Mapping the Diffusion of Imported Cloth into East Africa, c. 1830-1900

Kate Frederick

Cloth imports into East Africa, 1836-1900. Aggregated shipping records from MH 23, MH 235, MSS 901, and MSS 24 series (Peabody Essex Museum, Phillips Library), “Arrival and Departure of American Vessels,” RG 84, Records of Foreign Service Posts, Zanzibar, vol. 84 (National Archives and Records Administration), and government-published trade reports of Bombay and the United Kingdom. British and Indian sources include exports to both Zanzibar and Mozambique. American merchants in East Africa focused almost exclusively on Zanzibar-based trade.

The development of cotton textile production has formed the backbone of numerous industrial takeoffs, including Britain’s industrial revolution and, more recently, the catch-up of several East Asian countries. A seemingly perpetual disappointment of textile industries in East Africa, however, has prompted frequently renewed debates about the role that foreign competition may have played in impeding growth of existing domestic production in the region, particularly as East Africa increasingly opened up to global trade during the nineteenth century. However, insufficient empirical evidence has precluded substantive conclusions. My current project bridges the gap between theory and historical empirical reality to shed light on this piece of the African textile puzzle. Specifically, mapping the diffusion of foreign-produced cloth into nineteenth-century East Africa provides crucial insights into the nature of regional demand and consumption, along with related implications for domestic production Read more

No Postage Required

Paige Besse

Drawer of various Massachusetts postcards for sale at an antique shop in Salem, Mass. Photo by Paige Besse.

After a few minutes of flipping through a box at a shop in Essex, I picked it up: a simple view of the Old State House in Boston with a slightly scorched edge. It was my first card. I started a few years ago, picking up postcards from various places along the North Shore of Massachusetts, focusing my purchases on prints on local places I knew well and on certain print eras. With a background in History, I revel in seeing places from a past perspective and am instinctively drawn to the dusty and worn. Read more