The ratio of population between Europe and Africa declined and it is believed that this caused a significant impact on African civilizations. During the fifteen century, Africa became one of the major location for European explorers, mainly Portuguese. For centuries, Europeans traded gold and spices, but during the fifteen century, one of the most important change occurred; a new type of trade began; influenced by the Portuguese and starting the most shameful period of history. It quickly expanded, and with the time more countries joined.
This new type of trade was, what we today recall, as slavery which had major impacts on developments of the countries involved: Spain, Portugal, and later England.
The European trade had its origins in Mali, around 1450, when the famous leader Mansa Musa converted to Islam, and on his way to the Mecca, one of the five pilasters that a Muslim has to follow, donated so much gold that Europeans from all the Western heard of the amount; which stimulated the eyes of the many Europeans who were looking for gold.
Once the Portuguese arrived, for example Henry the Navigator which founded the city of Sagres, their main goal was to explore and to find large quantities of gold. By the fifteen century the Portuguese achieved both of their goals, but there was something more that they wanted: maybe a better economy or maybe a faster way to earn money. With these new goals in their minds, the Portuguese started to occupy most of Africa, and started creating commerce between the two.
By the fifteen century the Portuguese had established a well organized trading system with most of the Southern parts of Africa, including Cape of Good Hope in 1488, the southernmost trip. The trade was similar throughout most of the country. The main goods that were trade by the Portuguese were gold, spices (in particular salt), ivory, kola nuts, cotton cloth, ebony, gum, leopard skins, ostrich, feathers and copper.
Since in Sub-Saharan the way of building was very unique, the Europeans traded a large quantity of wood and construction materials such as ebony, which is a type of wood. Also, one of these materials is gum, which is specifically a colloidal substance that is extracted from plants.
During the late mid-1400s, at Cape Bojador, a new type of trade was found. A type trade which will stay in the history as one of the most shameful period. It was started by the Portuguese Antom Goncoles, but we have evidence that the African tribes often enslaved other members of their tribe as in a formal quest for more workers, wives, and children. In addition, also the Arab traders had created a large and long-lasting slave trade that extended throughout the Sahara and its South part.
Before the Europeans arrived in Africa, Muslim merchants had already being trading slaves, in fact the system of capturing, selling and distributing slaves was very well functioning when they arrived. Instead of abolishing this horrible trade, the Europeans developed this kind of market.
The Portuguese soon found a good occupation to all the slaves, and with the time their number just kept increasing. Since the Portuguese had many colonies in the Western Hemisphere; such as Madeiras, Cape Verde Islands, and Sao Torre, which all dependent on sugar plantations; they always needed a large amount of workers. This was the new position that Portuguese invented for the many slaves that they traded.
As a result of the increasing number of slaves on sugar plantations, the production of sugar, along with its “contract” with Europe had also increased. This factor is due to the increase of slaves which from a few hundred, grew almost to two thousand a year in 1520. Also, during 1530 Portuguese started importing slaves to Brazil, which soon became the wealthiest sugar-producing land in the New World. It is logic, that this is a result of the quantity of slaves which grew higher with the time.
During the sixteen century, the slave trade was mostly organized by two triangles. The first triangle involved Europe receiving raw materials from the American colonies; Africa receiving products from Europe and the colonies receiving slaves from Africa; while the second triangle involved the Caribbean which shipped the molasses to England, where it was used for the production rum. The rum was later shipped to Africa, which in exchange shipped slaves in the Caribbean.
In addition, the Spanish played an important role in developing the slave trade, because since the civilizations that the Spanish conquered could not work the land because they had been destroyed by disease, the Spanish seeked labor in Africa.
Slaves were not only shipped in the Caribbean, but also in Peru, Mexico, and Central America. During the seventeen century slavery was also introduced in the United States by the British.
Not many were the continuities of trade in the Sub-Saharan region in the 15th-18th century, but there were a few. Some of these are the goods which were traded and some of the locations. For example: some of the goods that were kept being traded, while slavery was introduced and later adopted, were gold, ebony, salt and cotton.
In addition, also some of the main trading cites remained of significant importance as major trading spots after the new type of trade was invented. For example, some of these cities are the capital of the Mali Empire: Timbuku, in 1468; Adoghast, Kumi Saleh, Gao, and Walota. Most of these cities became important trading references in 1362 when Ibn Battuta helped the Europeans to discover them and still were during the eighteen century. Among these the most important was Gold Coast, first famous for its gold and spices, after famous for the number of slaves that departed from there, toward the unknown destination.
The main impact that the new type of trade, or slavery had, was the economy (in particular Portugal’s, Brazil’s and U.S.’s). The Portuguese’s economy increased because by first buying, and after selling, the slave traders made lots of money; in contrast, the reason why the Brazilian economy increased is different. It increased because the many slaves who worked the land between 16-20 hours a day, for just a little amount of money; mainly the economy grew because the money was not little when the sugar was sold to the Europeans. Also, in America the economy increased because of the cotton that like in Brazil was sold at a higher price than the slaves.
Another impact of slavery, beyond the economy, was a demographic change. The Atlantic slave trade brought a large involuntary migration that influenced the difference societies in the Atlantic Ocean coast. During the slave trade, the African population was dangerously declining in parts of Africa, but in the New World it was increasing. In total, twelve million of slaves were brought to the Western hemisphere during 1450-1750.
In addition, another impact of slavery, beyond economy, was the distorted sex ratios in Africa. This was due to the fact that most of the slaves taken were males, and so many parts of Africa were left with uneven proportion of sexes: more females than men; for example in Angola, two-thirds of the population was female during the eighteen century. As a result, this imbalance forced women to work in fields and so perform most of the duties that males usually did.
With the years the European economy kept growing and growing thanks to the sugar plantations and the slave trade. During the 1450-1750 the Europeans trade success was mainly due to the slave trade. During this period we can see an important change overtime: the trade, which was mainly concentrated in the Indian Ocean, moved in West Europe and Americas. These new changes will spark for new developments in the Americas.
In conclusion, during the 1450-1750, one of the most important changes in the history occurred, mainly due and influenced by the Portuguese; which are credited for started this shameful period. On the other hand, we also notice some continuities, for example some of the goods, which were continued been traded even when the slave trade took place. Another example is some of the main locations, such as the Gold Coast. Also, in general, during this period we see that sea trade was more common that land trade. The new slave trade brought benefits to most of the countries involved, except Sub-Sahara, which decreased the population and traditions, but saw in the other prospective, it even benefited the Africans, because many were the people who enriched from the slave trade. Unfortunately, this trade ruined an immense amount of lives, which didn’t even choose for it.
Courtney from Study Moose
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