The Saharan Passage: Race, Slavery, and Sugar in 16th Century Northwest Africa

Wed October 25th 2023, 12:00 - 1:00pm
Event Sponsor
Center for African Studies
Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies
Encina Commons
615 Crothers Way, Stanford, CA 94305
Room 123

Before the rise of sugar production in the Americas and Caribbean, Saʿdian Morocco (1541-1631) briefly prevailed as one of the world’s top producers and exporters of sugar. Nearly the entirety of Morocco's sugar was exported to Tudor England, as English merchants were granted exclusive concessions, marking the beginning of England's entry into the Atlantic trade networks. A key factor that contributed to Morocco’s dominance of sugar production was its reliance on slave labor following its invasion of the West African Songhai Empire in 1591. The influx of slave labor—specifically Black and Muslim—marked an unprecedented historical moment in which Morocco shunned Islamic jurisprudence forbidding Muslims from enslaving fellow Muslims. Toward the end of its reign, however, Saʿdian Morocco was unable to compete with the burgeoning sugar economies in colonial Brazil, Haiti, and Jamaica, due to the growth of the Atlantic slave trade. Ultimately, it was in Morocco where sugar was transformed from a luxury into a commodity--a historical process that spelled both the rise and demise of the Saʿdian dynasty.

About the Speaker:

Samia Errazzouki is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Stanford Humanities Center and History Department. She holds a PhD in history from the University of California, Davis and a masters in Arab Studies from Georgetown University. She currently serves as an editor with the Journal of North African Studies. Samia formerly worked as a Morocco-based journalist, where she reported for the Associated Press, and later, with Reuters. She is an advocate for press freedom in North Africa and has published on current affairs in the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, the Guardian, and the Carnegie Endowment, among others.