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Book chapter2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Cattle, Climate, and Caravans : the Dynamics of Pastoralism, Trade, and Migration in 19th-Century East Africa

Håkansson, N.T.


This chapter explores the interrelationships between the international trade in ivory, climate, migrations, and the expansion of pastoralism in 19th-century East Africa. The main thesis is that the ivory trade created an economic field of exchange that funneled cattle from the north to central East Africa. The increasing number of cattle, in turn, accelerated migrations from agricultural areas into pastoralist societies and spaces. A major and a minor drought that took place during this period influenced all of these. Earlier historical and anthropological studies of East African pastoralists have largely focused on local or regional adaptations to climate and the natural environment rather than on their dependence on trade and world system relationships. However, recent research emphasizes the changing and fluid regional economies, productive specializations, and long-distance trade that East African pastoralists shared with their peers in West Africa and the Middle East. Later, during the colonial period, while the parameters changed, the reasons for migrations continued to be conditioned by the same goals of social reproduction through cattle accumulation, social networks, and family expansion.

Published in

Title: Migration in Africa : Shifting Patterns of Mobility from the 19th to the 21st Century
ISBN: 9781032125299, eISBN: 9781003225027
Publisher: Taylor and Francis

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Economic History
    Economic Geography

    Publication identifier


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