Saylor.org's Early Globalizations: East Meets West (1200s-1600s)/Africa, Africans, and the Atlantic Slave Trade

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While much of Africa followed its own trajectory of progress in the post-medieval period, the rise of European trade and influence still had a profound impact upon African societies. Perhaps the greatest—and most horrific—effect upon Africa was the Atlantic slave trade. The forced removal of Africans to the New World was first started by the Portuguese in what is now Sierra Leone in the 1400s. Soon after, English, Dutch, Portuguese, and French traders began to enslave and sell Africans to benefit New World plantation societies. The result was an incredibly profitable system of enslavement that transformed European empires, colonial societies, and the world economy.

In this unit, we will examine the impact of the many—and complex—facets of the Atlantic slave trade. We will examine how the trade came into being, who was involved, why it was so profitable and so deadly, how it affected Africa and Africans, and why it ended.

Marchands d'esclaves de Gorée-Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur mg 8526.jpg