Ch 20 Packet
Africa and the Africans in the Age of the Atlantic Slave Trade
1. Describe the characteristics of the “Atlantic System”. The Atlantic System was a major catalyst in the growth and development of the Atlantic slave trade, which boosted the world economy significantly. The Atlantic system a link between Africa and the rest of the world. It simply was the destiny that Africans were going to face, being shipped to the Middle East, Europe, and especially across the Atlantic to the Americas, also known as a diaspora. This forced migration was part of the international exchange of foods, diseases, animals, and ideas that marked the era and had a profound influence on the indigenous peoples in various regions.
2. What motivated Portuguese interactions with Africans and how did the Atlantic slave trade develop? Portuguese ships pushed down the west African coast and finally reached the Cape of Good Hope in 1487. Along the coast, the Portuguese established factories: forts and trading posts with resident merchants. Trade was the basis of Portuguese relations with Africans, but in the wake of commerce followed political, religious, and social relations. Missionary efforts were made to convert the rulers of Benin, Kongo, and other African kingdoms. These first contacts were marked by cultural preconceptions as well as by appreciation and curiosity. Portuguese exploration continued southward toward the Cape of Good Hope and beyond in the 16th century. Although for a long time Portugal’s major interest was in gold, pepper, and other products, a central element in this pattern was the slave trade. Through the slave trade, Portuguese voyages now opened a direct channel to sub-Saharan Africa. The first slaves brought directly to Portugal from Africa arrived in 1441, and after that date slaves became a common trade item.
3. Why did the slave trade expand and what demographic patterns do historians see? The slave trade expanded for many different reasons. Between 1450 and 1850, about 12 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic; about 10 or 11 million arrived alive. A number equal to one third of those shipped might have died in the initial raiding or march to the coast. The volume of the trade increased from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, with 80% of the total coming in the latter century. Brazil received more than 40% of all slaves reaching the Americas. The continued high volume was necessary because of high slave mortality and low fertility. Only in the southern United States did slaves have a positive growth rate. Other slave trades—trans-Saharan, Red Sea, and East African—under Muslim control, added another 3 million individuals to the total. The Saharan slave trade to the Islamic world carried mostly women for sexual and domestic employment. The Atlantic trade concentrated on young men fit for hard labor in the Americas. African societies who sold slaves might keep women and children for their own uses. The Atlantic trade had an important demographic effect on parts of western and central Africa; the population there in 1850 might have been one half of what it would have been without the trade. The women and children not exported skewed the balance of the sexes in African-enslaving societies. The introduction of American crops, such as maize and manioc, helped suffering regions to recover from population losses.
4. How was the slave trade organized and who controlled it?
Control over the slave trade reflected the European political situation. Until 1630, the Portuguese were the principal suppliers. The Dutch became major competitors after they seized El Mina in 1630. By the 1660s, the English worked to supply their plantation colonies. The French became major carriers in the eighteenth century. Each nation established forts for receiving slaves. Tropical diseases caused both resident Europeans and the crews of slave-carrying ships high mortality rates. The Europeans...
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