Effects of Slave Trade
The trans-Atlantic slave trade was the largest long-distance coerced movement of people in history. It developed after Europeans began exploring and establishing trading posts on the Atlantic (west) coast of Africa in the mid-15th century. The first major group of European traders in West Africa was the Portuguese, followed by the British and the French. In the 16th and 17th centuries, these European colonial powers began to pursue plantation agriculture in their expanding possessions in the New World (North, Central, and South America, and the Caribbean islands), across the Atlantic Ocean.
As European demand grew for products such as sugar, tobacco, rice, indigo, and cotton, and as more New World lands became available for European use, the need for plantation labor increased, thus, creating the Triangular trade and during this trade, over 12 million Africans were forcefully transported to the? Americas. This was responsible for the loss of population in West Africa therefore the society was disrupted; there was a destruction of cities, and a disruption of the gender structure. Firstly, the loss in population or African diaspora increased when the European demand for goods was enlarged.
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As a result, the Europeans organized raiding parties in order to violently capture and seize African individuals, once captured they “were no longer treated as fellow human beings but rather as property, like domestic live stock, to be herded together, examined and bartered over” (Shillington 183). Captives were also “chained together and marched to the coast where they were locked up in wooden cages to await the arrival of the next European trading ship. They were then stripped naked, men and women together, and examined minutely to see if they were fit, strong and healthy” (Shillington 183).
Although, 12 million slaves were captured and transported to the Americas about 50 million slaves were lost during the process due to diseases and brawls. In addition, the loss of population affected Africa because it disrupted their society; tribal wars became frequent, laws were changed making crimes punishable by slavery, and because of this, little development and modernization took place. This societal disruption also increased insecurity and distrust within the society because Africans were capturing and selling their own people in order to meet the slave demands of the Europeans.
In addition, the destruction of cities correlates to the loss of population and the affect the slave trade had on Africa because people began to flee the cities in order to avoid being captured, they had to do this carefully because it was dangerous to live in large groups. And because of this contact with the outside world came to an end because traders were scared to enter the territory, they feared that they might have been captured and enslaved, which affected African society because traders no longer brought new ideas and news on what is going on in the outside world.
Also, as the slave trade destroyed families and communities, people tried to protect their loved ones by creating various governments and communal institutions that developed means and policies that limited the trade’s impact for a short amount of time until policies became violated, because of this Africans were looked upon as inferior and were thought of as being less intelligent. Secondly, Africa was affected by the trans-Atlantic slave trade because the loss of population caused a disruption of the gender structure established throughout western Africa.
The gender structure of the slave trade opens windows into the workings of Atlantic societies. For instance, the male ratio varied from 75:25 in the upper Guinea coast and 55:45 in the Bight of Biafra. Additionally, the trans-Atlantic slave trade had the largest proportion of men simply because the men were more valuable during this time period. They were familiar with hardship and hard labor meaning that they were a good source of money for the Europeans.
Speaking of money the trading had a negative impact on the economic development of Africa because Africa was being robbed of its most important resource, human beings. Due to this robbery of men, it affected the agriculture and mining of Africa because the remaining people such as women and children had no strength to revive the economy. Adding on, the trans-Atlantic slave trade affected the dependency ratio of West Africa because children younger than the age of 14 were forced to assist in community labor.
Lastly, this trade strained Africa because it robbed them of their most productive source, manpower. In conclusion, the slave trade left the continent underdeveloped, disorganized, and vulnerable due to the loss of population, societal disruption, destruction of cities, and disruption of gender structure. Also, Africans were seen as cheap labor and a large number of the Africans were enslaved and destined to remain in Africa. Many were transported across the Sahara to the north, which in fact heightened the impact of the slave trade on the continent as a whole.
It is expected that the population of Africa remained small until the end of the nineteenth century. Lastly, the trans-Atlantic slave trade affected the relationships between kingdoms, ethnic groups, religious communities, the enslaved and the free. In some reorganized societies, the people evolved new styles of leadership that led to more rigid, hierarchical structures that were put in place in order to ensure a better sense of protection. Realizing this, the European powers intervened in order to prevent the rise of the African centralized states that would have hampered their operations.