The Price of Life

Africa’s continuing dependence on external credit is no accident. Today, it cripples the continent’s economy. From the 16th century, it funded the Atlantic slave trade. 

Gum merchants, Senegal River Valley region, coloured engraving, 1796.
Gum merchants, Senegal River Valley region, coloured engraving, 1796 © Archive Charmet/Bridgeman Images.

Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, historians have been quick to note apparent parallels between this pandemic and other moments of widespread disease in humanity’s past. Academic journals have devoted special issues to pandemics in history, relevant books have been reprinted and the history of medicine and health has never seemed more resonant. Yet the rush to focus on the history of science and disease means that other important parallels from the past are in danger of being overlooked.

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