Author Topic: Manilla slave token  (Read 9364 times)

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Offline malj1

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Manilla slave token
« on: May 27, 2012, 02:02:37 PM »
Tonight I watched yesterday's episode 6 of the BBC's programme "Time Team", this was about the former White Rock Copper Works at Hafod near Swansea. The team excavated what they hoped was the Manilla House, as shown on early maps, in an attempt to prove that manillas were made at the works but unfortunately did not reach a conclusion.

A good description of manillas in Wikipedia.

My only manilla is shown below.
Malcolm
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Offline capnbirdseye

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Re: Manilla slave token
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2012, 03:10:20 PM »
These small Bronze ones were also produced in great numbers in Birmingham, England, to this day there is still a Manilla road  8)

interesting link  http://www.coincoin.com/I024.htm
Vic

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Manilla slave token
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2012, 06:08:17 PM »
Vic is quite right to note that traditionally, British Manila's were shipped from Birmingham. I always presumed they were made in Birmingham also, but maybe not. I presume making a Manila is just a question of cutting and bending a rod or coil of copper and hammering the ends. Transport fees for rods or Manila's would probably have been by weight in both cases, so they could very well have been produced in Swansea, closer to the Welsh copper mines, depending on the price of labour.

BTW, Manila's are not slave tokens. They were accepted as money in large parts of Africa, not only in the slave trade, just like e.g. rolls of textile, tobacco and sugar.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline malj1

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Re: Manilla slave token
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2012, 03:02:17 AM »
Most works refer to these as slave tokens or currency as did the programme referred to above. An interesting page is this one... MANILLA: MONEY OF THE SLAVE TRADE this give an interesting insight into the trade.

A few quotes from other sites to complete the picture.

Eventually manillas became known as slave trade money after they were used by Europeans to acquire slaves. The slave trade in question was that to England and the Americas prior to 1807.
 Source

 ....Welsh copperworks, notably the Swansea works of Robert Morris and White Rock--started in 1736 by Thomas Coster and his partners partly for this trade--also manufactured copper and brass guinea rods and manillas for the slave economy....   ...Robert Morris Junior in his History of the Copper Concern, 1774, comments on the market for manillas in the 1720s when his father, Robert Morris Senior, had just started his pioneering copperworks in Swansea in 1717. By the 1770s bigger profits were to be made from manufacturing these items although it was not the only large market for Welsh copper and brass....
 Source

The demise of the slave trade resulted in the prohibition of manillas as a form of currency. A constant reminder and a tangible symbol of slavery and the slave trade, the British initialled a major recall of all manillas and replaced them with the British West African currency. Many of the existing manillas were collected, confiscated and sold as scrap. Much of it was melted and transformed in other usable goods.
Source

Malcolm
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: Manilla slave token
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2012, 10:19:48 AM »
There is no possible rational explanation why a manila would be accepted in payment for a slave, but not in payment of something else, say a bale of cotton or coffee (note that Semans does not claim this.) The slavery only story also does not explain why manilas are often found solitary, while slaves were bought by the shipload. European traders did trade in other "commodities" than slaves. The use of textile and many other commodities for payment in West-Africa is documented by contemporary travellers. That doesn't mean manilas were NOT used for the slave trade, but rather that they were a generally accepted means of payments among other commodities in large parts of West Africa, not at all confined to the slave trade.

I have even read that the slaves were forced to wear manilas as a sign of their status. Handle a genuine manila and you know that the story is false. They are inflexible, so either relatively easy to put on and off (lose) or impossible to put on, they are heavy, so they would hinder the wearer when working and why equip a slave with money in the first place?

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline malj1

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Re: Manilla slave token
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2012, 02:15:15 PM »
The manillas were used as a medium of exchange for pepper, ivory tusks, palm oil and locally woven cotton cloth according to David Vice in his book 'The Coinage of British West Africa'. he goes on to say toward the end of the 19th century Britain increased the supply of coinage to an extent that the manillas popularity waned and in 1894 importation of these stopped entirely and nine years later they were declared to be no longer legal tender although they still circulated among the native population.
Malcolm
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akona20

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Re: Manilla slave token
« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2012, 02:37:30 PM »
I am rather glad that this series is showing a little bit of industrial history. The Welsh method of refining refractory copper was a world first and a clsely guarded secret.

The reason of why a manilla was accepted as a medium of exchange (coin in common terms) was because it was copper and copper was used for coins. It became a medium of exchange worth its intrinsic value tather than a value stamped on it.

The price of a slave was expresed, in some areas, as being a number of manillas. This was a stock in trade term in the slave trade. There is no real reason why wheat is calculated in bushells but it is! Copper bracelets were a stock in trade medium of exchange in west Africa long before European discovery and the term comes from the Spanish/Portugese originally from Latin a derivative meaning necklace. Copper was the medium of exchange in west Africa so we have a medium of exchange in the metal of general value and exchange from the heart of modern slave country, west Africa.

Offline malj1

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Re: Manilla slave token
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2012, 02:58:55 PM »
Yes the programme mentioned the copper passing through six stages in its production and that the workers were sworn to secrecy. The workers also died very young around 30 - 40 years old from poisoning by the arsenic and other chemicals present.

The book mentioned above goes on to say that the withdrawn manillas amounted to 32 million and weighed some 2,464 tons. [that would be old tons - a lot of copper!] In all the state paid out 437,135, the scrap was sold for 153,000 a loss of 284.135 - not unduly high for a currency that had been in use for some 400 years.
Malcolm
Have a look at  my tokens and my banknotes.