It’s History: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

I wrote my first-ever lesson plan on the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade, so today I thought I’d give you all an introduction to the subject, as well.

The First System: The slave trade as we know it originated in the late 15th century, when Spain and Portugal were conquering the New World. They discovered gold and silver mines, and wished to exploit these. However, the Europeans didn’t want to use their own people to labor, and the native population was dying off from disease. So, deciding they had nothing to lose in importing labor from Africa, Spain and Portugal decided to look in that direction.

The Second System: Eventually, though, Spain and Portugal’s dominance decreased. Britain and France began to rise as world powers. They mostly set up shop in the Caribbean, running sugar plantations. Even more Africans were brought in as laborers on these plantations.

Most of the slaves came from the Western coast of Africa. Slavery had been practiced in Africa for awhile before the Europeans started exporting people, and in fact, many of the slaves that were sent to the New World were traded to the Europeans by African agents. This provided monetary benefits to the people who traded slaves, since they could get a lot of money from the sale of each slave, but one has to wonder how it effected the local economy in general – slave traders were only a small part of the population. What about the rest of the population?

Another economic effect of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was its part in the Triangular Trade (see arrows on map). Textiles, rum, and manufactured goods went to Africa, who exported slaves to the Americas, who exported sugar, tobacco, and cotton back to Europe…and so the cycle continued.


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