Law lecturer gives Black History Month talk on historic relations between West Africa and Portugal
Law lecturer and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead for the School of Business and Law, Dr Adaeze Okoye, gave the final talk of Black History Month to our students and staff.
Adaeze is a barrister and solicitor, who was educated in both Nigeria and the UK.
She shared with us some of her findings from her research into the history of business and legal relations between West Africa, Portugal and Britain.
“What this session gives me the opportunity to do is to reflect on what is a complex and flawed relationship that African cities, such as Lagos, have had with the west – by west I mean Europe – over centuries.”
Adaeze noted that looking at the relationship through a business and legal lens helps to see why the narrative changed over time.
In the 15th Century Portugal started their almost 200-year monopoly of trade relations with the coast of Africa, before the Dutch, English or French made their way over there.
Adaeze explained that this was largely due to geographical proximity, as prior to countries and continents spreading apart, Western Africa was much closer to Portugal.
“Portugal had the funds and a zeal for trade. Trade was a key driver but at that point trade of persons was not the key driver. They were looking for things like pepper, spices, gum, gold, ivory and cloth.
“There was evidence at this stage that the relationship was cordial. It was about trade, curiosity and what you could get.”
From 1600 the Dutch, French and English became more involved in trade around West Africa. Trading began to change with a demand for sugar, tobacco and slave labour.
In the mid 1800s, Lagos had become a commercial hub and there was a series of treaties that resulted in colonisation under British rule.
It wasn’t until 1960 that Nigeria gained independence from the British empire, with Lagos named as the country’s capital city.
“There were complex relationships over time that were driven by economic questions, legal and illegal interactions between leaders internationally and complicated by altered power relationships.
“It’s resulted in simplified narratives of racial stereotypes but it doesn’t represent more than 500 years of economic interactions, which resulted in forced and non-forced migration leading to today’s multi-racial societies we witness today.”