The Atlantic Slave Trade
The changes in African life during the slave trade era form an important element in the economic and technological development of Africa. Although the Atlantic slave trade had a negative effect on both the economy and technology, it is important to understand that slavery was not a new concept to Africa. In fact, internal slavery existed in Africa for many years. Slaves included war captives, the kidnapped, adulterers, and other criminals and outcasts. However, the number of persons held in slavery in Africa, was very small, since no economic or social system had developed for exploiting them (Manning 97). The new system-Atlantic slave trade-became quite different from the early African slavery. The influence of the Atlantic slave trade brought radical changes to the economy of Africa.
At the time of the Atlantic slave trade, Africa was an area that had far-flung interests based on agriculture, industry, and commerce (Curtin 54). Complex stratified societies based on settled village agriculture were developed throughout the continent. “Essentially agricultural, the peoples of Africa displayed a remarkable degree of specialization within this ancient economic pursuit,” writes John Hope Franklin, the author of From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans (p. 18). In addition to agriculture, artistry was a significant area of economic community. Even less complex communities included some with various skills.
Furthermore, the use of metals played an important role. Iron was developed very early in the economy of Africa; Africa exported iron for many years, and blacksmiths and other ironworkers were found in many parts of the continent. Africans also worked in silver, gold, copper, and bronze. Lastly, internal slave trade played a role in the economy. Slaves represented a small part of the total value of African exports (Klein 56).
The tendency of communities to specialize in some phase of economic activity made it necessary that they maintain commercial contact with other communities and countries in order to secure the things that they did not produce (Hope 16). Some villages, for example, specialized in fishing, others concentrated on metallurgy, while others made weapons, utensils, and so on. Traders traveled from place to place to barter and to purchase. Upon returning they were laden with goods that they sold within their own community (Hope 17).
As the Atlantic route expanded, accounting for nearly two thirds of all Africans leaving the continent, it created systems for the gruesome work of collecting and exporting slaves and brought the expansion of a system of slavery in Africa itself. The rising prices for slaves, steadily driven by increasing American demand, powerfully influenced local African developments where slave trade was well established. For example, in some...