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History 2501E Lecture Notes - Middle Ages, Asiento, Manumission

Course Code
HIS 2501E
Luz Hernandez- Saenz

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Oct, 30, 2012
-Spain had a viceroyalty of New Spain in Mexico City and of Peru in Lima during the 16th century
-Slavery in the middle ages was a luxury for the wealthy and they were more like servants and not all of them were
Africans (some were from Asia and others were from Muslim areas that were taken prisoner in the Crusades)
-The Portuguese got most of their slaves from Africa later and at the time it was not related to ones race or colour
and when the Portuguese got to the islands around the Americas they used many slaves on their plantations
-The Portuguese explored Africa and occupied areas in order to trade goods along with slaves and in the Americas
slavery was mostly used in relation to plantations and some slaves were natives
-The African slaves were brought in because they were used to extremely hot climates and they could do that hard
work in the heat because it didn’t require any training or skills
-Idea that Africans were fitter made people think they were better slaves and use of them for labour spread widely
-North of Brazil though native labour was still used because it was cheaper and they were easier to catch
-The Dutch got involved in the 17th century in the sugar business after they occupied part of northern Brazil before
they were expelled and relocated in the Caribbean
-The Spanish were not involved in the slave trade because they were on the opposite side of the world to Africa
-There were stereotypes that slaves from different areas would be good at different types of labour
-Spain got slaves because the crown put out work contracts that slavers would bid on called Asiento
-Most plantation slaves were males because they were tougher and the females were usually used in the houses
-Portuguese in the beginning had a monopoly over the slave trade because of their occupation of Africa and they
would buy people from local chiefs or they would kidnap them (didn’t usually do this because you couldn’t go back
into the area and trade ever again) and the chiefs got slaves by rounding up all the criminals and people could also
sell themselves to feed their families in hard times and local people were also involved in the kidnappings
-Local African traders wanted goods from Europe so they started wars trying to get more slaves to trade (now they
also had European weapons)
-Once they were captured in Africa they were kept in a Portuguese fortress called El Mina where other items of
trade were kept and from here the slaves were loaded onto boats and then would travel to the Americas or up to
Europe through the “Middle Passage” and they were packed onto a ship in bunks stacked over one another while
they were chained and it was very crowded so the traders could be efficient
-They had to watch for epidemics because of the overcrowding and some expeditions would lose over half of the
slaves on the way to be sold so the traders tried to check them out before they were put on the ships
-It is hard to know how many slaves they took because they use a strange counting system where women and
children were counted as less than one person and there was a lot of illegal trade going on
-Mortality is also hard to determine because it varied depending on if there was an epidemic on board the ship
-In Spain there was slavery since the middle ages and Spanish law came mainly from Roman laws and it said certain
things about slavery that were different from English law
-In Spain there was protection for slaves and there were cases where slaves could go to the authorities for help
-Religion was also different and the Spaniards were more focused on converting their slaves and even thought they
weren’t equal their souls were and they could be baptized, married, part of religious celebrations, etc
-These differences allowed the slaves to participate in mainstream society more than in North America
-Laws in Spain and Portuguese colonies came from Europe and the crown and locals couldn’t make new laws but in
the English colonies laws were made by the colonists (less protective of slaves)
-It has been looked at why in North America there are so many race relation problems and some say that in the
Spanish and Portuguese colonies had more mixing of people and there was less separation than in North America
-Easier to get freedom in Spanish and Portuguese colonies than in the English and were better off in urban areas
-Quilombos were places that slaves would escape to and manumission was when slaves would buy their freedom
and there were places where the slaves could negotiate with their owners in front of a mediator
-Religion helped the slaves in these cases because many times dying masters would free their slaves in their will
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