furnaces are being closed and soon will doubts being to be expressed as to whether Youbas ever knew the art of smelting iron from ores!"
How were smelting furnaces being closed? Why were imported goods cheaper than the hand goods made at home? Rev. Johnson did not address these problems. These were economic issues.
ECONOMICS OF INDUSTRY
The next move, the colonialist made, would deliver a devastating blow to Colonial Africa's tooling infrastructure, causing Africans to be totally depended on Europe for technology choices and development. First, metal smelters were taxed out of existence, causing blacksmiths and brass casters to look elsewhere for their raw materials, because the smelters were raising the price of their goods in order to pay taxes. And if you didn't pay your taxes you either went out of business, spent time in jail or both. So the smithies looked to Europe for their raw material. This left the blacksmiths as easy pickings, because colonialists could control the availability of materials blacksmiths needed. To make sure that all possible threats of self-sufficiency were prevented, blacksmiths were taxed next. Casters did not pose any problem, because they used their craft for art decorative purposes. Besides with smelters and smiths gone, brass casters would never have a chance to learn practical things to do with their craft.
Africa would enter the industrial age under developed, not being able to take care of its basic technological needs. Without smelters African countries would remain behind Europe economically and technologically. Because of this Africans wouldn't be able to copy and/or reproduce tools and technology sold to them on the European market.
Algeria, a North African Country, became industrialized. Algeria smelts iron and steel for markets in Europe and Asia.
In South, Eastern Nigeria, the Nigerian Government has oil and oil refineries, or should we say, Shell Oil Company has oil and oil refineries in Nigeria. As we mentioned earlier, without smelters Africa would inter the 20th century without the necessary tools. To obtain and transport oil you need metal. To refine oil you need metal. Thus without metal rapped around oil in its early stages of development, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to produce and transport oil fast enough to compete in todays market place.
Education provided by colonial powers was structured to facilitate better connectivity of cash crops and raw material between Africa's interior to the coast. The labor force would consist of farmers, lumberjacks and miners. A small civil service was trained to facilitate the paper work in coastal city ports and interior economic centers. This civil service would make sure a productive work force stayed on task and insure a constant flow of goods from the interior to the coast, bound for Europe. In order to perform paper work and tasks, required by the colonialist, civil service workers were required to read and write.
Unlike many outsiders believed, African intelligentsia among the highly organized people, such as Akan groups and Yoruba understood the means of writing, spiritually. They just couldn't grasp the context of mass education for expediency, under which the Europeans used it. The priesthood and nobility used writing as "secret text". Unfortunately it was never intended for every ones use. In most places in West Africa no text was used at all since most things were still memorized. (to be continued)
Timbuktu was one exception. The education system was secret, but educated believed in developing its masses, which Egypt and other African Civilizations did not. The Universities of Timbuktu developed out of Koran Schools. They were successful in preserving and developing knowledge in the sciences and medicine. During the colonial period, French were able to locate West Africa's three Universities that supplied the Western World and Fertile Crescent with so much of its early knowledge about math and science. They could not afford to let this educational system compete with their colonial education, besides if the French took away the metallurgy infrastructure Africans might be able to put metallurgy back in place through information about properties of metal contained in their books.
"Neo-Colonialism" The Last Stage Of Imperialism, by Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, published 1965. Dr. Nkrumah was the first president of Republic of Ghana.
"How Europe Under Developed Africa", by Walter Rodney, published in 1972.
Read "Iron Smelting" and "Smithery", pages 119 & 120, Chapter VIII "Manners and Customs", in "The History of The Yorubas" From The Earliest Times to the Beginning of the British Protectorate, written by Rev. Samuel Johnson, published by his younger brother Dr. O. Johnson, in 1921.
Under POSTED MATERIALS: look for "CHANGING ROCK INTO METAL", by Tony Gleaton
View videos "Steel Making in Ethiopia", filmed in 1926 and "A smiths Workshop".
Claude Lockhart Clark © 1999 All rights reserved
Paper Written Spring Of 1999
Oil Painting Titled "FREEDOM MORNING"
Was done by writer's father Claude Clark in 1944
Note: Part Two "Diaspora SanKofa" coming soon
Revised: November 03, 2002.
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