a1 Dalhousie University
This examination of Maraka long-distance trade has underlined a commercial strategy involving both exchange and production. Most of the goods the Maraka traded were either locally produced or re-exports from the desert-side trade. Once the desert-side dimension of Maraka trade was interrupted, as it was following the Umarian conquest of 1861, the linkages holding together Sinsani's economy collapsed.
Maraka long-distance trade was characterized by small exclusively male caravans which maximized time constraints in bypassing numerous local markets along the route. The Maraka usually engaged in wholesale transactions, preferring smaller profit margins per unit and a rapid turnaround of goods. The Maraka traded in such a manner because involvement in commodity production at home absorbed much of their time. Profits from Maraka trade were invested in a plantation sector which fed cotton cloth and grain to the desert-side trade and to Maraka long-distance trade southward to the land of kola and down the Niger to Timbuktu.
* A version of this paper was presented as part of a panel on revisionist interpretations of Western Sudanese history at the African Studies Association annual meeting, 1978. I wish to thank both the Canada Council for a graduate fellowship which supported research in Mali, Senegal, and France, and the Izaak Walton Killam Trust for giving me the opportunity in the form of a postdoctoral fellowship to develop some of my arguments. I am also grateful for comments and on-going discussions with Martin Klein, Paul Lovejoy, and David Robinson.