The transatlantic slave trade

Subject: American History
Type: Informative Essay
Pages: 6
Word count: 1737
Topics: Civil War, Columbian Exchange, Human Rights, Slavery


Slave trade is an unfair deportation of humans to foreign countries without their consent to act as slaves. The Trans-Atlantic slave trade involved deportation of Africans slaves to European countries. Europeans who evolved in their cultural practices and economically as from the Pre –Columbia era interest in Africa was to set their economic scores at the expense of Africans slaves. This paper illustrates on the Pre- Columbia era that Europeans took advantage of in engaging in massive agriculture, settlement and technology and as a result, they became powerful and the only lack they suffered from is human lab our that was needed in their plantations and mining industries(Whitney, 2012). The paper also highlights the transatlantic slave trade, the plights of slave and how civil war liberated the slaves and helped in abolishing the Trans –Atlantic slave trade(Leung & Dalton, 2012). Thus, giving the reader an overview link between pre-Columbia era, civil war and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Pre-Columbian era

The pre-Columbian era denotes the indigenous American cultures before they were diminished, exterminated and extensively altered by Europeans in the 14th century(Whitney, 2012). Between the 16th and 17th century pre-Columbian civilizations founded hallmarks that entailed permanent settlements, agriculture, cities, major earthworks, monumental architecture and complex societal hierarchies. The North American cultures were less unified and more fragmented. The tribe was identified as a major social unit and exchanges between tribes formed societies. However, the native people lacked unified identity names and therefore, the Europeans descendants referred to these cultures as incomplete. Until 1960 the Europeans referred to Native Americans as Indians and it remained a de facto name. The Indigenous American traditional practices continued to evolve as the natives learnt to adopt new cultural practices and technology that came after pre-Columbian era.

During the pre and post-Columbian period, America was stable in the sense that people were already settled, they engaged in intensive agricultural activities, industrialization was significant and technology backed up their lifestyle. This made the Europeans powerful as they were wealthy and politically stable. Their agricultural firms needed people to work and their industries needed people to do the manual work. Between 16th and 19th century the intensive agricultural activities empowered the Europeans economically as they sought for the low cost of production and their finished products were very marketable and expensive. Also, they outsourced raw materials that were less costly for their industries (Whitney, 2012.

Founders of the Transatlantic slave trade

From 14th to the 16th century the Portuguese had a monopoly of slave exports from Africa. Notably, they were also the last European country to abolish the slave trade.Portugal transported around 4.5 million African slaves which were equivalent to 40% of the total slaves they transported during 4.5 centuries of Transatlantic slave trade. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade came up around mid-15th century and was triggered by Portuguese changed interest in Africa from fabled gold deposits which was scarce to a much more readily available commodity referred to as slaves. The trade was already fully established in the 18th century and by the end of the century, it was at its peak. The infamous triangular trade was a profitable and fruitful business for the merchants (Postma & Thomas, 1998).

The rise of Transatlantic Slave Trade

The expanding European empire in the world suffered from lack of workforce which was a major resource for their economic growth. The Indigenous people were unreliable as most of them were dying out of diseases that emanated in Europe. Europeans suffered under tropical diseases a proof that they were unsuitable for the climate. On the other hand, Africans were excellent workers: they had already adapted to tropical climates, experience in cattle keeping and agriculture. Europeans view on Africans towards working hard on plantations and mines was very optimistic (Obikili, 2016). They saw the capability in Africans to work in their farming plantations and mining industry tirelessly and under very low costs.

Slavery in Africa

The slavery was not new in Africa as Africans were already victims of the slave trade for centuries. They were reaching the Europeans through trans-Saharan and Islamic run trade routes. Muslim merchants had an insatiable desire for the slave trade and therefore they acted as porters of slaves to the Islamic empire. However, Muslim from the North African coasts who were transported as slaves were very rebellious and were educated to be trusted. When Portuguese came to Africa they brought cloth, wine, tools, horses copper wares, arms and ammunition and in return they were given gold. Also, slavery in Africa existed in various forms such as chattel slavery, debt bondage, forced labour and serfdom.

Triangular Trade

The triangular trade involved three stages that proved lucrative for traders. The initial stage involved importing manufactured goods from Europe to Africa. For instance, Africa imported tobacco, cowrie shells, guns, cloth, spirit and metal goods. To obtain more slaves guns were used as they were very helpful in the expansion of empires. These goods compensated for Africans slaves. The second stage basically involved shipping the slaves to America The final stage entailed importation of finished goods from Europe to Africa that was obtained from slave labour plantations that comprised of tobacco, molasses, sugar rum and cotton (Obikili, 2016).

Origin of African slaves sold in Triangular Trade

Initially, slaves for the Trans-Atlantic slave trade were sourced from windward coast and Senegambia. The trade moved to West central Africa around 1650s.The European countries visited the slave ports, African slaves’ merchants and the enslaved people. This promoted the transportation of slaves to America. West Africa coast has several distinct regions that were known for the slave trade. The Europeans obtained slaves from West coast of Africa between 1450 and 19th century through establishing full active cooperation with African merchants and kings.Occasionally, military campaigns were sponsored by Europeans with intents of capturing slaves. This was very practical with Portuguese thought it would only capture a small percentage compared to the total slaves they would get from Africa. A multitude of ethnic groups became victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade: Sereer, Senegambia Mandinka, Wolof, t,mende,Temne,Kissi,Grebo,Bassa and Vai (Postma & Thomas, 1998)

In the I8th century, Africa recorded 6 million slaves who were transported. Britain was ranked the worst transgressor as it had assimilated 2.5 million slaves. This is mostly overlooked by those who consider Britain to have been actively involved in the abolition of slave trade. In Africa, Angola was the biggest transporter of slaves in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Slave conditions

To start with, nobody volunteered to be a slave. This gives the reader an implication that slaves were abducted, threatened, subjected to tribulations and others killed in the process as they rebelled. The collaboration of African Kings and Merchants with Europeans depicts in order to promote Trans-Atlantic slave trade depicts that the inhuman act was carried out without the Africans natives who were made slaves knowledge and consent.After they succeed the slaves were locked in slave camps in the coast waiting for transportation to respective destinations (Postma & Thomas, 1998).

Slaves encountered very harsh conditions that claimed their lives. The inhuman treatment and conditions they were being subjected to exposed them to new diseases and malnutrition long before they arrived at their directed destinations. Majority of them died across Atlantic on the voyage due to diseases and malnutrition contracted from slave camps in the coast during subsequent internment and forced marches. The high number of death rates were registered in the first couple of weeks in the voyage.Conditions on the ship were very terrible and uncomfortable for human health. This is because the slaves were transported in large numbers and some of them were sickly and there was no segregation of the sick and the ones who were fit in health. This is an implication the sick were infecting the others thus increasing the number of death rates as there were not provided with medical attention (Maris-Wolf, 2014).

Upon arrival to their destinations, for instance, America slaves were exposed to hard tasks that were very involving despite their ailing health and malnutrition. In addition, there health and conditions were not a priority what mattered most is their productivity in the slave plantations. The Europeans engaged in intensive agricultural activities no wonder they established plantations that grew tobacco, cotton, rum, molasses and sugar. The slaves laboured in these plantations for free. Also, the Europeans had mining industries and the slaves were the hard labourers in the mining sites and industries. This was discrimination in the sense that Europeans only engaged in managerial roles and the slaves were the labourers (Maris-Wolf, 2014).

As a result, civil war arose in the quest for the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade that was accused of violating human rights(Maris-Wolf, 2014). Britain steered the civil war by authorizing treaties to be signed between Britain and leading slave transporters like Angola that were antislavery. Also protests of millions of ordinary people in the United States and Europe contributed to the abolition slave trade. Africans were also not left behind in the civil war as they rebelled against slavery and resisted enslavement continually in order to attain their freedom. Haiti constitution was the first to uphold the human right in Africa and it acted as a pacesetter in 1791.By the end of the 18th century, the Transatlantic slave trade was abolished and it became illegal as the Europeans had digressed their economic power interest in Africa to human interest and this marked the success of the civil war (Leung & Dalton, 2012).


Based on the theory and the literature above, it is clear that the rise and abolishment of Trans-Atlantic slave trade trace its roots on the pre-Columbian period and civil war. In essence, Europeans interest in Africa was meant to set their economic empowerment scores at the expense of Africans. Also, we deduce that slavery was not self-voluntary and hence human rights were violated and the African leadership contributed to that as they abused their power by collaborating with Europeans in the slave trade. This led to the high number of registered deaths due to harsh conditions that slaves were exposed to ranging from brutality to diseases and malnutrition. Lastly, abolishment of Trans-Atlantic slave trade can be reclaimed from the rise of civil wars that fought for human rights and equality.The collaborative resistance of the Europeans origins, the United States and the Africans liberated Africans from enslavement and set them free.

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  1. Obikili, N. (2016). The trans-Atlantic slave trade and local political fragmentation in Africa. The Economic History Review, 69(4), 1157-1177.
  2. Whitney, B. (2012). Pre-Columbian human land-use and impact in the Bolivian Amazon. Quaternary International, 279-280, 534.
  3. Postma, J., & Thomas, H. (1998). The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440-1870. The International Journal Of African Historical Studies, 31(3), 706.
  4. Maris-Wolf, T. (2014). “Of Blood and Treasure”: Recaptive Africans and the Politics of Slave Trade Suppression. The Journal Of The Civil War Era, 4(1), 53-83.
  5. Leung, T., & Dalton, J. (2012). Dispersion and Distortions in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. SSRN Electronic Journal.
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