Since the publication in 2007 of a report on West Africa's role in the illegal cocaine trade from Latin America to Europe, considerable media attention has focused on Guinea-Bissau in particular as a country infiltrated by drug interests. However, West Africa has a long history of involvement in the international drug trade, that has been dominated by Nigerian interests especially. Consideration of this history may help stimulate a debate in historical sociology that will illuminate both the nature of involvement in the drug trade itself, and also larger questions about the long-term formation of the state. © The Author . Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal African Society. All rights reserved.