The Slave Trade in Africa: Eric William's thesis "Capitalism and Slavery" a study of slavery's role in the English Economy. The changing status of the African State

Topics: Africa, Slavery, Atlantic slave trade Pages: 5 (719 words) Published: January 28, 2004
The Slave Trade in Africa

Eric Williams thesis entitled "Capitalism and slavery"

is not a study on the nature of the slave trade, but rather

a study of the role of slavery in the English economy. In

his thesis Williams proposes the idea that capitalism is a

result of the Atlantic slave trade.

Williams defines capitalism as when someone can use

their resources to make a profit without that person

actually being present. The Atlantic Slave Trade was then

an example of capitalism. English investors gave funds to

stock companies, such as the Dutch East Indian Company, who

wound use those funds to purchase ships and trading goods.

The stock companies would then hire a crew and send the

ships to Africa where they would trade their goods for

African Slaves. The ships would then transport the slaves

to the Americas where they would sell their human cargo and

purchase American goods. The ships could then return to

England and sell their American goods for capital, then

splitting the profit amongst the investors.

In his thesis Williams asserts that these stock

companies were the first examples of capitalism and that the

capitalists systems which are present in the modern world

are direct results of the Atlantic Slave Trade. It appears

that Williams is correct in his thesis. While elements of

capitalism, such as buying and selling of goods, were

present prior to the slave trade, this was the first point

in history when private investors combined their capital in

the form of a company whose sole purpose was to increase

that capital. At no point did the stock companies

manufacture any new product instead these companies served

only to buy and sell commodities in such a way as to

increase the capital of their investors.

Ancient Africa was characterized by strong states.

Unlike Europe African states were well organized before the

birth of Christ. However as European states became stronger

African states weakened.

These strong ancient African states such as, Egypt,

Ethiopia, Kush and Benin, believed that the purpose of the

state was to serve the people. This ideology made it

possible for African states to become strong because since

the state served the people the people were willing to

participate in defending the state and submit to taxation in

order to provide for the needs of the state which then

benefited the individual.

However African states began to weaken when the Arab

came into Africa. In a quest to seek the destruction of

Christianity in Europe the Arabs tore through the Maghreb

(five north African countries). The Arabs not only took

over the state, but also the culture, as a new Arab

population settled, and pushed the original African

population below the Sahara.

The Arab presence in Africa soon led to a weakening of

the African State. In 1350 the strong African state of

Songhai began to have border disputes with the Arab led

state Morroco. Songhai stated that the purpose of the

African state was to serve the people to which Morroco

replied that the purpose of the state was to serve Islam.

Since the ruler of Morroco was a descendant of Mohammed that

meant that it was Songhai's responsibility to support the

Morrocan state rather than the interests of it's own people.

Songhai was destroyed by Morroco in 1591, and after

Songhai's destruction any new states that emerged in this

area put the interests of outsiders above the welfare of

their own people. The area that had once been the strong

empire of Songhai became the core of the slave trade in

Africa.

When Europeans came into Africa to trade they dealt

with these weakened African states. They provided the

states arms and the states allowed Europeans to enslave

their citizens. African states allied with European nations

at the expense of their own people; showing that the...
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