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Africa And Africans Essay

887 words - 4 pages

John Thornton’s book belongs to the still growing field of research on the history of the importance of Africa’s role in the Atlantic world. The continent of Africa, well-known for its resources in oil and diamonds, but infamous for its role in the slave trade, has held great appeal for historians, specifically from the fifteenth century into the present, since it appeared to offer new insight into the history of African culture and economics along with social and political interests. The book under review, as its title might imply, is more than just a local study of the African continent and its complex problems in the Atlantic world. It is an investigation into the transformation of the ...view middle of the document...

Thornton argues that the Europeans played a more recessive role in trade with African societies during this period. According to Thornton, African societies were producing and controlling their own import and export economy, by manufacturing textiles and metalwares. He dispels the notion that Europeans had a more robust trading position due to the introduction of new products to the African continent. Thornton also contests the conventional wage labor ideology by reasoning that the slavery in Africa was productive and was the primary form of generating wealth. Proving that “the African social system was not backward or egalitarian but, only legally divergent.” (P.76).
Thornton goes on to explain that wealth was not valued in the form of ready and available cash or material goods of extravagance, but in central Africa, wealth was acquired in the form of slaves acquired. According to Thornton’s research acquiring slaves was the pathway to wealth for commoners in other parts of Africa. In seeking out the status of a noble, commoners often divorced themselves from funds they may have earned in the trading of goods, as it may enable them to acquire slaves which was a symbol of status and wealth. This provides evidence that the growing slave trade within African society and social mobility were inextricably linked. It also offers insight into the highly debated conclusion that the origins of the Atlantic slave trade along with the voluntary participation of Africans is deeply rooted into the African society and legal system in place during the time.
In Part II on the text, Thornton puts much of his focus on identifying and analyzing the role of Africans in the transforming of American culture and the passage of African culture to the progeny of Africans...

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