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Title: Palm oil & power : women in an era of economic and social transition in 19th century Yorubaland (south-western Nigeria)
Author(s): Shields, Francine
Issue Date: 1997
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This study looks at the economic, political and social history of women in the Yoruba area of south-western Nigeria in the 19th century using contemporary sources which have remained previously largely untapped for historical studies of women. The century encompassed many key historical developments which affected women; in particular, the decline of the Atlantic slave trade and the growth of an export trade in locally produced palm oil and kernels. Whereas the slave trade had been dominated by men, the processing, transport and trade of palm produce was dominated by women. The extent, nature and effects of women's role in this and other industries such as pottery manufacture, dyeing and food vending, which also expanded and developed during this period, are examined. As demand for palm produce and other goods increased, the labour of both free-born and slave women became more valuable since it was vital for industry at all stages. The study looks at changing labour demands and sources and alterations in the established pattern of the sexual and generational division of labour. Important changes in gender relations are evident and the study illuminates how tensions between men and women and between women themselves were manifest and how both men and women expressed and dealt with these problems. Economic changes were accompanied by largely internal political developments which favoured a few wealthy women. overall, many men perceived and/or experienced that increasing female autonomy posed a threat to the established patriarchal order. The evidence represented in the thesis clearly shows how men attempted to subordinate women in general, tap into their income and limit their political involvement, mainly through the development of exploitative and restrictive aspects of male-dominated politico-religious cults, which were directed specifically at women.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Arts and Humanities
History and Politics

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