TIPPU TIP AND THE EAST AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE by Leda Farrant

TIPPU TIP AND THE EAST AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hamed bin Muhammed bin Juma bin Rajad el Murjebi, a.k.a. Tippu Tip was the most powerful slaver in Africa in the 19th century. This distinction hardly makes him a hero by modern standards so Farrant settles for depicting an outsized adventurer, a shrewd trader, a munificent host and a staunch friend to Livingstone, Cameron, Stanley and other European missionaries and explorers for whom he provided escort service in the African interior. Farrant's most cogent observation is that Tippu Tip much resembled Henry Morton Stanley; they were ""two strong personalities of different backgrounds but very similar nature."" Tippu Tip was an Arab, born in the upper strata of Arab society in Zanzibar, at that time ""the most important slave market in the Indian Ocean"" still going strong in the 1870's and 1880's though the British were supposedly hellbent on suppressing the African trade in ""black and white ivory."" Farrant has relied heavily on Tippu Tip's own memoirs as transcribed in 1905 by a German professor, one Henrich Brode. Tip wasn't exactly modest and although his daughter-in-law called him ""the kindest man who ever lived,"" when trading for slaves (or raiding and plundering recalcitrant tribes) he was a ferocious predator. With white men though, Tip was different; apparently he realized early on that there was no arguing with guns. Though the slave trade represented his livelihood he seems to have accepted the European carving up of Africa as inevitable. In return, the white men liked him and were impressed with his ""wealth, power, intelligence, ambition, and cruelty."" Farrant provides occasional glimpses of Africa's slave economics but for the most part this is a two-dimensional and uncritical portrait of an African potentate who ruled for a time at the sufferance of Europeans.

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 1975
Publisher: St. Martin's