HI 10 D Toler
February 26, 2015
The Atlantic Slave Trade
In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the number of human exports from Africa began to soar. Over this time, 12.8 million Africans were forcibly enslaved and shipped to Atlantic ports to be used for trade and sale. By 1820, four slaves had crossed the Atlantic for every European. Salves were the most important reason for contact between Europeans and Africans. The Atlantic Ocean became a commercial highway that integrated the histories of Africa, Europe, and the Americas for the first time.
Around 1670, the most populous English colony was not on the North American mainland, but on the Caribbean island of Barbados. Since sugar was so desirable, from the mid-seventeenth century onward the English and French controlled islands of the Caribbean were home to many sugarcane plantations. Competition to control the region and sugar production was fierce. This competition affected to labor arrangements in the colonies. Because native populations had been wiped out, owners of Caribbean estates looked to Africa to obtain workers for their plantations. The hot, humid environment in which sugarcane flourished was too much for sugar barons, causing them to spend little time on their plantations. Management fell to overseers, who worked their slaves to death. Despite having immunities to yellow fever and malaria from their homeland’s similar environment, Africans could not withstand the regimen. Inadequate food, atrocious living conditions, and filthy sanitation added to their miseries. Word of the terrible situation on these plantations must’ve gotten back to Africa, as many slaves were reluctant to get shipped here. This can be seen in Captain Phillips’ journal entry about his venture to purchase slaves as he states, “The negroes are so willful and loth to leave their own country, that they have often leap’d out of the canoos, boats and ships, into the sea, and kept under water till they drowned, to avoid being taken up and saved by our boats, which pursued them; they having a more dreadful apprehension of Barbadoes than we can have of hell”.1 These slaves believed drowning to death was better then going to work on these plantations, and it is sad that they were probably right. Plantation managers treated their slaves as non-humans: for example, on the first day all new slaves suffered branding with the planter’s seal. One English man commented that slaves were like cows, “as near as beasts may be, setting their souls aside.”2 The Atlantic system benefited elite Europeans, who gained new fortunes by exploiting the colonies’ natural resources and the African slaves’ labor. The English took Jamaica from the Spanish and made it the premier site of Caribbean sugar by the 1740s. When the French seized half of Santo Domingo in the 1660s, they created one of the wealthiest societies based on slavery of all time. This French colony’s exports eclipsed those of all Spanish and English Antilles combined. The capital, Port-au-Prince, was one of the richest cities in the Atlantic world. The colony’s merchants and planters built immense mansions worthy of the highest Europeans nobles. All of this, however, was very detrimental to many of the inhabitants of Africa. This was a very dark time for many of those in Africa, while others prospered quite nicely because of the slave trade. States found in the middle of the continent were negatively affected by slave trade, because that is where many of the slaves were captured. They were then sent to the port cities where they were then in the hands of moneylenders and traders. Here, English merchants relied on pawnship, the use of human “pawns” to secure European commodities in advance of the delivery of their slaves. A secret male organization called Ekpe enforced payments of promised slave deliveries. If a trader failed to deliver on his promise, members of the Ekpe group were sold instead.
The whole process behind the...
Bibliography: Reilly, Kevin. Worlds of History. 640, 644. 5th ed. Vol. 2. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin 's.
Tignor, Robert, Jeremy Adelman, and Stephen Aron. "World Entangled, 1600-1750." In Worlds Together, Worlds Apart, 486-495. 4th ed. Vol. 2. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
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