Western Africa as a major source of slaves for the Americas referat





Western Africa as a major source of slaves for the Americas

Western Africa as a major source of slaves for the Americas When in the middle of the fifteenth century the Portuguese, originally in search of gold, exported the first slaves from West-Africa, a decade of African oppression and dependency on the European colonisers began. During the time of mercantilism most of the West-African slaves ended up as plantation workers in the American colonies. Reasons for the so-called “black holocaust” as well as the West-African history from the beginning of slavetrade till ist final abolition in the mid nineteenth century you can find in this essay In the fifteenth century Portugal was the dominating power in the world. When the first Portuguese reached the West-African coast they were mainly interested in tropical goods as ivory, pepper, gum and, above all, gold. First trading stations were established. But soon they discovered another useful source they could get from this region: cheap workforce in form of slaves. The next 150 years Portugal imported slaves, mainly from the Kongo-Angola region, to work in Europe or already on American plantations. In the 17th century a new kind of economic ideology, called mercantilism, spread from Western Europe. Mercantilism was a system to strenghten the national economy and guarantee gradual growth. Therefore every country should have their own colonies. The idea was to import raw materials from the colonies, manufacture them and send the manufactured goods back to the colonies. Out of the idea of mercantilism new worlds powers as Holland, Britain and France developed. They occupied new colonies in Central and South America and also had trading stations along the West-African coast. Now how was it that slavetrade between West-Africa and America rose so rapidly and became so profitable? After a short period of time the European colonisers found cheaper and easier ways og getting tropical products which led to a trade deficit with Africa. African leaders were highly dependent on the wealth they got from trading with the Europeans and so they looked for other items Europeans might be interested in. This question was easily answered. When the colonisers found out that the Caribbean Islands were very suitable for the cultivation of sugar, they built many plantations there. But natives were not able to work on these farms. Many of them died because of European diseases such as the small pox, or simply fled. Europeans weren´t able either , because they couldn´t handle with the tropical climate. The perfect workforce for the plantations was found in black slaves from Africa. As the Europeans discovered the usefulness of sugar as a sweetener, the demand for this tropical product rose and equally the demand for the black slaves from Africa. This was the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade. The transatlantic slave trade was a kind of circle system. Slaves were shipped from Africa to America to work on the plantations, sugar was imported from America to Europe and Europe supplied the colonies with manufactured goods. Because of its densely populated coast and a good infrastructure for transporting slaves, most slaves now came from the Lower Guinea Coast. The powerful leader of the African tribes now imported more and more armaments from Europe to strenghten their military. In general there were two different strategies for them of getting slaves for the American Trade. The first was through warfare. A Nigerian tribe which was very famous for this method were the Oyo. The Oyo leader mainly imported horses to build up a strong cavalry. In the time of transatlantic slave trade the oyo used their cavalry to defeat neighbour tribes, conquer their land and sell the war captives as slaves. For the slaves they imported new horses. The other, seemingly more cruel, method of producing slaves was the method of “silent violence”. Many merchants formed alliances to build up a system of manipulation and kidnapping. Especially in the Eastern parts of Lower Guinea it was common that communities pointed out scapegoats to sell them as slaves. Families had to give human sacrifices for example as payments for foretelling. Another phenomenon of “ silent violence” was witchcraft. In the 18th century transatlantic slave trade reached its peak. Many African communities were divided into rich and poor. African kings and merchants used the slave trade to maintain their position of power. In return millions of men, women and children were shipped to America to work in an inhuman way. Beginning of the 19th century, at the time of the French Enlightment and the British Industrial Revolution, slave trade was more and more criticised. Mercantilism was replaced by the system of free trade. What seemed to be normal before, now was said to be inhuman and economically stupid. Many abolitionists movements finally achieved the outlawing of slave trade in the dominating colonisers Holland, Britain and France. A new kind of trade, known as “legitimate trade” was established. Because of the Industrial Revolution there was a high demand on peanuts and palm oil which could be produced by “ordinary” people using family labour. A new middle class was formed in this time, which is also called the “peasant revolution”. But slave trade yet wasn´t totally abolished. Especially Portugal and the independent Brazil continued slave trade and used African leaders who still thought of being dependent on slave trade for their profits. The demand on sugar and other tropical products was still high and so slave trade went on till Britain threatened war on Brazil if they would not stop slavery. Brazil capitulated and in 1888 the transatlantic slave trade ended. Within 450 years of slave trade from Africa to the Americas 11,3 million black slaves became the looser of a game in which European colonisers used the selfishness of merchants and kings of the “underveloped” African tribes for their own advantages in form of a fast growing economy. Holocaust - a great or complete slaughter or reckless destruction of life. 'The Black Holocaust is one of the more underreported events in the annals of human history. The Black Holocaust makes reference to the millions of African lives which have been lost during the centuries to slavery, colonization and oppression.















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