Transatlantic economic exchanges,
Of all the commercial ties that link this new world, none had more profound consequences than the
slave trade. The trade was at the centre of commercial exchanges and ties. The Atlantic world economy
would not have happened.
This led to the rise of modern capitalism. Between 1500 to 1860s, 12.5 million people were taking from
Africa to the Americas (estimate). Roughly 14-15% died during the voyage. Countless others died while
waiting on the coast to be shipped out to the Americas. Slavery existed before this era, existed in Greek
and roman times and in Africa in the same period. The Atlantic slave trade in comparison with
“traditional” slave trade, historians called the Atlantic slave trade the “new slave trade”
Main features of this new slavery:
Happened on a unprecedented scale, largest forced migration in world history
Also a harsh system of racial slavery, based on racial difference, slavery as lifelong, hereditary and
despised status for black people. In medieval Europe, you could enslave enemies, etc. but their status
was flexible because they could be freed/status could be changed
Atlantic slave trade however was justified through racial difference. Race became the explicit basis for
enslavement. In the case of slavery in the Americas, slavery became a lifelong and hereditary and
This new slavery was integrated into networks of trade. Had existed before but was now at an
unprecedented scale. The people and the produce produced were at the heart of the economy.
1 – the rise of the slave trade in the Atlantic world – how/why
2 – the north Atlantic system – economic ties that existed in the economic world – consequences in the
3- life on the plantation, taking the U.S. as an example. Different forms of slaveries existed in the U.S. in
different regions. Every slave’s experience was not the same
Conclusion: abolition of slavery in the U.s.
Beginning of slavery in the new world:
When Europeans arrived, they traded with Native Americans. They realized later that trade was not
sustainable and not creating enough wealth. They quickly turned to mining and agriculture. The Spanish
were the first ones to start directly mining for gold and silver. Workers were needed to work in the
mines, enslaved native population. Encountered many problems with this push to enslave the native
population. Many of them died and the church often opposed the enslavement because much of the
population had been Christianized. Another problem was that native population would disappear (they
knew the area well)
Spanish and Portuguese started importing slaves from Africa. Bases of the economy in the Americas, based on agriculture/crops: sugar canes, tobacco- plant
originating from the Americas, rice and cotton. These crops are called cash crops – grown for profit,
were very important and created cycles of boom and bust, was more sustainable than trade with the
natives. Sugar and tobacco – addictive substances, your market is going to increase relatively rapidly –
Europeans did not have this before.
Spread of Sugar:
Sugar originally comes from Indian ocean area, spread through Indian ocean, arrived in India where the
Europeans first encountered it, then into middle east. They came into contact with it during the
crusades. By 14 century, Portuguese imported sugar and sugar cane was grown in Sicily, Cyprus.
Growing it and transforming it into sugar is very labor intensive, many steps need to be taken to get
sugar and final product is not white powdered sugar. Slaves were working in sugar cane fields in
Mediterranean, they were often Slavic people that had not been Christianized yet.
Europeans started growing it in islands they controlled in the Atlantic (archipelagos like the canary
Once they arrived in the Caribbean, they realized the new colonies would be very good places to grow
Sugar revolution in the Caribbean
Economic boom in the 17 century (1900s)
The sugar revolution transformed the Caribbean societies into predominately black and slave societies.
Blacks outnumbered the white population by 4:1 by 1713
Virginia: first British settlement, Jamestown – 1600s – was quite unsuccessful and almost disappeared.
Colonists arrived too late in the season to plant food, they couldn’t harvest the food before winter, their
attitudes towards natives was negative. All these first colonies were composed of men and were looking
for adventures, were planning on trading with natives for gold, were more interested in gambling and
playing cards than growing food. 1610s, they realized that tobacco could be their gold. It was also
considered a medication- was a demand for tobacco in Europe. Need workers to produce tobacco,
started importing African slaves
The first Africans arrived in the U.S. in 1690- first mention of Africans arriving in British North America.
19 of them arrived, unsure whether they were enslaved.
Capital and ships were gathered for the Atlantic trade. Ships were loaded with artifacts which could be
traded for slaves – guns, cloth, iron, beads, fabric, things they could trade for slaves. Portuguese had a
leading role in the early slave trade. Portuguese tried to raid west African coast to enslave Africans.
Many West African societies were able to defend themselves, some African societies and their rulers
were willing to sell slaves willingly, slavery already existed in Africa. Many Europeans died from tropical
diseases they were not used to – malaria – similar to Americas
Slave trade became to operate with Europeans waiting on the coast to purchase African slaves. The
entire enterprise was mostly in African hands. There was no unified African/black identity at the time,
they identified differently. They were divided between tribes, microstates, cities, and were often rivals Those they captured and sold were outsiders, political reasons to enslave.
Kingdom of Benin- king banned slavery and the slave trade/little as a thousand people per year would
be sold. In other places like kingdom Dahumay, they had a vigorous impact- government was focused on
the money. Different impacts in different regions.
Slave trade caused economic stagnation
Slaves were brought to the coast, would spend months on the coast waiting to be shippe