Cassare: The Complex Marriage Alliances Between European Slave Traders and African Women in West Africa

Cassare, also known as “calissare,” refers to a type of marriage alliance that was common in West Africa during the pre-colonial era. This practice involved European slave traders forming marriage or concubine relationships with African women, often resulting in mixed-race children.

Cassare: The Complex Marriage Alliances Between European Slave Traders and African Women in West Africa

During the era of the transatlantic slave trade, European traders established numerous fortified trading posts along the West African coastline. These posts served as bases for the capture, purchase, and transportation of enslaved Africans to the Americas. Amid the atrocities of this horrific trade, a complex phenomenon emerged known as “Cassare,” a term used to describe the marriage alliances between European slave traders and African women.

Cassare Marriages was a way for European traders to establish close relationships with African communities, allowing them to gain access to valuable trade goods, such as gold, ivory, and enslaved individuals. By forming these alliances, European traders could also negotiate better prices for these goods, and establish a foothold in the local market. Additionally, Cassare marriages made the transition from strangers to trading partners a lot smoother

The wife/concubine in a Cassare alliance played a similar role to the Signares wives and concubines, serving as intermediaries between European traders and African communities. They were often involved in trade and commerce, using their wealth and resources to build businesses and establish themselves as prominent figures in their society.

The practice of Cassare was widespread in many regions of West Africa, including Senegambia, Gold Coast, Ga-Adangbe, Fante and the Bight of Benin. In some cases, Cassare marriages were arranged between European traders and powerful African rulers, cementing political and economic alliances between the two groups. In other cases, Cassare relationships were formed between European traders and African women who were enslaved.

Cassare marriage

Cassare marriages persisted throughout the pre-colonial era, and even into the early years of European colonization. In some cases, these relationships resulted in the formation of mixed-race communities, such as the Gold Coast Euro-Africans, a demographic based in coastal urban settlements in colonial Ghana, where they occupied a unique social position, often serving as intermediaries between European slave traders and African societies.

The Cassare alliances brought certain benefits to both parties involved. European traders gained access to valuable trade goods, including enslaved Africans, established economic footholds, and forged political alliances. Simultaneously, the African women they married sometimes gained material wealth and opportunities for social mobility. However, it is crucial to recognize that these advantages came at the expense of the enslaved individuals who were trafficked to the Americas and forced to work as slaves for the rest of their lives.


Mr Madu
Mr Madu
Mr Madu is a freelance writer, a lover of Africa and a frequent hiker who loves long, vigorous walks, usually on hills or mountains.


  1. all around the world.. we see foreigners marrying into the local population in order to cement their positions. The chinese were experts at this…from malaysia to hawaii they married local women. In the americas from canada to argentina they married native women and even slaves. This is nothing new…in fact I doubt there are many nations where this didnt happen.


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