MMW 13 Lecture 14: Economies of Exploitation: The Atlantic Slave Trade

5 Pages

Making of the Modern World
Course Code
MMW 13
Edmond Yi- Teh Chang

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MMW 13 – Lecture 14 – Economies of Exploitation: The Atlantic Slave Trade The Origin of the Atlantic Slave Trade • Slavery prior to 1400 o Origin of the word ‘slave’ ▪ Derived from the world ‘Slav’ ▪ Prior to the 1400’s, most of the slaves had come from these Slavic- speaking people in the Balkans o Key differences between pre-15 century and post-15 century (plantation systems began to emerge) slavery ▪ Ratio of slaves to free people in pre-15 century societies very low • Proportion of slaves to free people was very low ▪ Most were household servants • After a generation or two, would become incorporated into that family o Slave status was seldom passed from generation to generation ▪ Slave status seldom predicated on person’s ethnicity • Slavery was not associated with a particular race/ethnicity ▪ New kind of economic structure = plantation system • Caused these changes • Sugar connection ▪ Cultural consequence of the Crusades • New taste for sugar from the Crusades • But very expensive to import through the Middle East from Southeast Asia • Incentive to cultivate sugar for themselves o COMPARE: spices o Impossible to grow sugar in Europe ▪ Atlantic ‘sugar islands’ • Azores o Directly to the west of Portugal • Climate conducive to sugar cane cultivation • First sugar plantations established on these islands • Sugar cane cultivation highly labor-intensive o Used the Canary Island/Guanche people as laborers, brought over form their island because these islands were uninhabited o Raid for slaves, trade for slaves along the West African coastline ▪ Pedro Alvarez Cabral landing on the coast of Brazil • Early 1500’s • Even more conducive to sugar production o Hot, tropical climate • Mid-1500’s, Brazil would eclipse the Atlantic Islands as the main supplier of sugar • Dire need for labor due to the high attrition rate o Led to Atlantic slave trade o Not enough Natives ▪ A lot of them would escape to the jungle/Amazon • Hard to access for the Portuguese ▪ Emergence of plantation societies in the Americas and Caribbean • South America as well • Worked quite efficiently, especially if there was a steady supply of slaves coming from Africa • Also cultivated tobacco, indigo, rice, cotton along with sugar • Plantation = Mass production, generally for export using thousands of slaves • Economies of plantation societies o Trace the logic of capitalism in these plantation systems ▪ Proto-capitalist industry o Multinational enterprises ▪ Involved many different European nations and parties ▪ Because of their size, they required a lot of capital investment • Have to develop huge area of land, set up mills, housing • Really, really large factory that requires a lot of capital • Major banking houses of Europe played a role o Flemish, Dutch, German banks o Bank of Fuggr o Investors and distributors of the product • Transporting the slaves and products across the ocean ▪ British and French took advantage of this the most ▪ Almost every major European power profited from this slave trade o Advent of industrial-style mass production ▪ Followed capital-intensive vs. labor-intense logic • Slaves were perceived as machines, not as human laborers • Capital = machinery, infrastructure • Assumption that every healthy, male slave had an average productive lifespan of 7 years on the plantation o Get the most out of them in those 7 years o A lot more economical to replace than to sustain this labor resource ▪ More economical advantageous to get the most out of them for 7 years and then replace them when they die ▪ Sustain = don’t work them as hard, feed them better, allow them to have households o Would kill of 5-10% of slaves on an annual basis ▪ For every ton of sugar that was produced in Brazil, one African slave died ▪ Logic particularly pervasive in South America and the Caribbean • COMPARE: American Southern slaves did have households • 2/3 of all the slaves that were transported in this Atlantic slave trade went to Brazil and the Caribbean islands o Slave populations on sugar plantations had to constantly be replenished ▪ For Europeans, important precursor for the Industrial Revolution? • Seeds for industrial capitalism later on • Precedents in these plantation systems o Subversion against such blatant economic exploitation ▪ Slave revolt in Haiti 1792 • Escaped to the mountains and later on established the second
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