Atlantic Slave Trade is an umbrella term used to denote the migration of enslaved workers from West, West-Central, and East Africa to various parts of America between the 16th and 19th centuries. It was the world's largest and most studied deportation in history. The nations involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade included Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Almost 25 to 30 million people were forced to leave their homelands and serve their captors in other countries. The Atlantic Slave Trade caused unexplainable human suffering and left a permanent imprint on world history and culture.
What is the Atlantic Slave Trade?
Atlantic Slave Trade, also known as the Triangular Trade, refers to the transportation of people from various parts of Africa to America. It is estimated that a total of 12 and 17 million Africans were forced to cross the Atlantic on ships, while many more passed away during their journey.
- The Atlantic Slave Trade is also known as Triangular Trade because of its three-part journey.
- In the African Slave Trade, the ships originated from Europe with textiles, weapons, etc. and arrived in Africa.
- African authorities would then pack African natives (predominantly people vanquished in wars, with a history of crimes, or mentally ill) and load them on the European ships.
- The European ships would then set sail for America to get sugar, cotton, coffee, and tobacco in exchange for African slaves before heading back to Europe.
Atlantic Slave Trade: Background and History
The history of the Atlantic Slave Trade can be traced back to the late 16th century, when European nations like Spain, Britain, France, and the Netherlands invaded North America. European invasion was met with stiff resistance but Europeans managed to maintain their position.
Many Native Americans died due to prevalent diseases at the time and Europeans dealt with a labor shortage. This is where the Atlantic Slave Trade began.
- The Europeans used the newly captured territories to grow coffee, sugar, and tobacco since the European climatic conditions were not conducive to growing these crops.
- Since the North Americans were dying in vast numbers, the colonizers needed labourers to work for them.
- Europe had close connections with Africa and hence, they managed to establish the Atlantic Slave Trade.
Atlantic Slave Trade: Route
The route of the Atlantic Slave Trade included travel through three different continents. The people to be transported came from multiple places in West, West Central, and East Africa. The three main ports from which slaves were transported during the Atlantic Slave Trade included
- Whydah or Slave Coast' in North Africa
- Bonny in the Bight of Biafra
- Luanda, African West Coast
Atlantic Slave Trade: Slavery
Before the Atlantic Slave Trade ever began, the Europeans had previously attempted to establish plantations in West Africa. However, the continuous opposition of the natives forced them to move to America. Some historians argue that Africa proved its strength through the Atlantic Slave Trade since the Europeans initially had to buy labour rather than get it for free.
- A major chunk, nearly half to be precise, of the enslaved people originated from West-Central Africa.
- Also, the people of West Central Africa comprised 80% of enslaved people transported to Southeast Brazil through the Atlantic Slave Trade.
- The enslaved people were subject to severe torture throughout the voyage, which usually took two months.
Condition of Captive Slaves
The Atlantic Slave Trade is known for being one of the biggest events in history that resulted in the death and torture of millions. The conditions of captives and slaves on European ships en route to America were seriously bad.
- During the Atlantic Slave Trade, the captives were segregated and not allowed to wear clothes.
- They were tied with chains and women and children were often subjected to physical abuse.
- Almost a quarter of all enslaved people were children in the Atlantic Slave Trade.
- Fatalities were quite common due to violent resistance and unsanitary conditions.
Atlantic Slave Trade: Timeline
The Atlantic Slave Trade lasted from the 16th to 19th century. Spanning three centuries, the trade resulted in millions of Africans being forcefully enslaved and violated. Here is the complete timeline of the Atlantic Slave Trade.
- When the trade began in the 16th century, around 3 per cent of enslaved people were transported from Africa to America.
- By the 17th century, the number of enslaved people transported through the Atlantic Slave Trade rose to 16 per cent.
- In the late 17th century, the English, Dutch and French traders were establishing colonies that were heavily dependent on slave labor.
- The Atlantic Slave Trade was finally banned in 1807 but over 3.5 million were still traded between 1810 and 1860.
End of the Atlantic Slave Trade
The Atlantic Slave Trade ended during the mid-1800s. In 1850, Brazilian authorities started arresting slave ships. The final slaving expedition took place in Cuba in 1867. Here are some important details about the end of the Atlantic Slave Trade.
- By the time when the Atlantic Slave Trade was banned, nearly 3,600,000 Africans had entered Brazil and changed the country's culture, beliefs, and customs.
- Unfortunately, Africa protested Europe's move to end slave trading since it ended the opportunities to make profits.
- The Atlantic Slave Trade is and will always remain one of the darkest eras in the history of human civilisation.
- It caused immense human suffering and changed the culture and customs of many countries, including America and Brazil.
FAQs on the Atlantic Slave Trade
Q1. What is Atlantic Slave Trade?
Atlantic Slave Trade is a term used to denote the migration of enslaved workers from West, West-Central, and East Africa to various parts of America between the 16th and 19th centuries. The Atlantic Slave Trade uprooted millions of enslaved Africans and led to incomparable misery for them.
Q2. How did the Atlantic Slave Trade start?
The Atlantic Slave Trade began as a result of the Europeans’ curiosity and zeal to explore and conquer the world. The Europeans reached North America to settle there but upon realizing a shortage of labor, they turned to Africa to transport enslaved people to America through the Atlantic Slave Trade.
Q2. Is the Triangular Trade the same as Atlantic Slave Trade?
Yes, Triangular Trade or Atlantic Slave Trade refers to the transportation of people from various parts of Africa to America. Atlantic Slave Trade is also known as the Triangular Trade because the transportation of enslaved people involved three different continents.
Q3. How many African people were transported through the Atlantic Slave Trade?
The Atlantic Slave Trade resulted in the transportation of millions of Africans. It is estimated that a total of 12 and 17 million Africans crossed the Atlantic on ships. The Atlantic Slave Trade also resulted in the death and suffering of millions of more Africans.
Q4. When did the Atlantic Slave Trade end?
The Atlantic Slave Trade ended during the mid-1800s. In 1807, Britain and the United States of America banned the Atlantic Slave Trade. However, the trade continued and it is reported that around 3.5 million enslaved people were still traded between 1810-1860.
Q5. What were the three parts of the Atlantic Slave Trade?
The Atlantic Slave Trade consisted of a three-part journey, because of which it was also called the Triangular Trade. During this journey, the Europeans traded goods and weapons with Africa in exchange for enslaved people. Then, they exported these enslaved people to America, in exchange for goods, which they took back to Europe.