Manillas

image w2008-1_manillas_slave_tokens

Object

Token

Title

Manillas

Production date

1843

Material

Copper

Description

Three manillas, or slave tokens. These manillas or slave tokens were retrieved by a diver from the Liverpool schooner 'Douro' which sank in 1843 after hitting a rock off Great Crebawethan, Isle of Scilly. it was illegally trading in slaves.

Manillas are penannular armlets, mostly in bronze or copper, very rarely gold, which served as a form of commodity money (and, to a degree, ornamentation) among certain West African peoples.This form of African currency also became known as "slave trade money" after the Europeans started using them to acquire slaves for the slave trade into the Americas as well as England prior to 1807.

The name manilla is said to derive from the Spanish for a bracelet manella, the Portuguese for hand-ring, or after the Latin manus (hand) or from monilia, plural of monile (necklace). They are usually horseshoe-shaped, with terminations that face each other and are roughly lozenge-shaped.

The most popular African name for manillas, Okpoho, comes from the Igbo language.

Although gold was the primary and abiding merchandise sought by the Portuguese, by the early 16th century they were participating in the slave trade for bearers to carry manillas to Africa's interior, and gradually manillas became the principal money of this trade. A typical voyage took manillas and utilitarian brass objects such as pans and basins to West Africa, then slaves to America, and cotton back to the mills of Europe. The price of a slave, expressed in manillas, varied considerably according to time, place, and the specific type of manilla offered.

Production place

Birmingham

Associated place

Isles of Scilly

Object number

2008.1

On display?

No

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