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The Atlantic World in the Early Modern Period Essay

Atlantic slave trade is a trade that involved the sale of African people to the colonies of the new world which took place in and around the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic slave trade was also referred to transatlantic slave trade and begun in the sixteenth century to the nineteenth century. Most slaves were acquired through coastal trading with the Africans, nevertheless others were incarcerated by European slave traders through raiding and kidnapping.

Out of many stories that have been written about the Atlantic slave trade, most of them talk mainly about the economic benefits that the trade rendered to Europe and North America and the injustices that the slaves received while in America, even though little attention has been given to the devastative effect of the damage that was done to the Africans. From this point, it is arguable that the Atlantic slave trade enriched and developed Europe and impoverished and under developed Africa. The slave trade involved commercial trading system which involved forced recruitment of African workers and their transportation to Europe.

The Atlantic slave trade unlike other slave trades was capital intensive and competitive among several European countries. The participants of this trade included both the Africans and the Europeans who were both influenced by the trade The question on whether the Atlantic slave trade enriched and developed Europe and impoverished and under developed Africa can be answered under three categories of discussions that is; the social cost in Africa of forced migration, the Atlantic slave trade and the rise and expansion of the western world and the enduring legacies of the world of slaves.

The costs and the benefits of the Atlantic slave trade differentiate between the private, social costs and the benefits. From the Atlantic slave trade it can be said that the people who raided and took captives from Africans and the African leaders who were involved in the buying and the selling of slaves all gained privately.

It is not clear on what quantity of gains were got by the slave raiders and traders of the slave trade or the amount of losses suffered by the Africans, though it is argued from human rationality that the slave traders and raiders would not have continued with the captive business for several years if they were not getting some private gains. Due to Atlantic slave trade, there was loss of labor in Africa because most working group were taken as slaves and under population because most people were taken as slaves and others even died in the process of slave raiding.

These reasons meant that Africa, unlike Europe would not have sufficient labor force that would drive the real wages and work towards making possible industrial profits. This therefore leads to the say that Europe underdeveloped Africa through Atlantic slave trade. Several arguments have been put across claiming that the Atlantic slave trade, exported to the European continent part of the African’s comparative advantage in the production of commodities for the dynamic world market. This as a result is said to have hindered the growth and development of goods production for international, markets by the African continent.

Further argument has been made that the African societies have been under structured and underdeveloped as a result of the Atlantic trade. In trying to relate the wealth of the European continent and that of Africa, it can be noted that through the Atlantic trade, Europe underdeveloped Africa when a comparison between the enrichment of Europe and impoverishment of Africa through the removal of labor power in the process of slave trading is made. The slave trade was followed by the entry of the Europeans into the interior part of the coastal region.

This as a result facilitated the expansion of the slave trade at the interior parts of the coastal regions. The slave comprised an element of an economic cycle which consists of three parts. The Atlantic slave trade involved four centuries that is; from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth century, four continents and several people. According to the Africans and African – American scholars the slave trade would rather be called a great disaster since it involved a lot of suffering on the part of the Africans who were sold as slaves and especially those who were taken through raids and kidnapping.

The suffering on the Africans was not however only felt by those who were taken as slaves but also the families of those who were taken as slaves and Africa as a whole. This is because in the process of raiding to get the slaves so many people were killed and several others injured rendering thousands of children orphans. In addition lots of property was destroyed during the raids leaving most Africans homeless and without any food. Furthermore many families lost their loved ones either by being kidnapped as slaves, being sold as slaves or being killed through the raids.

Economically, Africans lost a lot, first from the destruction of property during the raids and secondly, most of the African men who were taken as slaves were the strong energetic men who could have worked in the African farms and industries to improve the economy of Africa. Other than the deaths that occurred in Africa during the acquisition of slaves, several other deaths occurred among the African captives both inside and outside America. These deaths occurred during the transportation of the Africans to the new continent, during their storage and at the preliminary landing in the new continent or so it is said.

The total number of deaths that occurred is claimed to remain unknown up to this moment though the number was approximated to be between sixteen to twenty million. The Trans Atlantic slave trade was associated with cruelty and inhumanity when dealing with the African slaves which reduced the slaves to just mere commodities other than human beings. For the slaves who survived the middle passage were provided with very little amount of food, shelter and clothing and were expected to do a lot of work.

The African slaves however were not enslaved for life, the slaves were paid salaries and from that they were able to acquire wealth. In addition to the salary and acquisition of wealth, the African slaves could buy their freedom and be given social promotion which was not good enough compared to the lives they could have led in their homes with their families. Looking at the economists like David Ricardo and Adam Smith they believe that the Atlantic trade impoverished Africa and advocating trade and competition are the source of maximum welfare gains to humanity.

Since the occurrence of the Atlantic slave trade Africa has always been left behind with the Africans stagnating in the continent prevalent with disorders, AIDS, and negative growth rate. The Atlantic slave trade indeed contributed to the development of Europe. However according to some scholars the Atlantic trade brought mutual benefit to both Europe and Africa, for instance a comment made at the university of Bender Arena on the history of slavery and the development of America and Europe pointed out that “Africa subsidized America with all the labor provided, America subsidized Europe and therefore Africa was the mother of all subsidies.

For the Europeans the Atlantic slave trade was a source of development as they believed that labor was removed from where it was totally unproductive to where it was tremendously productive. They claim that this gave an opportunity for the world output to grow far beyond what it would have been if the slaves could have been kept within the African continent. According to the Europeans it was better off for Africans to be taken to Europe and America as slaved than remain in Africa since they believed that Africans stagnate in their continent due to diseases, primitive technology and short lives.

According to the Americans the slave was for the good of the Africans since they claimed that the Atlantic slave trade involved the transfer of the slaves from a region with scarce labor to a region with abundant labor. The African leaders sold away inland populations who lacked protection. In return to this the African leaders came with foreign commodities including the European gunpowder and Indian cloth among others which were some of the merchandise that the Europeans and the North Americans exchanged for the slaves.

The Atlantic slave trade actually developed the European empire given that one of the reasons why the Atlantic slave trade was started was because one of the resources that were missing in the expansion of the European empires was work force. The African slaves were therefore to provide this work force to help in the expansion of European colonies. Therefore Europeans became beneficiaries of the Atlantic slave trade since through the trade they were able to expand their empires. The indigenous people had proved so unreliable in the expansion of European empire forcing the Europeans to go for more reliable work force.

Most of the indigenous people were found to have been dying from diseases that were brought from Europe. On the other hand the climate was not fit for the Europeans and they also suffered from tropical diseases. The only people who were found to be reliable were the Africans who proved to be excellent workers and with their experience in agriculture and cattle keeping, they got used to the tropical climate, were resistant to tropical diseases and could be used to work very hard both in the plantations and mines.

Due to this reliability, the Europeans had no option but to go for Africans whom they were convinced could work perfectly well. As a result they resorted to slave trade which they thought was the easiest way to obtain the Africans to work for them. The development of the Europeans also came about as a result of immediate planting of tobacco which they began as soon as they captured the African slaves and were therefore sure that they had sufficient labor to work in their tobacco plantations.

The tobacco plantations became very productive making tobacco to become the first successful commercial crop in Europe. As a result of this slave trade plantation agriculture and sugar production also became very common in the parts of the Mediterranean which led to the production of sugar from Asia to Europe. In addition there was the production of indigo which was used in textile dyes and later became the turn toward sugar making it the most expensive commercial crop to produce in Europe.

Apart from the plantation agriculture and sugar production, the Europeans also populated the African slaves in their mines and factories. In general the African slaves became very important labor force in European agricultural production. The Atlantic slave marked the revival of the European long distance trading. This was due to the first crusade which brought the European Christians into the slave trade and slave production. In addition, the Europeans got an opportunity to gain a plentiful labor supply for the exploitation of their new colonies from the Atlantic slave trade.

As a result Europe began experiencing increased population growth by the sixteenth century and therefore relied so much on the migrations of her poorer peasants and urban dwellers to America to provide its American labor needs. The rise and the fall of Atlantic slave trade pose different problems to the participants. For the Africans the rise of the Atlantic slave trade was such a problem in that its effects on the African society became a critical problem in the African history.

The rise of the Atlantic trade however for the European history was a multipart economic being which was centered on the production of tropical staples in America and which was to be consumed by the Europeans. The fact that this production of tropical staples was facilitated by the labor of African slaves was a very important factor for the Europeans in their competition for overseas empire in the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries. On the other hand the fall of the Atlantic slave trade was an important moment for the Africans as it marked a time when they were to start recollecting their lives and recovering their lost property.

It also marked the end of mass killing of Africans by the slave traders. For the Europeans it marked a time when they had to seek alternative labor sources to be able to continue with their developments and productions in their plantations, farms, mines and factories. Conclusion It is a fact that development in Africa remains mysterious, not because there are poor rulers or perverted leadership in Africa but because Africa was severely destroyed in the process of slave trading and also by colonialism which came as a result slave trade.

As this happens however, the Europeans continue to enjoy their success in the plantations which became successful as a result of labor force provided by the African slaves. The Atlantic trade indeed brought problems of population growth and economic development for the Africans while it became of European economic interests. The Atlantic slave trade definitely enriched and developed Europe and impoverished and under developed Africa. Bibliography Roger, Anstey. The Atlantic Slave Trade and British abolition, 1760-1810. London: Macmillan, 1975, 245- 53. Clarke, John Henrik.

Christopher Columbus and the African Great Disaster. Slavery and the Rise of European Capitalism London: Macmillan Press, 1999, 167- 179. Curtin, Philip D. Atlantic Slave Trade. University of Wisconsin Press, 1969, 463-69. Rescher, R. and Seymour J. From Slavery to Freedom: Comparative Studies in the Rise and Fall of Atlantic Slavery. London: Macmillan Press, 1999, 128- 135. Jacob Klein Herbert S. Slave Trade in the Atlantic. Cambridge: University Press, 1999, 15- 20. Thomas and Hugh. The Slave Trading: The Histories of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440 – 1870. London: Picador, 1997, 400- 11.


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