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Open Access Publications from the University of California

We Put Our Heads Together: Dispute Mechanisms in 18th Century Old Calabar

  • Author(s): Gilman, Adam Boyd
  • Advisor(s): Alpers, Edward A.
  • et al.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of dispute mechanisms in the institutional and social dynamics of 18th century Old Calabar. In addition, this thesis considered the value of dispute records as historical sources in examining the sociopolitical and cultural transformation of Atlantic West African societies during the expansion of the slave trade. The thesis analyzed references to the legal and extralegal dispute strategies of Old Calabar's inhabitants in the diary of Antera Duke, an influential Efik trader. The analysis of the diary revealed the institutional role of the legal arenas and enforcement mechanisms of the Ekpe society in the management and settlement of disputes, as well as the existence of extralegal strategies used in place of, or concurrently with, legal mechanisms. The principal conclusion was that disputes served an important role in the transformation of Old Calabar's sociopolitical order during the late 18th century.

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