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The Atlantic slave trade was a system that exploited and enslaved human beings, more specifically black Africans. Majority of the disenfranchised were shipped from West Africa, Central Africa and Eastern Africa and then transported to the European colonies of the New World where they served a purpose as a ‘cheap’ labour force. Slaves were generally obtained through coastal trading with Africans, though some were captured during raids and kidnappings by European slave traders. Manning (1990, p.124) writes that, “Slavery was corruption: it involved theft, bribery, and exercise of brute force as well as ruses. Slavery thus may be seen as one source of precolonial origins for modern corruption.”
The Atlantic slave trade can also be known as the Trans-Atlantic slave trade due to its regular use of the Triangular trade route in and around the Atlantic Ocean. It is believed that the slave trade began approximately mid-15th century and lasted to the 19th century. The number of Africans that were shipped to the New World is estimated between 9.4 million and 12 million, however many died on forced marches, on board ships or for resisting and the number of people taken from their homestead is substantially greater.
Recent studies suggest that Africa’s history can explain part of its current poverty and underdevelopment, (Grier 1999; Englebert 2000a, 2000b; Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson 2001, 2002; Bertochi and Canola 2002; Lange 2004.) Historical accounts also suggest that the pervasive insecurity, violence and warfare had detrimental impacts on the social and economic development of societies as well as contributing in the deterioration of domestic legal institutions, the weakening of states, and political fragmentation (Inikori 2000, 2003, Heywood 2009.)
The slave trade was a major influence in transforming African society, it radically impaired Africa’s potential to develop economically and to uphold social and political stability. The slave trade also left Africa critically disadvantaged compared to the rest of the world due to having over 10 million of its’ population being enslaved. According to Nunn (2008), 72% of the average income gap between Africa and the rest of the world would not exist today if the slave trade had not occurred, Nunn (2008) also estimated that 99% of the income gap between Africa and other developing countries would also not have existed. In other words, Africa would not be the most underdeveloped constituency of the world had the slave trades not occurred, it would have had a similar level of development to Latin America or Asia.
Depopulation and the continuing fear of captivity made economic and agricultural development throughout Western Africa near to impossible. A great proportion of the people taken captive were young men and women who were in their childbearing years and who normally would have been starting families. The European slavers usually left behind persons who were disabled, elderly, sick, or otherwise dependent groups who were least able to work/contribute to the economic health of their societies.
The slave trade also impacted African economy through the structural transformation which changed from agricultural to industrial. The slave trade affected the agriculture and mining in that the remaining people had no veal to revive the economy anymore. It also increased Africa’s dependency on European goods, as European demands grew for products such as sugar, rice, cotton and tobacco, and as more new world lands became available for European use, the desire for plantation labour also amplified.
Ethnic diversity was another outcome of the slave trade. According to Green (2013), all of the differences in ethnic fractionalisation between Africa and the rest of the world can be explained by its experience with the slave trades. In another series of studies Whatley and Gillezeau (2011) and Whatley (2014) indicate that the slave trades did result in greater ethnic fractionalisation. In addition, their studies also show that the slave trades resulted in a deterioration of local ethnic communities, measured in the late pre-colonial era.
Slade trade contributed to the instability as well as the expansion of politics in Africa. There was the destruction of ammunition in Central and West Africa which helped with the military and political supremacy of tribes. Political alliances were betrayed between slave trades and African leaders. These alliances allowed the rulers to establish authority over their counterparts.
Increased insecurity, distrust and high level of conflicts between African groups due to the slave trade occurred as the Africans were taking captive and selling their own people into slavery to meet the European demands for slavery. The slave trade also had an immense impact on the language. The language of many African tribes were mixed with European language thereby forming new languages, for example, one such language is the Swahili (Warshaw, 1986.)
The physical effects on those who were enslaved consisted of lynching, beatings and floggings, the extremity of this abuse resulted in severe scaring on slaves’ shoulders, backs and legs. Children being ripped away from their parents to be sold at slave auctions was a very common effect of the slave trade. Sexual abuse was another very popular side effect of enslavement. Slave women were mostly subjected to first hand sexual abuse from their masters, these women were breeding machines and a way to not only increase the number of slaves their masters owned, but to also further their wealth and reputation. The slave owners also forced their male slaves to rape women, whether freed or enslaved.
Throughout the many years of slavery and abuse, there was a psychological effect on the enslaved men, women and children. Slavery affected the human mind greatly; anxiety and Post-Traumatic Slavery Syndrome made an appearance. Post-Traumatic Slavery Syndrome, a characteristic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, was frequently caused by relentless physical and emotional pain, often slaves and former slaves passed the illness to their children who passed it to their children and so forth.

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