Between 18th December 2007 and 12th February 2008 the University of Edinburgh’s library will host a Royal Geographical Society (RGS) touring exhibition detailing often overlooked aspects of European expeditions on the African continent in the late nineteenth century. This exhibition uncovers archive materials to detail the role of the ‘Bombay Africans’ in these explorations. These ‘Bombay Africans’, slaves freed by the Bombay-based Royal Navy during the abolition of the slave trade between 1855 and 1870, were a vital and often forgotten part of European expeditionary ventures.
The vast expansion of expeditionary activity in East and Central Africa in the late nineteenth century demanded large and diverse teams, often exceeding 100 people. The emergence of the Bombay Africans coincided with this growing demand for labour, and many were hired on to these expeditions. By 1880 there were over 3,000 Bombay Africans in East Africa, providing vital labour to expeditionary success but also challenging local slavery practices.
The hosting of this exhibition has been made possible by support from the Human Geography Research Group; Science Studies Unit; Centre of African Studies; Edinburgh University Library; and Edinburgh University Development Office.