Denomination: 40 réis (real)
Authority: Vicente d'oliviera & Co.
Place of Issue: Iberian Peninsula
Madeira, a Portuguese colony established in the 15th century, was a commercial and trading hub for sugar, then, beginning in the 17th century, wine.
In her notes, Sarah Sophia lists the values of the Madeira silver coinage in her collection and provides more details about their currency:
The silver coin current in Madeira is entirely Spanish, and of three denominations; Pistereens, Bitts, and half Bitts; the first worth about one shilling, the second sixpence, the third three pence. They have also Portuguese money of copper but it is very scarce.
The Pisterren is called Peseta de a cinco, Bit: Dos Reales y medio, and half Bit: Real y quartillo1
The real (meaning: royal, plural reales) was a unit of Portuguese currency from around 1430 until 1911. In the late 18th century and early 19th century, copper coins were issued in denominations of 3, 5, 10, 20 and 40 réis, with silver 50, 60, 100, 120, 240 and 480 réis and gold 480, 800, 1,200, 1,600, 3,200 and 6,400 réis.2
While Catherine Eagleton points out that Sarah Sophia did not record a coin in this section of the catalogue, we know that "Mr. Hodgkinson gave her an 'old coin' from Madeira in November 1792, and Mrs. Harris 1 bit and K bit coins from Madeira in February 1792."3 From this, then, we begin to see Sarah Sophia's unique cataloging method take shape: the coins, rather than appearing under Madeira in her catalogue, appear among Spanish coins "with notes of their names in use in Madeira recorded there."4 This categorical move exemplifies Sarah Sophia’s strategy of cataloguing the Madeira coin according to the authority behind its issue, rather than the geographical location of its use.
Madeira is listed in "Tokens" Vol. 6. under "Africa" in Sarah Sophia Banks's Catalogue of Coins. It is this particular 1799 copper token that we map here, as it illustrates the complex circulation of colonial coinage. Placing this coin, first, on the map in the location where it has been assigned by the catalogue, presents us with a very different view of the global reach of the coin. Rather than reaching toward the coast of Africa, the collection reaches only to the Iberian Peninsula. By connecting the coin, to its country of issue and use, Madeira, we can begin to develop a new appreciation for the span of Sarah Sophia’s coin collection.
Sierra Leone Coin
Denomination: 1 cent
Authority: Sierra Leone Company, London, England
Place of Issue: Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone, a British colony founded in 1787, was administered by the Sierra Leone Company beginning in 1791. The Company was incorporated in 1791 and " aimed to undermine slave trade."5 The colony of Sierra Leone transferred to the Crown in 1808 when the company failed6 and has been viewed as a colony " plagued by poverty, poor cash crops, financial debts, and abolitionists' ideals."7 Sierra Leone was immortalized in accounts by Anna Maria Falconbridge and others as, particularly, a failure in its foundations of abolitionism and its attempts at creating a " Freetown."8
In Sarah Sophia’s notes, she lists the Sierra Leone coinage in her collection:
1 Sierra Leone Company. Africa | one Dollar piece 100.1791 (1793) 1 Dollar
Bonne p. 205 pl 6. n. 1
21 Sierra Leone Company. Africa | half Dollar piece 50. 1791 (1793) 50 cents
22 twenty cent piece. 20. 1791 (1793) 20 cents
23 Sierra Leone Company Africa | ten cent piece 10. 1791
27 Sierra Leone Company. Africa | one penny piece 1791 | pl. 1g. N. 93.
Prattent p:149.n. 594 Cent 2.9
Lend or 2nd to General Collection
29 Sierra Leone Company. Africa | one cent piece 1791 | Pye pl. 1g.n.95.
Prattent p:14g n. 594 2 cents
Pictured on the map is the 1791 one-cent copper piece in Sarah Sophia’s collection. The image on the reverse side of the coin illustrates the philosophical aims of the Company: peaceful trade, a friendship between nations, and the " rehabilitation of negro slaves in dignity and friendship," while the image on the obverse side of the coin illustrates the colony’s name: Sierra Leone, "The Mountain of Lions."11 As David Vice points out, even if the main objective of the company was said to be commercial, " they were also reminded that their trade was subserving a nobler purpose: the Blessings of Industry and Civilisation" to a country " long detained in Barbarism."12
The Sierra Leone company was created at the height of British participation in the slave trade and was part of an attempt" to reform trading practices and to transfer British value systems to the West African Coast."13 Importantly, it " constituted one of the first tangible manifestations of abolitionism in Africa" and also participated in the European imperial interest in Africa through its implementation of " commerce, civilization, and Christianity."14 The coin bears the date 1791 in commemoration of the Company's founding.
As Sophie Mew points out, Sierra Leone is an interesting case in terms of currency, for it had no centralised currency system before the presence of colonizers and, therefore offers a special opportunity for analyzing the role of users of money in the region's development.15
The example shown is a penny given to Sarah Sophia by the Swedish botanist Adam Afzelius in 1793.16 This coin is unique from the number of Sierra Leone coins in circulation in Sarah Sophia's collection because, as she indicates in her catalogue, it was " brought from Sierra Leone."17 While it remains in its design an example of the European-style currency created for trade within African nations, it is a significant piece because the coin had actually been in circulation in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone was linked to the authority of the Sierra Leone Company in Sarah Sophia's catalogue and was one of 214,764 one penny pieces minted in Birmingham in 1792 by Matthew Boulton at the Soho Mint, which was "looked upon as the most advanced of its kind in the world."18 This coin demonstrates another aspect of her collection's content and structure, particularly in terms of its associations with authority; it is simultaneously linked to and valued for both its place of use in Africa and that African connection to Britain through the Sierra Leone Company. Much like the Company exists as both an English and African entity, this coin exemplifies the strange understanding of geographical location developing within the British empire, an understanding of place as validated by a foreign authoritative body of power.
Denomination: 1 Ackey
Authority: Royal Africa Company, London
Place of Issue: Bulama
Bulama, described in a tract published in 1794 by Andrew Johansen, as a " spot admirably adapted for the joint purposes of agriculture and commerce."19 In his longer discussion of the suitability of Bulama's climate, geographical situation, and people for the establishment of a colony, Johansen notes that the goals of African settlement are to " people in those fertile territories, despoiled of their inhabitants by the slave trade; to rear the production of the climes between the tropics, by the assistance of freemen; to give ample scope to the industry and exertions of those who might be inclined to remove from Great Britain; and to extend the commerce and manufactures of our native country."20 He contends that these are the goals that have " excited the attention of the Bulama Association," which was formed in London as the Bulam Association in 1791.21
Deirdre Coleman narrates the history of Bulama, noting that it was a colony formed in opposition to that of Sierra Leone.22 In contrast to the seemingly impenetrable interior of Africa, the island of Bulam was a space where the imagination could go to work, a space that could be penetrated and " grasped."23 Bulam in the minds of the public was likened to an earthly paradise, and Eden.24 Interestingly, however, this paradise was set aside by the Bulam colony for an especially militarized colony.25 Its radical constitution prevented it from receiving parliament's sanction26, but it notably laid the foundations for a hoped-for colony in which Europeans and Africans existed together on equal social terms.27 Ultimately, however, the island's colonization was subject to violent beginnings and a disheartening end, as it was learned that the island was " so unhealthy as to be uninhabitable."28
In Sarah Sophia’s notes, she lists all of the Bulama coinage in her collection.
70 silver Mr. Boulton
73 Duplicate Do. smaller
74 Duplicate Do. another size, less
75 Duplicate still smaller29
The coin depicted here is one ackey from Bulama, minted by Mr. Boulton. The coin is part of the currency of the Gold Coast Settlements. The ackey was a currency issued for the Gold Coast by the British between 1796 and 1818. It was subdivided into 8 takoe and was equal to the British halfcrown, i.e., 1 takoe = 3 ¾ pence and 1 pound = 8 ackey. The currency consisted of silver coins in denominations of 1 takoe, ¼, ½, and 1 ackey. All coins bear the inscription "Free Trade to Africa by Act of Parliament 1750", commemorating the African Company Act 1750 which dissolved the Royal African Company and created the African Company of Merchants, which remained in existence while the ackey was in circulation.30
As is indicated in Sarah Sophia's catalogue, this coin is one of the 1,080 coins minted by Matthew Boulton at the Soho Mint in 1796.31 Interestingly, the coins Sarah Sophia attributes to Bulama are examples of silver coinage of the Royal Africa Company, bearing on the obverse of the coin the Royal Africa Company's arms and on the reverse the royal cypher, GR, above a laurel wreath.32 The cataloguing of the Bulama coins in Sarah Sophia's collection is significant because it appears that Sarah Sophia made a mistake with her attribution of the coinage to Bulama. According to Eagleton, when Sarah Sophia acquired the coins, she recorded the information correctly, but, upon compiling the catalogue nearly two decades letter in 1815, the misattribution occurred.33 Sarah Sophia, thus, takes coins minted for use in Gold coast slave-trading settlements and attributes them to the " failed utopian anti-slavery colony" of Bulama.34 Also, of note is the fact that with her previously entered Sierra Leone coins, the catalogue clearly indicates these coins' association with the Sierra Leone Company. With the Bulama entries, however, there is no specific authority like the Bulam Association listed. Through the misattribution, these coins serve as reminders of the utopian ideas that motivated the European colonial ventures in places like Bulama35 and Sierra Leone.
Authority: Ruler: Maria I, Queen of Portugal
Place of Issue: Guinea; Lower Guinee of Angola
Angola was a part of Portuguese West Africa from the 16th century until it became a sovereign state in 1975. As a colony, it was strongly associated with the slave trade and, from its beginnings into the early 19th century, over a million people were taken as slaves from Angola to the " New World."36 Beyond this horrific reality, Angola serves as a prime example of the manner in which, according to Catarina Madeira Santos, European nations used the territories of Africa as " intellectual laboratories."37 The developments in the fields of cartography and education in Angola to meet the needs of a modernizing world in eighteenth-century are prime examples of the manner in which colonial territories contributed to the development and transformation of Enlightenment science.38
The coins from Angola are listed in the catalogues as from " Angola and other parts of Africa belonging to Portugal." Catherine Eagleton notes,
As with other sections of the catalogue, the coins in these sections are carefully listed, with each country's coins arranged first by the monarch, in date order of their reigns; then by metal, with gold preceding silver, and then copper; then in descending order of their denominations. This organization of information reiterates the importance to Sarah Sophia of the authority issuing the coins, and links to her cataloguing of coins under their place of issue, not their place of use, since the coins of Angola were issued specifically for that country, in the name of the Portuguese king.39
The metadata available in the British Museum's catalogue attributes the place of issue for the Angola coins to Guinea. Not only were both Angola and Guinea colonies of Portugal, but in a number of maps from the period these coins were struck, Angola was included in the portion of the continent identified as " Lower Guinea."40
In Sarah Sophia’s catalogue, she notes these coins are from “Angola and other parts of Africa belonging to Portugal.” She then continues to list the monarchs and the African coinage in her collection:
King Joannes V. 1707 - 1750
76 unknown 1748.
King Joseph I. 1750 - 1777. Milleneis | Reis
77. 12 Macutas or Maracutas 1770. 600 reis 3 pounds | 4 shillings
78. 10 Macutas 1703. 500 peis. 2 shillings | g | ⅓
79. 2 Macutas 1762. 400. 2 shillings | 2
80. 6 Macutas 300 peis. 1 shilling | 8
81. 4 Macutas or Maracutas 1763 200 reis | 1 shilling | 8
82. 2 Macutas or Maracutas 1762 100 reis | 1 shilling | 6 ⅔
83. 1 Macuta 1763 50 reis ||| 3 ⅓
84. ½ Macuta 1770 25 reis ||| 1 ⅔
__ ¼ Macuta 1763 121 reis ||| ⅚
85. 5 Reis 1770 5 peis ||| ⅓
Queen Mary I. & King Peter III. 1777-1786
88. 8 Macutas or Maracutas 1783 400 reis | 2 shillings | 2 ⅔
89. 6 Macutas or Maracutas 1784 300 reis | 1 shilling | 8 ¼
Queen Mary I. 1786.
100. 4 Macutas 1796 200 Reis | 1 shilling | 1 ⅓41
In the mid-eighteenth century, copper coins were issued in denominations of 10, 20 and 40 réis, ¼, ½ and 1 macuta, along with silver 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 macutas. The real (plural réis) was the currency of Portuguese Angola until 1914. It was equal to the Portuguese real. No subdivisions existed, but some coins were issued denominated in macutas, worth 50 réis. The real was replaced by the escudo in 1914. The coin depicted on the map is 4 Macutas in 1796.42 This coin is of interest because its associated authority is that of a queen; the inscription is to Maria I, Queen of Portugal and Brazil. Unique from many of the other coins attributed to the authority of a king, this coin bears the name of a queen.
The network of power represented with coins like this one, connecting the monarchy to its imperial reach, to the actual place of the coin’s use among the people, reflects the interests of Sarah Sophia's collection as a whole, specifically her heraldic collection, located at the British Library.43 This collection displays an interest in ceremonies of authority, their organizational structures, and hierarchies, and the public's access to these ceremonies. In the taxonomical strategies applied to her coin collection, their attention to the authority behind the coin, Sarah Sophia continues to reflect upon the display of power and the reaches of authority in the minting and inscription of currency.
Isle de Bourbon Coin
Authority: Isle de France
Place of Issue: Isle de Bourbon
The sou coin from the Isle de Bourbon is another example of Sarah Sophia's attention to the monarchical authority behind the coin's issue. After her associating the Portuguese monarchs with the Angola coins, Sarah Sophia catalogs the coins from Isles de France and Bourbon.44 She lists, first, the monarch, which in this case is Louis XVI.
This coin is, of course, another example of the European-style of currency promoted in Africa and is dated 1781. Considering the coin's strong association with the reigning monarch, one cannot help but consider this date in terms of the French Revolution, which would begin just 8 years later and would lead to Louis XVI's decapitation. The effects of the Revolution can be seen even in the contention over the island's name, which began in 1793 with the change to "Ile de la Réunion."
The Isle de Bourbon stands in contrast to the French colony of Isle de France, or Mauritius, mainly in terms of its economic status. Inhabitants of Bourbon were predominantly employed in small-scale agriculture; Bourbon was looked at as the "sleepy agricultural backwater" of the two islands.45 It was also characterized by a more accepting attitude toward interracial relations: "Though the colonists of Isle Bourbon might be recognized as less than 'white', this 'melange' had at least arrived at some kind of stability. . . On Isle de France, by contrast, the moral consequences and context of sexual relations between the 'races' were perceived as far more dangerous."46
In Sarah Sophia’s Catalogue of Coins, she notes:
Isles de France et De Bourbon belonging to France.
King Louis XVI. 1774-1793.
3 sous 1781. (two) 3 Deneiro | Sous | Liveres47
Currency reform in Europe introduced the silver-based pound/shilling/penny system, under which the shilling functioned as a unit of account equivalent to 12 pence. This eventually produced the French sou.48 The “liveres” are equivalent to ½0; of a pound of silver, which can then be divided into 12 “deneiro” or deniers. This monetary unit, along with the traditional value of the sou, disappeared in 1795 with the French Revolution’s introduction of the franc. The term "sou," however, has survived as a slang term for ½0; of a franc.49
By looking at both the authority behind the issue of this coin and the social history of the place of issue, we can see the currency's connection to the larger network of colonial power and identity. Though Isle de France and Isle de Bourbon were both French colonies, they exemplify different relationships to the economic and cultural values of the crown.
Authority: Kingdom of Bambara
Place of Issue: Collected in Bambara
The Kingdom of Bambara was a significant location in the narrative of the travels of Mungo Park in West Africa. Today, it is identified as the Republic of Mali in West Africa. It’s capital, Segou, is located on the Niger River, which was reached by Mungo Park, one of the first Europeans to visit its banks, in 1796.
The inclusion of these cowry shells is of particular importance to Sarah Sophia's African coin collection. In her catalogue, she notes the currency and number of cowrie shells (also known as coolos) and places them among her African coin collection. She also makes a note that these shells in particular were given to her by Mungo Park:
2. Coolo 3000 are reckoned equal to one Minkalli of gold (80 grains)
3. Do (Duplicate)
4. Do (Duplicate)
5. Do (Duplicate)
These four Coolos were given to me by Mungo Park who received them from the King of Bambara.50
According to Marion Johnson, cowries were “originally used as ‘small change’ for a gold currency” in the Niger Bend region and were often used to purchase “a handful of grain or for ferry across a river.”51 In Sarah Sophia’s catalogue, she notes that 3000 coolos were “reckoned equal to one Minkalli of gold (80 grains).”52 A minkalli was a quantity of gold of nearly equal value to ten shillings sterling.53 Cowries “were generally counted in groups of five” because they could be withdrawn from a heap with one hand. “These groups were then put together in piles of 60, 80, or 100, according to local convention” and “the pile was generally known by the word for hundred.”54 Mungo Park wrote of this in his accounts of Bambara’s currency system, noting: “it is curious that in counting the cowries, they call 80 a hundred; whilst in all other things they calculate by the common hundred.”55
The understanding of the shells in Anglo-European terms indicates not only that lens of the familiar through which African society was being viewed, but their cataloguing within Sarah Sophia's collection also indicates that Sarah Sophia saw the shells given to her by Mungo Park, more than any cowry shells she could purchase in London, to be associated with the authority of the King of Bambara.56 These coins came directly from the King of Bambara and are a rare example within her collection of 1) traditional currency, and 2) currency from an African-ruled sub-Saharan state.57 The other African coinage included in her collection is of the anglo-European style and is connected to an imperial authority (such as the Sierra Leone Company or the Royal African Company). The inclusion of the coins from the King of Bambara displays the potential seen in Africa for trade, since, as Eagleton points out, "the money of Bambara can be understood in the same framework as the coins of European powers in Africa."58
Importantly, Catherine Eagleton also notes "these coins " give a glimpse of how a well-connected woman in Georgian London understood African kingship and authority and into her assumptions about currency and its links to political authority."59 Mapping the cowry shells provides us a unique opportunity to view the currency in Africa in a manner unconnected with the English and European powers that are the authority behind the other coins in Sarah Sophia's collection.