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The Atlantic Slave Trade

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Between the 16th and 19th century, there was a mass movement of Africans taken as slaves to work mainly in the North and South America. The recruitment of slaves in Africa largely began as Portuguese’ exploration of Africa focused on other readily available commodities apart from the mineral reserves. Portuguese merchants identified an opportunity to generate great profits by supplying the work force that was in high demand in expanding European empires as the indigenous people in these empires could not cope with the climatic conditions and disease prevalence in the tropical climate. The greatest percentage of slaves in Atlantic Slave Trade was Africans form the central and western parts of Africa whom the Europeans and Portuguese preferred due to their adaptability to tropical climate. In addition, Africans practiced farming and thus had adequate skills on various agricultural practices and animal husbandry. The Atlantic Slave Trade entailed forceful transportation of Africans across the Atlantic.

Historians estimate that the slave trade involved more than 10 million Africans although only less than 9 million ever reached the European empires. The Atlantic Slave Trade involved more than 54,000 voyages, which transported most of the slaves to the Caribbean and Brazil. On average, ships form the coast of West African took about 2 months to reach America. Inhuman conditions characterizing the passage across the Atlantic caused scores of captured Africans to die before reaching their destination. Furthermore, slaves captured form the African interior had to traverse long distances through diverse and severe climates. Ships ferrying the slaves were normally overcrowded creating unbearable conditions throughout the journey. Although women had some form of freedom as they often helped in cooking, men remained chained together so that during defecation or urination, they faced difficulties accessing the brimming buckets or ships’ edges that served the role of toilets. Women face constant sexual harassment by ships’ crew with a significantly large number encountering rape before reaching their destination. The deplorable conditions during the Middle Passage promoted the eruption and spread of dysentery and small pox. These diseases caused a large number of slaves to die in transit. There are accounts of slaves who attacked their captors during transit. However, ship’s crew rebuffed these rebellions and subjected the masterminds to tortuous acts such as amputation of legs and arms for men and disfiguring of women.

The Atlantic Slave trade played a key role in the economic growth and development of European empires. However, it adversely affected Africa’s population growth due to the mass movement of millions of people from the continent. In addition, since the greatest percentage of slaves were men, the growth of the younger population ground to a halt. Evidence shows that between the 16th and 19th century, population in the western and central parts of Africa considerably declined. Economists attribute the economic underdevelopment in Africa as a factor of the depletion of the productive portion of the continent’s population. Various factor within the African continent contributed to the growth of the Transatlantic Trade. Wars between different ethnic groups, clans and kingdoms produced a large number of prisoners of war who became victims of the burgeoning commercial slave trade. In addition, slave trade served as a means for settling debts, punishing people accused of crimes such as witchcraft, and tribute to leaders. However, research shows that most slaves were victims of kidnappings execute by merchants of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Slave raids in various parts of West Africa contributed to a large number of famers sold as slaves to serve the rising demand for people with agricultural skills.

The end of the Atlantic Slave trade involved efforts within both Africa and Europe. Kings in various parts of central and western Africa realized that the slave trade had significantly drained the work force in their kingdoms. In this regard, they ceased collaborating with merchants of the slave trade, and adopted measures such as the building of fortified walls to protect people from slave raids. In Europe, auctioning of slaves in Liverpool and Bristol attracted protests from groups such as the Quakers, which vehemently campaigned against slavery. At the center of anti-slavery campaigns was William Wilberforce who passionately supported the agenda of freeing and resettling slaves. Other factors that contributed to the end of the Atlantic Slave Trade were the industrial revolution in Britain, which brought about new approaches on free trade and labor, weakening ties between Britain and America, which negatively influenced the benefits Britain derived through salve workforce in American, and the French revolution, which inspired slave revolts and anti-slavery lobby groups. Although the British government had declared slave trade as illegal in 1807, the declaration remained defective until the passage of the 1834 bill that freed children less than six years from slavery. In addition, the bill gave slaves respite by allowing them to work only for six years as apprentices. The civil war in America marked the abolition of slavery in the region.

Conclusion

The Atlantic Slave Trade played a key role in creating the socioeconomic disparity witnessed today between Africa and the Western countries by depriving Africa its resources and transporting them to European empires to spur economic growth. In addition, it was the largest mass movement of African overseas, which led to the large number of African-Americans in today. The end of the Atlantic Slave Trade marked the beginning of laws and regulations meant to eliminate abuse of human rights, recognition of racial disparity and democracy.

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