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The Origins Of The Trans Atlantic Slave Trade And European Empires

1919 words - 8 pages

A phenomenon that drove much of the World’s economy between the 16th and 19th centuries was the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The trans-Atlantic Slave Trade consisted of European nations transporting slaves from the West African Coast to European colonies in the Americas. A question often posed is why were people of the African continent chosen to be slaves in the New World? Africans were chosen to be slaves due to their availability, productivity and their relative cheap cost. European plantation owners deemed Africans most productive in manual labour and most resistant to disease.1 However, before the slaves could be transported, Africans had to be kidnapped, captured or sold away their various ethnic groups from within the continent of Africa. Each slaving European nation established contacts with African slave traders within Africa, specifically the regions named the Gold Coast and the Slave Coast. Through these men, the Europeans were able to acquire Africans.2 A powerful drawing is that of an unknown artist, drawn before 1878, who illustrates African men, women and children being led to, presumably the West Coast of Africa for sale to European slavers.3 In the illustration titled Convoy of Slaves in Africa, African slavers are shown dressed in traditional African dress while wielding European rifles to protect and maintain their convoy of slaves. In addition, one slaver is shown executing an unruly slave. As one observes the image one realizes it is drawn to in such a fashion that the convoy of slaves fades into the horizon seemingly never ending. In particular, this emphasizes the long road the abolition movement must come or has come, depending on the date of the artists’ completion of his oeuvre. After Africans were captured they were delivered to Slave fortresses, essentially prisons, as a means to hold the slaves.

These points considered, the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade began with the Portuguese and Spanish transporting Africans to their colonies in the New World. West African Islands, like Cabo Verde, became important transit points between African the West Indies for slaves and slave ships.4 Given their numerous agricultural enterprises in the West, the Portuguese and Spanish decided to satisfy the need for manual labour by importing slaves from Africa. Plantations in the Americas thrived with the influx of African slaves resulting in profit for the Portuguese and Spanish.5 Other European nations seized the opportunity to be involved in the slave trade, and quickly the practice became a global one that would revolutionize the Americas and the world. To investigate the origins of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade one must observe these European powers that engaged in the slave trade.
The presence of other European powers in the slave trade denied the Portuguese and Spanish any hopes of establishing a monopoly over the trade and led to their subsequent demise in the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Driven by the desire for economic reward...

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