Atlantic slave trade

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The Atlantic slave trade, also known as the transatlantic slave trade, was the trade of primarily African people supplied to the colonies of the New World that occurred in and around the Atlantic Ocean. It lasted from the 16th century to the 19th century. Most slaves were shipped from West Africa and Central Africa and taken to the New World (primarily Brazil[1]). Generally slaves were obtained through coastal trading with Africans, though some were captured by European slave traders through raids and kidnapping.[2][3] Most contemporary historians estimate that between 9.4 and 12 million[4][5] Africans arrived in the New World,[6][7] although the number of people taken from their homestead is considerably higher.[8][9]

The slave-trade is sometimes called the Maafa by African and African-American scholars, meaning "holocaust" or "great disaster" in Swahili. The slaves were one element of a three-part economic cycle—the Triangular Trade and its Middle Passage—which ultimately involved four continents, four centuries and millions of people.


[edit] Origins

Slavery was practiced in Africa before the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade.[10] Slavery and the slave trade were an integral part of African societies and states which supplied the Arab world with slaves for centuries before the arrival of the Europeans.[11] The African slave trade provided a large number of slaves to Europeans and their African agents.[12][13]

The Atlantic slave trade is customarily divided into two eras, known as the First and Second Atlantic Systems.

The First Atlantic system was the trade of African slaves to, primarily, South American colonies of the Portuguese and Spanish empires; it accounted for only slightly more than 3% of all Atlantic slave trade. It started (on a significant scale) in about 1502[14] and lasted until 1580, when Portugal was temporarily united with Spain. While the Portuguese traded slaves themselves, the Spanish empire relied on the asiento system, awarding merchants (mostly from other countries) the license to trade slaves to their colonies. During the first Atlantic system most of these traders were Portuguese, giving them a near-monopoly during the era, although some Dutch, English, Spanish and French traders also participated in the slave trade.[15] After the union, Portugal stayed formally autonomous, but was weakened, with its colonial empire being attacked by the Dutch and English.

The Second Atlantic system was the trade of African slaves by mostly English, Brazilian, French and Dutch traders. The main destinations of this phase were the Caribbean colonies, Brazil and North America, as a number of European countries built up economically slave-dependent colonial empires in the New World. Amongst the pioneers of this system were Francis Drake and John Hawkins[citation needed].

Only slightly more than 3 percent of the slaves exported were traded between 1450 and 1600, 16% in the 17th century. More than half of them were exported in the 18th century, the remaining 28.5% in the 19th century.[16]

[edit] Triangular trade

European colonists initially practiced systems of both bonded labour and Indian slavery, enslaving many of the natives of the New World. For a variety of reasons, Africans replaced Indians as the main population of slaves in the Americas. In some cases, such as on some of the Caribbean Islands, warfare and diseases such as smallpox eliminated the natives completely. In other cases, such as in South Carolina, Virginia, and New England, the need for alliances with native tribes coupled with the availability of African slaves at affordable prices (beginning in the early 18th century for these colonies) resulted in a shift away from Indian slavery.

"The Slave Trade" by Auguste Francois Biard, 1840

A burial ground in Campeche, Mexico, suggests slaves had been brought there not long after Hernán Cortés completed the subjugation of Aztec and Mayan Mexico. The graveyard had been in use from approximately 1550 to the late 1600s.[17]

The first side of the triangle was the export of goods from Europe to Africa. A number of African kings and merchants took part in the trading of slaves from 1440 to about 1900. For each captive, the African rulers would receive a variety of goods from Europe. These included guns and ammunition and other factory made goods. The second leg of the triangle exported enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to South America, the Caribbean Islands, and North America. The third and final part of the triangle was the return of goods to Europe from the Americas. The goods were the products of slave-labour plantations and included cotton, sugar, tobacco, molasses and rum.

However, Brazil (the main importer of slaves) manufactured these goods in South America and directly traded with African ports, thus not taking part in a triangular trade.[citation needed]

[edit] Labor and slavery

An antislavery medallion of the early 19th century.

The Atlantic Slave Trade was the result of, among other things, labour shortage. Native peoples were at first utilised as slave labour by Europeans, until a large number died from overwork and Old World diseases.[18] Alternative sources of labour, such as indentured servitude, failed to provide a sufficient workforce.

Many crops could not be sold for profit, or even grown, in Europe. Exporting crops and goods from the New World to Europe often proved to be more cost effective than producing them on the European mainland. A vast amount of labour was needed for the plantations in the intensive growing, harvesting and processing of these prized tropical crops. Western Africa (part of which became known as 'the Slave Coast'), and later Central Africa, became the source for slaves to meet the demand for labour.

The basic reason for the constant shortage of labour was that, with large amounts of cheap land available and lots of landowners searching for workers, free European immigrants were able to become landowners themselves after a relatively short time, thus increasing the need for workers.[19]

[edit] African slave market

The Atlantic slave trade was not the only slave trade taking a toll on Africa, although it was the largest in volume and intensity. As Elikia M’bokolo wrote in Le Monde diplomatique: "The African continent was bled of its human resources via all possible routes. Across the Sahara, through the Red Sea, from the Indian Ocean ports and across the Atlantic. At least ten centuries of slavery for the benefit of the Muslim countries (from the ninth to the nineteenth). ... Four million slaves exported via the Red Sea, another four million through the Swahili ports of the Indian Ocean, perhaps as many as nine million along the trans-Saharan caravan route, and eleven to twenty million (depending on the author) across the Atlantic Ocean."[20]

According to John K. Thornton, Europeans usually bought slaves who were captured in endemic warfare between African states.[21] There were also Africans who had made a business out of capturing other Africans and selling them.[22] Thornton says that Europeans provided a large new market for an already existing trade.[23] And while an African held in slavery in his own region of Africa might escape, a person shipped away was sure never to return. People living around the Niger River were transported from these markets to the coast and sold at European trading ports in exchange for muskets and manufactured goods such as cloth or alcohol.[24]

The Atlantic slave trade peaked in the last two decades of the 18th century,[25] during and following the Kongo Civil War.[26]. Wars amongst tiny states along the Niger River's Igbo-inhabited region and the accompanying banditry also spiked in this period.[27] Another reason for surplus supply of slaves was major warfare conducted by expanding states such as the kingdom of Dahomey,[28] the Oyo Empire and Asante Empire.[29]

Europeans rarely entered the interior of Africa, due to fear of disease and fierce African resistance.[30] The slaves would be brought to coastal outposts where they would be traded for goods. Enslavement became a major by-product of war in Africa as nation states expanded through military conflicts in many cases through deliberate sponsorship of benefiting Western European nations. During such periods of rapid state formation or expansion (Asante or Dahomey being good examples), slavery formed an important element of political life which the Europeans exploited: As Queen Sara's plea to the Portuguese courts revealed, the system became "sell to the Europeans or be sold to the Europeans". In Africa, convicted criminals could be punished by enslavement, a punishment which became more prevalent as slavery became more lucrative. Since most of these nations did not have a prison system, convicts were often sold or used in the scattered local domestic slave market.[31]

The majority of European conquests occurred toward the end or after the transatlantic slave trade. One exception to this is the conquest of Ndongo in current day Angola where Ndongo's slaves, warriors, free citizens and even nobility were taken into slavery by the Portuguese conquerors after the fall of the state.[citation needed]

[edit] African versus European slavery

Slavery varied in form in different African cultures, but in many cases there was no clear distinction between slavery and servitude. In some cases slaves could accumulate property and buy their own freedom — some even rose to the status of rulers (e.g. Jaja of Opobo and Sunni Ali Ber).

[edit] Slave Market Regions and Participation

There were eight principal areas used by Europeans to buy and ship slaves to the Western Hemisphere. The number of slaves sold to the new world varied throughout the slave trade. As for the distribution of slaves from regions of activity, certain areas produced far more slaves than others. Between 1650 and 1900, 10.24 million African slaves arrived in the Americas from the following regions in the following proportions:[32]

[edit] African kingdoms of the Era

There were over 173 city-states and kingdoms in the African regions affected by the slave trade between 1502 and 1853, when Brazil became the last Atlantic import nation to outlaw the slave trade. Of those 173, no fewer than 68 could be deemed nation states with political and military infrastructures that enabled them to dominate their neighbors. Nearly every present-day nation had a pre-colonial predecessor, sometimes an African Empire with which European traders had to barter and eventually battle. Below are 29 nation states by country that actively or passively participated in the Atlantic Slave Trade:

[edit] Ethnic groups

The different ethnic groups brought to the Americas closely corresponds to the regions of heaviest activity in the slave trade. Over 45 distinct ethnic groups were taken to the Americas during the trade. Of the 45, the ten most prominent according to slave documentation of the era are listed below.[33]

  1. The Gbe speakers of Togo, Ghana and Benin (Adja, Mina, Ewe, Fon)
  2. The Akan of Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire
  3. The Mbundu of Angola (includes Ovimbundu)
  4. The BaKongo of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola
  5. The Igbo of southeastern Nigeria
  6. The Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria
  7. The Mandé speakers of Upper Guinea
  8. The Wolof of Senegal and The Gambia
  9. The Chamba of Cameroon
  10. The Makua of Mozambique

[edit] Human toll

The transatlantic slave trade resulted in a vast and as yet still unknown loss of life for African captives both in and outside of America. Approximately 8 million Africans were killed during their storage, shipment and initial landing in the New World.[34] The amount of life lost in the actual procurement of slaves remains a mystery but may equal or exceed the amount actually enslaved.[35] These figures would indicate the total number of deaths at around 16 million.

The savage nature of the trade, in which most of the slaves were prisoners from African wars, led to the destruction of individuals and cultures. The following figures do not include deaths of African slaves as a result of their actual labor, slave revolts or diseases they caught while living among New World populations.

A database compiled in the late 1990s put the figure for the Transatlantic Slave Trade at more than 11 million people. Estimates as high as 50 million have been floated.[citation needed] For a long time an accepted figure was 15 million, although this has in recent years been revised down. Most historians now agree that at least 12 million slaves left the continent between the fifteenth and nineteenth century, but 10 to 20% died on board ships. Thus a figure of 11 million slaves transported to the Americas is the nearest demonstrable figure historians can produce.[36]

[edit] African conflicts

The Portuguese in awe of the majesty of the Manikongo. The Portuguese were initially impressed by the Kingdom of Kongo. Depopulation from slave trading would eventually lead to the disintegration of the once powerful Kongo[citation needed]
Diagram of a slave ship from the Atlantic slave trade. From an Abstract of Evidence delivered before a select committee of the House of Commons in 1790 and 1791.

According to David Stannard's American Holocaust, 50% of African deaths occurred in Africa as a result of wars between native kingdoms, which produced the majority of slaves.[37] This includes not only those who died in battles, but also those who died as a result of forced marches from inland areas to slave ports on the various coasts.[38] The practice of enslaving enemy combatants and their villages was widespread throughout Western and West Central Africa, although wars were rarely started to procure slaves. The slave trade was largely a by-product of tribal and state warfare as a way of removing potential dissidents after victory or financing future wars.[39] However, some African groups proved particularly adept and brutal at the practice of enslaving such as Kaabu, Asanteman, Dahomey, the Aro Confederacy and the Imbangala war bands.[40] By the end of this process, no fewer than 18.3 million people would be herded into "factories" to await shipment to the New World.[citation needed]

In letters written by the Manikongo, Nzinga Mbemba Affonso, to the King João III of Portugal, he writes that Portuguese merchandise flowing in is what is fueling the trade in Africans. He requests the King of Portugal to stop sending merchandise but should only send missionaries. In one of his letter he writes:

"Each day the traders are kidnapping our people - children of this country, sons of our nobles and vassals, even people of our own family. This corruption and depravity are so widespread that our land is entirely depopulated. We need in this kingdom only priests and schoolteachers, and no merchandise, unless it is wine and flour for Mass. It is our wish that this Kingdom not be a place for the trade or transport of slaves."
Many of our subjects eagerly lust after Portuguese merchandise that your subjects have brought into our domains. To satisfy this inordinate appetite, they seize many of our black free subjects.... They sell them. After having taken these prisoners [to the coast] secretly or at night..... As soon as the captives are in the hands of white men they are branded with a red-hot iron.[41]

Before the arrival of the Portuguese, slavery had already existed in Kongo. Despite its establishment within his kingdom, Afonso believed that the slave trade should be subject to Kongo law. When he suspected the Portuguese of receiving illegally enslaved persons to sell, he wrote in to King João III in 1526 imploring him to put a stop to the practice.[42]

The kings of Dahomey sold their war captives into transatlantic slavery, who otherwise would have been killed in a ceremony known as the Annual Customs. As one of West Africa's principal slave states, Dahomey became extremely unpopular with neighbouring peoples.[43][44][45] Like the Bambara Empire to the east, the Khasso kingdoms depended heavily on the slave trade for their economy. A family's status was indicated by the number of slaves it owned, leading to wars for the sole purpose of taking more captives. This trade led the Khasso into increasing contact with the European settlements of Africa's west coast, particularly the French.[46] Benin grew increasingly rich during the 16th and 17th centuries on the slave trade with Europe; slaves from enemy states of the interior were sold, and carried to the Americas in Dutch and Portuguese ships. The Bight of Benin's shore soon came to be known as the "Slave Coast".[47]

King Gezo of Dahomey said in the 1840s:

The slave trade is the ruling principle of my people. It is the source and the glory of their wealth…the mother lulls the child to sleep with notes of triumph over an enemy reduced to slavery…[48]

In 1807, the UK Parliament passed the Bill that abolished the trading of slaves. The King of Bonny (now in Nigeria) was horrified at the conclusion of the practice:

We think this trade must go on. That is the verdict of our oracle and the priests. They say that your country, however great, can never stop a trade ordained by God himself.[49]

[edit] Port factories

After being marched to the coast for sale, slaves waited in large forts called factories. The amount of time in factories varied, but Milton Meltzer's Slavery: A World History states this process resulted in or around 4.5% of deaths during the transatlantic slave trade.[34] In other words, over 820,000 people would have died in African ports such as Benguela, Elmina and Bonny reducing the number of those shipped to 17.5 million.[34]

[edit] Atlantic shipment

After being captured and held in the factories, slaves entered the infamous Middle Passage. Meltzer's research puts this phase of the slave trade's overall mortality at 12.5%.[34] Around 2.2 million Africans died during these voyages where they were packed into tight, unsanitary spaces on ships for months at a time. Measures were taken to stem the onboard mortality rate such as enforced "dancing" (as exercise) above deck and the practice of force-feeding slaves who tried to starve themselves.[38] The conditions on board also resulted in the spread of fatal diseases. Other fatalities were the result of suicides by jumping over board by slaves who could no longer endure the conditions.[38] Before the shipping of slaves was completely outlawed in 1853, 15.3 million slaves had arrived in the Americas.

Raymond L. Cohn, an economics professor whose research has focused on economic history and international migration,[50] has researched the mortality rates among Africans during the voyages of the Atlantic slave trade. He found that mortality rates decreased over the history of the slave trade, primarily because the length of time necessary for the voyage was declining. "In the eighteenth century many slave voyages took at least 2-1/2 months. In the nineteenth century, 2 months appears to have been the maximum length of the voyage, and many voyages were far shorter. Fewer slaves died in the Middle Passage over time mainly because the passage was shorter."[51]

[edit] Seasoning camps

Meltzer also states that 33% of Africans would have died in the first year at seasoning camps found throughout the Caribbean.[34] Many slaves shipped directly to North America bypassed this process; however most slaves (destined for island or South American plantations) were likely to be put through this ordeal. The slaves were tortured for the purpose of "breaking" them (like the practice of breaking horses) and conditioning them to their new lot in life. Jamaica held one of the most notorious of these camps. All in all, 5 million Africans died in these camps reducing the final number of Africans to about 10 million.[34]

[edit] European competition

Reproduction of a handbill advertising a slave auction in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1769.

The trade of enslaved Africans in the Atlantic has its origins in the explorations of Portuguese mariners down the coast of West Africa in the 15th century. Before that, contact with African slave markets was made to ransom Portuguese that had been captured by the intense North African Barbary pirate attacks to the Portuguese ships and coastal villages, frequently leaving them depopulated.[52] The first Europeans to use African slaves in the New World were the Spaniards who sought auxiliaries for their conquest expeditions and laborers on islands such as Cuba and Hispaniola, where the alarming decline in the native population had spurred the first royal laws protecting the native population (Laws of Burgos, 1512-1513). The first African slaves arrived in Hispaniola in 1501 [53]. After Portugal had succeeded in establishing sugar plantations (engenhos) in northern Brazil ca. 1545, Portuguese merchants on the West African coast began to supply enslaved Africans to the sugar planters there. While at first these planters relied almost exclusively on the native Tupani for slave labor, a titanic shift toward Africans took place after 1570 following a series of epidemics which decimated the already destabilized Tupani communities. By 1630, Africans had replaced the Tupani as the largest contingent of labor on Brazilian sugar plantations, heralding equally the final collapse of the European medieval household tradition of slavery, the rise of Brazil as the largest single destination for enslaved Africans and sugar as the reason that roughly 84% of these Africans were shipped to the New World.

Merchants from various European nations were later involved in the Atlantic Slave trade: Portugal, Spain, France, England, Scotland, Brandenburg-Prussia, Denmark, Holland. As Britain rose in naval power and settled continental North America and some islands of the West Indies, they became the leading slave traders. At one stage the trade was the monopoly of the Royal Africa Company, operating out of London, but following the loss of the company's monopoly in 1689[54], Bristol and Liverpool merchants became increasingly involved in the trade [55]. By the late 17th century, one out of every four ships that left Liverpool harbour was a slave trading ship.[56] Other British cities also profited from the slave trade. Birmingham, the largest gun producing town in Britain at the time, supplied guns to be traded for slaves. 75% of all sugar produced in the plantations came to London to supply the highly lucrative coffee houses there.[56]

[edit] Slavery and Christianity

In general, early Christians, such as Paul, St. Augustine, or St. Thomas Aquinas did not oppose slavery. Pope Nicholas V even encouraged enslaving non-Christian Africans in his Papal Bull Romanus Pontifex of 1454.[57] Since then other popes stated that slavery was against Christian teachings, as is now generally held. Even earlier, in 1435, Pope Eugene IV condemned the enslavement of the inhabitants of the Canary Islands. In 1537, Pope Paul III forbade the enslavement of the Indians and other indigenous peoples with the papal bull Sublimus Dei. A list of papal statements against slavery (and also claims that the popes nonetheless owned and bought slaves) is found in the discussion Christianity and Slavery.

Most Christian sects found some way to soothe the consciences of their slave-owning members. One notable exception was the Society of Friends (Quakers), who advocated the abolition of slavery from earliest times.

[edit] New World destinations

The first slaves to arrive as part of a labor force appeared in 1502 on the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Cuba received its first four slaves in 1513. Slave exports to Honduras and Guatemala started in 1526. The first African slaves to reach what would become the US arrived in January of 1526 as part of a Spanish attempt at colonizing South Carolina near Jamestown. By November the 300 Spanish colonists were reduced to a mere 100 accompanied by 70 of their original 100 slaves. The slaves revolted and joined a nearby native population while the Spanish abandoned the colony altogether. Colombia received its first slaves in 1533. El Salvador, Costa Rica and Florida began their stint in the slave trade in 1541, 1563 and 1581 respectively.

The 17th century saw an increase in shipments with slaves arriving in the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. Irish immigrants brought slaves to Montserrat in 1651. And in 1655, slaves arrive in Belize.

Distribution of slaves (1519–1867)[58]
Destination Percentage
Brazil 38.5%
British America (minus North America) 18.4%
Spanish Empire 17.5%
French Americas 13.6%
British North America 6.45%
English Americas 3.25%
Dutch West Indies 2.0%
Danish West Indies 0.3%

[edit] Economics of slavery

The plantation economies of the New World were built on slave labor. Seventy percent of the slaves brought to the new world were used to produce sugar, the most labor-intensive crop. The rest were employed harvesting coffee, cotton, and tobacco, and in some cases in mining. The West Indian colonies of the European powers were some of their most important possessions, so they went to extremes to protect and retain them. For example, at the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763, France agreed to cede the vast territory of New France to the victors in exchange for keeping the minute Antillean island of Guadeloupe.

Slave trade profits have been the object of many fantasies. Returns for the investors were not absurdly high (around 6% in France in the 18th century), but they were considerably higher than domestic alternatives (in the same century, around 5%). Risks — maritime and commercial — were important for individual voyages. Investors mitigated it by buying small shares of many ships at the same time. In that way, they were able to diversify a large part of the risk away. Between voyages, ship shares could be freely sold and bought. All these made the slave trade a very interesting investment.[59]

By far the most successful West Indian colonies in 1800 belonged to the United Kingdom. After entering the sugar colony business late, British naval supremacy and control over key islands such as Jamaica, Trinidad, the Leeward Islands and Barbados and the territory of British Guiana gave it an important edge over all competitors; while many British did not make gains, a handful of individuals made small fortunes. This advantage was reinforced when France lost its most important colony, St. Dominigue (western Hispaniola, now Haiti), to a slave revolt in 1791[60] and supported revolts against its rival Britain, after the 1793 French revolution in the name of liberty. Before 1791, British sugar had to be protected to compete against cheaper French sugar.

After 1791, the British islands produced the most sugar, and the British people quickly became the largest consumers. West Indian sugar became ubiquitous as an additive to Indian tea. Nevertheless, the profits of the slave trade and of West Indian plantations amounted to less than 5% of the British economy at the time of the Industrial Revolution in the latter half of the 1700s.[61]

[edit] Effects

World population (in millions)[62]
Year 1750 1800 1850 1900 1950 1999
World 791 978 1,262 1,650 2,521 5,978
Africa 106 107 111 133 221 767
Asia 502 635 809 947 1,402 3,634
Europe 163 203 276 408 547 729
Latin America and the Caribbean 16 24 38 74 167 511
Northern America 2 7 26 82 172 307
Oceania 2 2 2 6 13 30
World population (by percentage distribution)
Year 1750 1800 1850 1900 1950 1999
World 100 100 100 100 100 100
Africa 13.4 10.9 8.8 8.1 8.8 12.8
Asia 63.5 64.9 64.1 57.4 55.6 60.8
Europe 20.6 20.8 21.9 24.7 21.7 12.2
Latin America and the Caribbean 2.0 2.5 3.0 4.5 6.6 8.5
Northern America 0.3 0.7 2.1 5.0 6.8 5.1
Oceania 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.4 0.5 0.5

Historian Walter Rodney has argued that at the start of the slave trade in the 16th century, even though there was a technological gap between Europe and Africa, it was not very substantial. Both continents were using Iron Age technology. The major advantage that Europe had was in ship building. During the period of slavery the populations of Europe and the Americas grew exponentially while the population of Africa remained stagnant. Rodney contended that the profits from slavery were used to fund economic growth and technological advancement in Europe and the Americas. Based on earlier theories by Eric Williams, he asserted that the industrial revolution was at least in part funded by agricultural profits from the Americas. He cited examples such as the invention of the steam engine by James Watt, which was funded by plantation owners from the Caribbean[63].

Other historians have attacked both Rodney's methodology and factual accuracy. Joseph C. Miller has argued that the social change and demographic stagnation (which he researched on the example of West Central Africa) was caused primarily by domestic factors. Joseph Inikori provided a new line of argument, estimating counterfactual demographic developments in case the Atlantic slave trade had not existed. Patrick Manning has shown that the slave trade did indeed have profound impact on African demographics and social institutions, but nevertheless criticized Inikori’s approach for not taking other factors (such as famine and drought) into account and thus being highly speculative.[64]

[edit] Effect on the economy of Africa

Cowrie shells were used as money in the slave trade

No scholars dispute the harm done to the slaves themselves, but the effect of the trade on African societies is much debated due to the apparent influx of capital to Africans. Proponents of the slave trade, such as Archibald Dalzel, argued that African societies were robust and not much affected by the ongoing trade. In the 19th century, European abolitionists, most prominently Dr. David Livingstone, took the opposite view arguing that the fragile local economy and societies were being severely harmed by the ongoing trade. This view continued with scholars until the 1960s and 70s such as Basil Davidson, who conceded it might have had some benefits while still acknowledging its largely negative impact on Africa.[65] Historian Walter Rodney estimates that by c.1770, the King of Dahomey was earning an estimated £250,000 per year by selling captive African soldiers and even his own people to the European slave-traders.

[edit] Effects on Europe’s Economy

Eric Williams has attempted to show the contribution of Africans on the basis of profits from the slave trade and slavery, and the employment of those profits to finance England’s industrialization process. He argues that the enslavement of Africans was an essential element to the Industrial Revolution, and that British wealth is a result of slavery. However, he argued that by the time of its abolition it had lost its profitability and it was in Britain's economic interest to ban it. Most modern scholars disagree with this view. Seymour Drescher and Robert Anstey have both presented evidence that the slave trade remained profitable until the end, and that reasons other than economics led to its cessation. Joseph Inikori has shown elsewhere that the British slave trade was more profitable than the critics of Williams would want us to believe. Nevertheless, the profits of the slave trade and of West Indian plantations amounted to less than 5% of the British economy at the time of the Industrial Revolution.[66]

[edit] Demographics

The demographic effects of the slave trade are some of the most controversial and debated issues. More than 10 million people were removed from Africa via the slave trade, and what effect this had on Africa is an important question.

Walter Rodney argued that the export of so many people had been a demographic disaster and had left Africa permanently disadvantaged when compared to other parts of the world, and largely explains the continent's continued poverty.[67] He presented numbers showing that Africa's population stagnated during this period, while that of Europe and Asia grew dramatically. According to Rodney, all other areas of the economy were disrupted by the slave trade as the top merchants abandoned traditional industries to pursue slaving, and the lower levels of the population were disrupted by the slaving itself.

Others have challenged this view. J. D. Fage compared the number effect on the continent as a whole. David Eltis has compared the numbers to the rate of emigration from Europe during this period. In the nineteenth century alone over 50 million people left Europe for the Americas, a far higher rate than were ever taken from Africa.[68]

Other scholars accused Rodney of mischaracterizing the trade between Africans and Europeans. They argue that Africans, or more accurately African elites, deliberately let European traders join in an already large trade in slaves and were not patronized.[69]

As Joseph E. Inikori argues, the history of the region shows that the effects were still quite deleterious. He argues that the African economic model of the period was very different from the European, and could not sustain such population losses. Population reductions in certain areas also led to widespread problems. Inikori also notes that after the suppression of the slave trade Africa's population almost immediately began to rapidly increase, even prior to the introduction of modern medicines.[70] Shahadah also states that the trade was not only of demographic significance, in aggregate population losses but also in the profound changes to settlement patterns, exposure to epidemics, and reproductive and social development potential.[71]

[edit] Legacy of racism

Maulana Karenga states that the effects of slavery were that "the morally monstrous destruction of human possibility involved redefining African humanity to the world, poisoning past, present and future relations with others who only know us through this stereotyping and thus damaging the truly human relations among peoples." He states that it constituted the destruction of culture, language, religion and human possibility.[72]

The Atlantic slave trade was without question a long-standing system which displaced many African people from their native lands, tribes, and families. The evidence of the populations of descendant Africans is most clear in the continents of North America and South America.

[edit] End of the Atlantic slave trade

In Britain, Portugal and in some other parts of Europe, opposition developed against the slave trade. Led by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and establishment Evangelicals such as William Wilberforce, the movement was joined by many and began to protest against the trade, but they were opposed by the owners of the colonial holdings. Denmark, which had been active in the slave trade, was the first country to ban the trade through legislation in 1792, which took effect in 1803. Britain banned the slave trade (but not slavery itself) in 1807, imposing stiff fines for any slave found aboard a British ship (see Slave Trade Act 1807). The Royal Navy, which then controlled the world's seas, moved to stop other nations from filling Britain's place in the slave trade and declared that slaving was equal to piracy and was punishable by death. The United States outlawed the importation of slaves on January 1, 1808, the earliest date permitted by the constitution for such a ban.

"Am I not a woman and a sister?"
An antislavery medallion from the late 18th century

On Sunday 28 October 1787, William Wilberforce wrote in his diary: “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the Reformation of society.” For the rest of his life, William Wilberforce dedicated his life as a Member of Parliament to opposing the slave trade and working for the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire. On 22 February 1807, twenty years after he first began his crusade, and in the middle of Britain’s war with France, Wilberforce and his team’s labors were rewarded with victory. By an overwhelming 283 votes for to 16 against, the motion to abolish the slave trade was carried in the House of Commons[73].

After the British ended their own slave trade, they felt forced by economics to press other nations to do the same, or else the British colonies would become uncompetitive. With peace in Europe from 1815, and British supremacy at sea secured, the Navy turned its attention back to the challenge and established the West Coast of Africa Station, known as the ‘preventative squadron’, which for the next 50 years operated against the slavers. By the 1850s, around 25 vessels and 2,000 officers and men were on the station, supported by nearly 1,000 ‘Kroomen’, experienced fishermen recruited as sailors from what is now the coast of modern Liberia. Service on the West Africa Squadron was a thankless and overwhelming task, full of risk and posing a constant threat to the health of the crews involved. Contending with pestilential swamps and violent encounters, the mortality rate was 55 per 1,000 men, compared with 10 for fleets in the Mediterranean or in home waters.[74] Between 1807 and 1860, the West Africa Squadron seized approximately 1,600 ships involved in the slave trade and freed 150,000 Africans who were aboard these vessels.[75]. The last recorded slave ship to land on American soil was the Clotilde, which in 1859 illegally smuggled a number of Africans into the town of Mobile, Alabama.[76] The Africans on board were sold as slaves, however slavery was abolished 5 years later following the end of the civil war. The last survivor of the voyage was Cudjoe Lewis who died in 1935.[77]

Action was also taken against African leaders who refused to agree to British treaties to outlaw the trade, for example against ‘the usurping King of Lagos’, deposed in 1851. Anti-slavery treaties were signed with over 50 African rulers.[78] The British campaign against the slave trade by other nations was an unprecedented foreign policy effort.

Although the slave trade had become illegal, slavery remained a reality in British colonies. Wilberforce himself was privately convinced that the institution of slavery should be entirely abolished, but understood that there was little political will for emancipation. In parliament, the Emancipation Bill gathered support and received its final commons reading on 26 July 1833. Slavery would be abolished, but the planters would be heavily compensated. Thank God, said William Wilberforce, that I have lived to witness a day in which England is willing to give twenty millions sterling for the Abolition of Slavery.

The last country to ban the Atlantic slave trade was Brazil in 1831. However, a vibrant illegal trade continued to ship large numbers of slaves to Brazil and also to Cuba until the 1860s, when British enforcement and further diplomacy finally ended the Atlantic trade. [79][80]

[edit] Apologies

In 1998, UNESCO designated August 23 as International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. Since that occurrence, a number of events surrounding the recognition of the effect of slavery on both the enslaved and enslavers have come to pass.

At the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, African nations demanded a clear apology for slavery from the former slave-trading countries. Some nations were ready to express an apology, but the opposition, mainly from the United Kingdom, Portugal Spain, Netherlands, and the United States blocked attempts to do so. A fear of monetary compensation was one of the reasons for the opposition[citation needed]. Apologies on behalf of African nations, for their role in trading their countrymen into slavery, also remains an open issue.

On January 30, 2006, Jacques Chirac (the then French President) said that 10 May would henceforth be a national day of remembrance for the victims of slavery in France, marking the day in 2001 when France passed a law recognising slavery as a crime against humanity.[81]

On November 27, 2006, then British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a partial apology for Britain's role in the African slavery trade. However African rights activists denounced it as "empty rhetoric" that failed to address the issue properly. They feel his apology stopped shy to prevent any legal retort.[82] Mr Blair again apologized on March 14, 2007.[83]

On February 24, 2007 the Virginia General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution Number 728[84] acknowledging "with profound regret the involuntary servitude of Africans and the exploitation of Native Americans, and call for reconciliation among all Virginians." With the passing of that resolution, Virginia became the first of the 50 United States to acknowledge through the state's governing body their state's involvement in slavery. The passing of this resolution came on the heels of the 400th anniversary celebration of the city of Jamestown, Virginia, which was the first permanent English colony to survive in what would become the United States. Jamestown is also recognized as one of the first slave ports of the American colonies.

On May 31 2007, the Governor of Alabama, Bob Riley signed a resolution expressing "profound regret" for Alabama's role in slavery and apologizing for slavery's wrongs and lingering effects. Alabama is the fourth Southern state to pass a slavery apology, following votes by the legislatures in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.[85]

On 24 August 2007, Ken Livingstone (then Mayor of London) apologized publicly for London's role in the slave trade. "You can look across there to see the institutions that still have the benefit of the wealth they created from slavery," he said pointing towards the financial district, before breaking down in tears. He claimed that London was still tainted by the horrors of slavery. Jesse Jackson praised Mayor Livingstone, and added that reparations should be made.[86]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Thomas, Hugh.The Slave Trade. Simon and Schuster, 1997.
  2. ^ King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. Houghton Mifflin Books. 1998. ISBN 0618001905. 
  3. ^ Klein, Herbert S. and Jacob Klein. The Atlantic Slave Trade. Cambridge University Press, 1999. pp. 103-139.
  4. ^ BBC Quick guide: The slave trade
  5. ^ Welcome to Encyclopædia Britannica's Guide to Black History
  6. ^ Migration Simulation
  7. ^ Ronald Segal, The Black Diaspora: Five Centuries of the Black Experience Outside Africa (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995), ISBN 0-374-11396-3, page 4. "It is now estimated that 11,863,000 slaves were shipped across the Atlantic. [Note in original: Paul E. Lovejoy, "The Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on Africa: A Review of the Literature," in Journal of African History 30 (1989), p. 368.]"
  8. ^ Eltis, David and Richardson, David. The Numbers Game. In: Northrup, David: The Atlantic Slave Trade, 2nd edition, Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002. p. 95.
  9. ^ Basil Davidson. The African Slave Trade.
  10. ^ Historical survey > Slave societies
  11. ^ Ferro, Mark (1997). Colonization: A Global History. Routledge. p. 221, ISBN 9780415140072.
  12. ^ Adu Boahen, Topics In West African History, p. 110.
  13. ^ Kwaku Person-Lynn, Afrikan Involvement In Atlantic Slave Trade.
  14. ^ Anstey, Roger: The Atlantic Slave Trade and British abolition, 1760-1810. London: Macmillan, 1975,p.5.
  15. ^ Emmer, P.C.: The Dutch in the Atlantic Economy, 1580-1880. Trade, Slavery and Emancipation. Variorum Collected Studies Series CS614, 1998, pp.17.
  16. ^ Lovejoy, Paul E.:The Volume of the Atlantic Slave Trade. A Synthesis. In: Northrup, David (ed.): The Atlantic Slave Trade. D.C. Heath and Company 1994.
  17. ^ Skeletons Discovered: First African Slaves in New World. January 31, 2006. Accessed September 27, 2006.
  18. ^ Smallpox Through History
  19. ^ Solow, Barbara (ed.). Slavery and the Rise of the Atlantic System, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  20. ^ Elikia M’bokolo, April 2, 1998, The impact of the slave trade on Africa, Le Monde diplomatique[1]
  21. ^ Thornton, page 112
  22. ^ Thornton, page 310
  23. ^ Thornton, page 94
  24. ^ Thornton, page 45
  25. ^ Thornton, page 304
  26. ^ Thornton, page 305
  27. ^ Thornton, page 310
  28. ^ Thornton, page 311
  29. ^ Thornton, page 122
  30. ^ Historical survey > The international slave trade
  31. ^ ""Transatlantic Slave Trade"". "Hakim Adi". 
  32. ^ Lovejoy, Paul E. Transformations in Slavery. Cambridge University Press, 2000
  33. ^ Hall, Gwendolyn Midlo: Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links. The University of North Carolina Press, 2006
  34. ^ a b c d e f Meltzer, Milton. Slavery: A World History. Da Capo Press, 1993
  35. ^ Stannard, David. American Holocaust. Oxford University Press, 1993
  36. ^ Quick guide: The slave trade; Who were the slaves? BBC News
  37. ^ Stannard, David. American Holocaust. Oxford University Press, 1993
  38. ^ a b c Gomez, Michael A. Exchanging Our Country Marks. Chapel Hill, 1998
  39. ^ Thornton, John. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800 Cambridge University Press, 1998
  40. ^ Stride, G.T. and C. Ifeka. Peoples ad Empires of West Africa: West Africa in History 1000-1800. Nelson, 1986
  41. ^ King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. Houghton Mifflin Books. 1998. ISBN 0618001905. 
  42. ^ African Political Ethics and the Slave Trade
  43. ^ Museum Theme: The Kingdom of Dahomey
  44. ^ Dahomey (historical kingdom, Africa)
  45. ^ Benin seeks forgiveness for role in slave trade
  46. ^ Le Mali précolonial
  47. ^ The Story of Africa
  48. ^ West is master of slave trade guilt
  49. ^ African Slave Owners
  50. ^ Raymond L. Cohn
  51. ^ Cohn, Raymond L. "Deaths of Slaves in the Middle Passage," Journal of Economic History, September 1985.
  52. ^ BBC - History - British Slaves on the Barbary Coast
  54. ^ Elkins, Stanley: Slavery. New York: Universal Library, 1963. p.48
  55. ^ Rawley, James: London, Metropolis of the Slave Trade 2003
  56. ^ a b Anstey, Roger: The Atlantic Slave Trade and British abolition, 1760-1810. London: Macmillan, 1975.
  57. ^ Collins, Robert O.; James McDonald Burns. A History of Sub-Saharan Africa. Cambridge University Press. pp. 213. ISBN 0-5218-6746-0. "granting to the Portuguese a monopoly of trade with Africa, including slaves." 
  58. ^ Stephen D. Behrendt, David Richardson, and David Eltis, W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research, Harvard University. Based on "records for 27,233 voyages that set out to obtain slaves for the Americas". Stephen Behrendt (1999). "Transatlantic Slave Trade". Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. New York: Basic Civitas Books. ISBN 0-465-00071-1. 
  59. ^ Daudin 2004
  60. ^ Slave Revolt in St. Domingue (Haiti)
  61. ^ Digital History
  62. ^ UN report
  63. ^ [2] How Europe Underdeveloped AfricaWalter RodneyISBN 0950154644
  64. ^ Manning, Patrick: Contours of Slavery and Social change in Africa. In: Northrup, David (ed.): The Atlantic Slave Trade. D.C. Heath & Company, 1994, pp.148-160.
  65. ^ Basil Davidson, Black mother : Africa and the Atlantic slave trade Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1980.
  66. ^ Was slavery the engine of economic growth?
  67. ^ Rodney, Walter. How Europe underdeveloped Africa. London: Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications, 1972
  68. ^ David Eltis Economic Growth and the Ending of the Transatlantic slave trade
  69. ^ Thornton, John. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800. Cambridge University Press, 1992
  70. ^ Ideology versus the Tyranny of Paradigm: Historians and the Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on African Societies, by Joseph E. Inikori African Economic History. 1994
  71. ^ ""African Holocaust: Dark Voyage audio CD"". "Owen 'Alik Shahadah". 
  72. ^ ""Effects on Africa"". "Ron Karenga". 
  73. ^ William Wilberforce (1759-1833)
  74. ^ The Royal Navy and the Battle to End Slavery. By Huw Lewis-Jones
  75. ^ Sailing against slavery. By Jo Loosemore BBC
  76. ^ Question of the Month - Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University
  77. ^ Diouf, Sylvianne (2007). Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195311043. 
  78. ^ The West African Squadron and slave trade
  79. ^ Anstey, Roger: The Atlantic Slave Trade and British abolition, 1760-1810. London: Macmillan, 1975.
  80. ^ Timeline - What happened after 1807?
  81. ^ Chirac names slavery memorial day BBC News
  82. ^ Blair 'sorrow' over slave trade. November 27. 2006 BBC. Accessed March 15, 2007.
  83. ^ Blair 'sorry' for UK slavery role. March 14 2007 BBC. Accessed March 15, 2007.
  84. ^ House Joint Resolution Number 728
  85. ^ Alabama Governor Joins Other States in Apologizing For Role in Slavery
  86. ^ Livingstone breaks down in tears at slave trade memorial

[edit] Further reading

  • Anstey, Roger: The Atlantic Slave Trade and British abolition, 1760-1810. London: Macmillan, 1975.
  • Clarke, Dr. John Henrik: Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust. Slavery and the Rise of European Capitalism
  • Curtin, Philip D: Atlantic Slave Trade. University of Wisconsin Press, 1969.
  • Daudin, Guillaume: "Profitability of slave and long distance trading in context : the case of eightheenth century France", Journal of Economic History, 2004.
  • Diop, Er. Cheikh Anta: Precolonial Black Africa: A Comparative Study of the Political and Social Systems of Europe and Black Africa
  • Doortmont, Michel R.; Jinna Smit (2007). Sources for the mutual history of Ghana and the Netherlands. An annotated guide to the Dutch archives relating to Ghana and West Africa in the Nationaal Archief, 1593-1960s. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-15850-4. 
  • Drescher, Seymour: From Slavery to Freedom: Comparative Studies in the Rise and Fall of Atlantic Slavery. London: Macmillan Press, 1999.
  • Emmer, P.C.: The Dutch in the Atlantic Economy, 1580-1880. Trade, Slavery and Emancipation. Variorum Collected Studies Series CS614, 1998.
  • Franklin, John Hope: From Slavery to Freedom
  • Gomez, Michael Angelo: Exchanging Our Country Marks (The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and AnteBellum South). The University of North Carolina Press, 1998, ISBN 0807846945.
  • Hall, Gwendolyn Midlo: Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links. The University of North Carolina Press, 2006, ISBN 0807829730.
  • Horne, Gerald: The Deepest South: The United States, Brazil, and the African Slave Trade. NYU Press, 2007.
  • James, E. Wyn: ‘Welsh Ballads and American Slavery’, Welsh Journal of Religious History, 2 (2007), pp.59-86. ISSN 0967-3938.
  • Klein, Herbert S. and Jacob Klein. The Atlantic Slave Trade. Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  • Meltzer, Milton: Slavery: A World History. Da Capo Press, 1993, ISBN 0306805367.
  • Northrup, David: The Atlantic Slave Trade, 2nd edition, Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002.
  • Rodney, Walter: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Howard University Press; Revised edition, 1981.
  • Rodriguez, Junius P., ed. "Encyclopedia of Emancipation and Abolition in the Transatlantic World" (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2007)
  • Solow, Barbara (ed.). Slavery and the Rise of the Atlantic System. Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  • Thomas, Hugh: The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440 - 1870. London: Picador, 1997.
  • Thornton, John: Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Williams, Chancellor: Destruction of Black Civilization
  • Williams, Eric: Capitalism & Slavery. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994 (first published 1944).

[edit] External links

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