Inikori, Joseph 1941-
Historian Joseph E. Inikori was born in Nigeria’s Delta state in 1941. He obtained his undergraduate degree in 1967 from the University of Ibadan, where he embarked on a PhD program in 1968. A special arrangement allowed Inikori to study at the London School of Economics from 1969 to 1971 under the direction of A. H. John (1915–1978), a preeminent scholar of the early modern English economy. Inikori obtained his PhD in history there in 1973.
After a brief stint as an assistant lecturer at the University of Ibadan (1972–1973), Inikori was appointed lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria, in 1973. In October 1981 he was promoted to the post of professor of history and subsequently became chair of the History Department. During this period, Inikori received two prestigious fellowships to English universities: he was named a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics (1974–1975) and he won the John Cadbury Fellowship at the University of Birmingham (1980). In 1989 Inikori became a professor of history and associate director of the Frederick Douglass Institute (1989–1998) at the University of Rochester in New York after serving there for a year as a visiting professor. In 2001 Inikori became the University of Rochester’s director of graduate studies, in which capacity he was pivotal in the creation of the doctoral program in global history.
Inikori’s research has been essential to the growth of scholarship on the Atlantic slave trade. International interest in quantifying the Atlantic slave trade erupted after the appearance of Philip Curtin’s The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (1969), a groundbreaking work presenting a systematic estimate of the trade that was significantly lower than most previous estimates. Using newly discovered evidence in British customs records in a 1976 article, Inikori was one of the first scholars to revise Curtin’s estimate upward. Publishing numerous articles and presenting papers at many conferences, Inikori has made an invaluable contribution to the literature on quantifying the slave trade.
Inikori has also examined the economic aspects of the slave trade, particularly its market structure, profit levels, hazards, and financial relationships. All of Inikori’s works on this subject revolve around the central factor informing his multifarious research—the preoccupation with placing the Atlantic slave trade in its proper context in the development of the global economy. Inikori’s analysis assigns a major role to the slave trade in the development of Africa’s economic backwardness before 1850. In addition, Inikori has explored what he sees as the central role of diasporic Africans in the Americas during the Industrial Revolution in England, an argument first articulated in Eric Williams’s Capitalism and Slavery (1944). Inikori’s various journal articles and conference papers have put forth the thesis that export markets throughout the Atlantic, markets generated through the labor of enslaved Africans, were crucial to the industrialization process in England. More than thirty years of scholarship culminated in the publication of Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England: A Study in International Trade and Economic Development (2002), a massive work drawing on classical trade theory and economic development analysis that focuses on the role of diasporic Africans in the Americas in fueling the growth of multilateral Atlantic trade between 1500 and 1850.
SEE ALSO African Diaspora; Slave Trade
Curtin, Philip. 1969. The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Williams, Eric. 1944. Capitalism and Slavery. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.