The Slave Trade 1619–1808

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Map Code: Ax01582

Although the trans-Atlantic trade was perhaps the dominant element in the slave trade worldwide, slavery was widely practised internally within Africa, and the Ottoman Empire and Asia also represented major markets. In excess of 12 million Africans were shipped from the slave trading West African ports. The European agents rarely ventured into the interior, with the procurement coming via client states; the Khasso for Gorea; the Asante Empire for Elmina; Dahomey for Ouida; and Kongo for Cabinda. The procuring polities waged incessant wars with their interior neighbours to fulfil demand. Initially the trade was modest, but the devastation of indigenous population through disease, and the expansion of labour-intensive plantation crops rapidly increased the American colonies’ appetite for slaves. Cocoa and coffee in Brazil, sugar in the Caribbean and cotton/tobacco and indigo cultivation in the United States were all prime industries that demanded fresh supplies of slaves. Mortality rates were extreme, both in the initial capture, oceanic passage and ‘seasoning camps’ after arrival.

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