Trade Matters


copal coconuts beeswax ambergris
ivory rhinoceros horn cowrie shell

(also known as blackamoor’s teeth)
always be sure to check the teeth

for a slave to snore in sleeping
is counted a very great fault indeed

make them run a little way
there should be no defect of the feet

a child worth a pound or two
in Zanzibar will fetch twenty in Persia

no-one buys an adult slave (domestic—
wild from inland is a different matter)

their masters never part with them
till they are found incorrigible

but wild slaves though saleable
are a source of lawlessness and robbery

the worst is the treacherous weather
the tedium, the wearisome monotony

every merchant hopes to leave
as soon as he can realise a tidy sum

every agent would persuade
his employer to recall him

Note: from The White Nile by Alan Moorehead (Hamish Hamilton, 1960) and the original writings on Zanzibar and slavery by explorer Richard Burton in 1856 and Captain Thomas Smee of the British research ship Ternate, who visited Zanzibar in 1811.