The Impacts Of The African Slave Trade History Essay

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1st Jan 1970 History Reference this


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Slavery was carried out in various parts of the world and mainly in some parts of Africa, Asia, Europe and America. Slave trade was at the highest during the period at which Americans were under the colonial powers of the European states. Europeans carried out their slave trade extensively in African nations. It is said that low economic level in African nations made it easy for Europeans to take control over Africans.

The major slave trade regime against Africans by Europeans was known as Atlantic slave trade. It was not the only trade though it is believed to have been the most extensive both in volume and intensity wise. The Africans who were victims of slave trade to the Europeans are said to have been hostages of endemic warfare that was between different states of Africa. Their traders gained weapons and other basic necessities from Europeans in return.

Contrary, Africans carried out the trade against themselves. There existed many divisions between African regions. Some of the divisions were ethnic, driven by culture and beliefs, religion, political, economic level, and boundary conflicts. Those divisions brought about conflicts and wars. Those who went into war captured their enemies who were source of wealth to them on trading with Europeans. The trade was barter trade whereby Europeans went off with slaves in exchange of goods such as manufactured cloth, alcohol, weapons among others.

Interestingly, the slavery trade had become the major international trade to Africans. The trade had grown extensively into communities and family levels. Kingdom rulers of the community did not discourage the trade rather they encouraged by selling out those who were their enemies or the most hardworking personas of the kingdom. At the family level, family members would sell out their counterparts mostly when there were family disputes among different families or family members. All these made it easier for the Europeans to acquire slaves from traders who were willing to sell out themselves (Williams 1994,p.12).

The main reason was the shortage of labor in the continent whereby demand for laborers had exceeded the capability of the population supply. Slaves who landed into Europe at early period of slavery were the Aboriginal peoples. At first they were a few but they suffered from diseases and cruelty from racist Europeans. Immense numbers of them were hired for mining, and in the plantations which were labor-intensive in growing, harvesting and processing of products such as sugar, cotton and other low-prized tropical crops. Affordability of low cost of labor helped in the economic growth of European states at the period.

The first European state to carry out slave trade was Portugal. Portuguese were in dire need of laborers for mining and sugar plantation activities in Brazil which was their colony at the period. Later European states completion towards the slavery began when Brazil was seized by Dutch which eventually became to be the leading slave trading power in seventeenth century. They sold slaves to their colonies, to British and also to the Spanish. In late 17th century, Britain rose to be the leading trading power after gaining the control over the Americans.

The other reason was large size of the market for European products. The triangular Atlantic slave trade is believed to have been the most convenient and profitable trade route. This is because Ships leaving Europe were only required to carry trade goods on their way to Africa. On arrival to Africa exchange of the goods for slaves took place. To Europeans the trade was always to their favor since cheap goods were of more value to poor African states who complied effectively in the trade.

However, Europeans got to a point of carrying out supplying role of slaves to the world. Some of slaves acquired from Africa were transported to the American states for trade. In America, they traded slaves for the agricultural products, which were in many cases produced through slave labor. Due to low cost of labor, agricultural products were acquired at a low prize. To the Europeans trade route was an important business since it required that a ship make a leg of the voyage for a substantial profit waiting at the destination. This enhanced the international relationships between European nations and their trade counterparts.

In addition, ships used less energy on their ways since trade routes were designed in a specific manner. This is because trades men followed the routes which they would take full advantage of the widespread winds and currents which propelled their ships. For instance, the journey from a place like West Indies or any other place in the southern United States to any other place in Europe would be propelled by the waves of Gulf Stream. This made it cheaper for Europeans to acquire slaves from other nations (Klein 1999,p.23).

However, in industries, which were most profitable, slavery was the main source of labor of the time. Majority of the slaves were hired in the sugar production sector. Sugar plantations were the most labor intensive activity in the time. In additionally, the other slaves were hired in other labor intensive activities such as in coffee, cotton, and tobacco harvesting, and also in the mining. Slaves were basic possessions to European states and they always protected them so as to retain them in their land. For instance, in 1763, France had agreed to give out vast colony of New France in exchange for permit to keeping Antillian island of Guadeloupe.

As the time went by, opposition against slave trade developed in Europe. The move was fore headed by religious movements such as Religious Society of Friends and also established clergies of the Evangelical ministries such as the William Wilberforce. Later individuals joined the movements and from which they protested against the slave trade to their state powers. However, owners of colonial holdings opposed the move (Rodney 1981,p.14).

Success of the moves was marked by abolition of slave trade in Denmark through the legislation in 1792 and took its effect later in 1803. Britain followed the compliance by imposing ban to the trade in early 1807. Britain kingdom had to impose rigid fines for any one who allowed slaves to aboard a Britain destined ship. Additionally, the British Royal Navy, which in control of all worlds’ sea, stopped other nations from participating in the slave trade through the declaration that equalized slaving to the piracy and culprits were to be punished by death penalty.

To the Europeans, end of the slave trade, had insignificant obstacles which it is a must that they had to be overcome. Slave trade was an important part to the economy of the regional states. In 18th century, slaves were the main supply of labor that was required in the production activities of the agricultural products. However, end of slavery resulted into high cost of production and eventually the rise of prices of the same products in the market (Anstey 1975,p.34).

However, some scholars studied the slavery ban movement slightly before the Second World War and concluded that it was in most probably recorded among the three or four important historical pages in the history of the European nations. This is mainly because slavery had an important impact to the growth of the economy and thus it was difficult for European nations to do away with it.

Contrary, in his studies, Eric Williams, a West Indian historian, argued that it was as a consequence of the economic transitions, of European nations, which was unrelated to any morality factor. However, he based his squabble upon the idea that the colonies of West Indian were declining in the early 19th century. This is because they had lost political and economic importance to Europeans. Consequently, this decline made slavery to be an economic weigh down that made the British to have a will of doing away with it (Williams 1994,p.34).

However, William’s study is questioned. This is because decline in West Indian colonies manifested after 1807 when slave trade was banned. Moreover, slavery was economically flourishing at a fast pace before the ban. However, most likely the decline may have resulted from the effects of suppression which colonies felt from slave trade. In addition, the lowering of prices for the products which were produced through slave labor could be taken as evidence which exhibits that lowering in the price of a product leads to increase in the demand and eventually increasing the total profits.

In addition, it is said that profits which were earned as a result of the slave trade lasted at low levels. Results say it was always about ten percent of the total investment and indicated no verification of the decline. More importantly, the prices of lands in West Indies, as an essential tool in analyzing economic growth of the region also did not decline until after discontinuation of the slave trade. Also, the economies of colonies which heavily relied on agricultural products did not decline. In fact are said to have been at the peak in 1807.

However, there was a reason for Williams to be biased. This is because he was actively drawn into the movements which advocated for the independence of the colonies of Caribbean. With that notion he had a drive to try to snuff out any idea of such an unsparing action by colonialists to their colonies. However, some scholars have acknowledged Williams’ arguments in their works though they agree to the fact that the issue of morality was combined together with politics and economic forces so as to end slavery in Europe.

However, religion is believed to have had the strongest movement that campaigned against slavery and actually into convincing Westminster into outlawing the trade. More also, Evangelical protestants together with Quakers formed a group which viewed slavery as an act of inhumane. These individuals formed the minority persons in the population, but more interestingly they were passionate and the group had many members who were enthusiastic individuals (Emmer 2000,p.45).

In the parliament, large number of members presented these groups. Their parliament presence is said to have been so strong in that at their height they had control of about thirty five to forty seats. Normally precarious government positions acted as to magnify their numbers and also their service to the citizens. The members of the group were known as “saints” and William Wilberforce was their leader. Most importantly they were campaigners of the anti-slave in the European nations. Parliamentarians who belonged to the group were tremendously enthusiastic and frequently saw their delicate battle in opposition to slavery as a delightfully predestined crusade.

However, after the ending of slavery in Britain, British felt obliged by economic pressure to force down other European nations into inserting themselves into a common economic straitjacket, or else the colonies of Britain would have became uncompetitive with those who were belonged to other nations. Ironically, British effort to campaign against slavery was an unparalleled foreign policy effort to combine economic powers (Drescher 1999,p.98).

However, the Britain’s campaign did not full succeed. This is because some European nations strongly objected the move into surrendering rights to the trade. These nations included Spain, and France. However, Britain did not back down but instead used every tool to trying to persuade these nations so that they may follow its lead. Interestingly, Spain agreed but through a payment of a ransom. Spain received over one million pounds in order for it to end the slave trade.

For the France, it was difficult at outset. At first, Britain tried to inflict its idea of solution during the negotiation meeting at the near end of Napoleonic Wars. More devastating to the British is the reluctant of Russia and Austria who vowed not to end the trade. The people and government of France had profound uncertainties about compromising to the demands of Britain. This is because they did not only that other nations end the trade, but also their right to keep watch over the ban. However, Royal Navy was permitted to carry out searches in any apprehensive ships in the waters and confiscate any carrying slaves, or in operation to doing so.

It is these stiff demands that kept France into the trade for a long time. More surprisingly, in 1815, France gave in to the ban but they never allowed Britain to police to interfere with their activities neither did they watch over themselves. That made it easier for the illegal trade to continue for a long time. French citizens had initially been indifferent to the trade. With that fact, their national pride could not allow Britain to dictate over their policies. Contrary, conservative backlash vied that reformist movement as tainted by the after the revolution. However, in France, a complete halt of slave trade was realized in 1848 (Drescher 1999,p.78).

In conclusion, slave trade was of more benefits to the European nations. Europeans low population at the period called for more man power in the activities which were meant to be drivers of the economic growth. Thus, Africa became their target as a source of man power. However, there came a period when European nations came to Africa for slaves and in turn selling them out to other nations in the world thus strengthening interrelationships between different nations. The ending of slavery did not ogre well to the economic growth since affected nations suffered an economic down turn.

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