Slave Trade in Africa and Europe

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Essay Question: How was the slave trade practised in Africa and Europe before c. 1550, in comparison to the Atlantic slave- trade after 1550? What were the main differences between the two periods in terms of their origins, motivations and effects on African society? “A man entirely at the disposition of another man! Open the bloody pages of our revolution, know mankind and judge the fate of the Negro slave.” Etienne Laurent Pierre Burnel, anti-slavery commissioner to the Mascareignes, 1796.1 The slave trade in Africa was one that easily predated the arrival of Europeans on the West Coast.2 The introduction of Islam saw the forced migration of African peoples in providing labor, domestic and military services within the country itself.3 While the trade in Africa before c. 1550 had little overall impact on African society, it set the scene for the harvesting and international shipment of slaves by Europeans after 1440 during the Atlantic slave trade. The arrival of the Portuguese and the growing demand for labor in the New World and islands of the Atlantic initiated the enslavement and transportation of Africans by boat to such destinations.4 The experience of the slave became extraordinarily different during such times, with many intense hardships endured, and as a result, an effect on African society that would last into the times of present day society. Before the Atlantic slave trade was initiated, Africa knew of slavery to a reasonably large extent. Slavery had been a relatively minor institution throughout pre-Roman to modern times.5 Many of Africa’s states were free to buy and sell slaves, and traders searching for gold deposits began transporting slaves along caravan routes that lead across the Sahara to the North of Africa to work in mines.6 The expansion of Islam in the eighth century saw an increase in the trade. The number of slaves one had was a
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