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My new book The Gift: How Objects of Prestige Shaped the Atlantic Slave Trade and Colonialism (Cambridge University Press, 2024) will be out in Europe in November 2023 and in the United States in January 2024. You can pre-order the book with a 20% discount at checkout using the code ARAUJO23.

The Gift explores how objects of prestige contributed to cross-cultural exchanges between Africans and Europeans during the Atlantic slave trade. An eighteenth-century silver ceremonial sword, commissioned in the port of La Rochelle by French traders, was offered as a gift to an African commercial agent in the port of Cabinda (Kingdom of Ngoyo), in twenty-first century Angola. Slave traders carried this object from Cabinda to Abomey, the capital of the Kingdom of Dahomey in twenty-first century’s Republic of Benin, from where French officers looted the item in the late nineteenth century. Drawing on a rich set of sources in French, English, and Portuguese, as well as artifacts housed in museums across Europe and the Americas, Ana Lucia Araujo illuminates how luxury objects impacted European–African relations, and how these economic, cultural, and social interactions paved the way for the European conquest and colonization of West Africa and West Central Africa.

Reviews & endorsements

“A remarkable counternarrative told through the history of material objects troubles what we know about commodification in West and West Central Africa. The Gift brilliantly reframes the best thinking on circulation at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In the expansive tapestry woven by Ana Lucia Araujo, readers will discern new ways of seeing and thinking about cultural objects and the elaboration of power in the Atlantic World. A rewarding and necessary book.’ Herman Bennett, author of African Kings and Black Slaves: Sovereignty and Dispossession in the Early Modern Atlantic

“A brilliant fusion of social and art history, this gem of a book dazzles with scholarly depth. A testament to dual training, an exquisite narrative captivates, enlightens, and transcends conventional boundaries. A truly enriching, must-read gift.” Roquinaldo Ferreira, author of Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Atlantic World: Angola and Brazil during the Era of the Slave Trade

“Following the itinerary and many lives of a silver knife, gifted and re-gifted across the commercial, familial, and political networks linking France to west and west-central Africa in the 18th and 19th century, Araujo crafts a productively speculative account that gives new depths to our understanding of the Atlantic slave trade.” Cécile Fromont, author of Images on a Mission in Early Modern Kongo and Angola

“In tracing a ceremonial silver sword and its meanings from France to Central and West Africa and back to Europe, this creative and nuanced book sheds light on gift-giving in the Atlantic slave trade, French connections to multiple African regions, and the depredations of colonial invaders. As it reminds us, material objects have stories to tell!” Lisa Lindsay, author of Atlantic Bonds: A Nineteenth Century Odyssey from America to Africa.