Friday, June 17, 2011

A Slave Market in Africa

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Through the voice of a Dutch observer, the African slave market is described in high esteem. The Dutchman depicts the slave ships as providing a higher quality of life from what the slaves knew prior to their imprisonment. However, this man’s portrayal of the slave trade is far from the truth.

Although the slave market in North America is most commonly remembered of all slave markets, traffic in slaves had existed for centuries before the arrival of the first European fleets along the African shore. The slaves used throughout Africa were mainly prisoners captured in battles with neighboring rivals. Slavery also existed in European countries before making its presence in the New World. But, with the discovery of the New World in the 140s came the subsequent planting of sugarcane in South America and the Caribbean Islands. The new plantations required more workers than could be provided by the small and inexperienced American Indian population in the New World. The European colonists were desperate for more laborers to toil in the brutal conditions of their sugarcane plantations.

As a solution to this problem, African slaves were shipped from the coasts and inland areas of Africa to labor in the New World. The new African slaves were somewhat less susceptible to European diseases than the American Indian population. This made the African slaves a much more desirable purchase. Altogether, between the early sixteenth century and the late nineteenth century, as many as ten million African slaves were transported to the Americas.

The Europeans were not the only people in support of the African slave trade. African intermediaries, such as private merchants, local elites, or trading state monopolies, were very active in the slave trade. Local monarchs in African states viewed the slave trade as a source of income. These elite Africans fully supported the slave trade because it boosted their own esteem. They were often paid in various types of imported goods, which included East Asian textiles, furniture, and other manufactured products. Although many of the actual slaves, and families of the slaves, were in much disagreement of the slave trade, they did not have the power to stop the process.

Custom Essays on A Slave Market in Africa

The slave trade, although it seemed very profitable at first to African elitists, had many dislocating effects. The importation of inexpensive manufactured goods from European countries diluted the establishment of local cottage industry and impoverished incalculable families. Political instability and civil strife intensified in Africa in response to the demand for slaves and the introduction of firearms. Although the coast of West Africa felt the greatest impact, almost all states who fell to the temptations of economic profit also contributed to the increase in conflict within their own state and amongst neighboring states.

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