A. The Gold Coast and the Slave Coast
1. European trade with Africa grew tremendously after 1650 as
merchants sought to purchase slaves and other goods. The growth in the
slave trade was accompanied by continued trade in other goods, but it
did not lead to any significant European colonization of Africa.
2. African merchants were discriminating about the types and the
amounts of merchandise that they demanded in return for slaves and other
goods, and they raised the price of slaves in response to increased
demand. African governments on the Gold and Slave Coasts were strong
enough to make Europeans observe African trading customs, while the
Europeans, competing with each other for African trade, were unable to
present a strong, united bargaining position.
3. Exchange of slaves for firearms contributed to state formation in
the Gold and Slave Coasts. The kingdom of Dahomey used firearms acquired
in the slave trade in order to expand its territory, while the kingdoms
of Oyo and Asante had interests both in the Atlantic trade and in
overland trade with their northern neighbors.
4. The African kings and merchants of the Gold and Slave Coasts
obtained slaves from among the prisoners of war captured in conflicts
between African kingdoms.
B. The Bight of Biafra and Angola
1. There were no sizeable states—and no large-scale wars—in the
interior of the Bight of Biafra; kidnapping was the main source of
people to sell into slavery. African traders who specialized in
procuring people for the slave trade did business at inland markets or
fairs and brought the slaves to the coast for sale.
2. In the Portuguese-held territory of Angola, Afro-Portuguese
caravan merchants brought trade goods to the interior and exchanged them
for slaves, whom they transported to the coast for sale to Portuguese
middlemen, who then sold the slaves to slave dealers for shipment to
Brazil. Many of these slaves were prisoners of war, a byproduct
generated by the wars of territorial expansion fought by the federation
of Lunda kingdoms.
3. Enslavement has also been linked to environmental crises in the
interior of Angola. Droughts forced refugees to flee to kingdoms in
better-watered areas, where the kings traded the grown male refugees to
slave dealers in exchange for Indian textiles and European goods that
they then used to cement old alliances, attract new followers, and build
a stronger, larger state.
4. Although the organization of the Atlantic trade varied from place
to place, it was always based on a partnership between European traders
and a few African political and merchant elites who benefited from the
trade while many more Africans suffered from it.
C. Africa's European and Islamic Contacts
1. In the centuries between 1550 and 1800 Europeans built a growing
trade with Africa but did not acquire very much African territory. The
only significant European colonies were those on islands; the Portuguese
in Angola, and the Dutch Cape Colony, which was tied to the Indian Ocean
trade rather than to the Atlantic trade.
2. Muslim territorial dominance was much more significant, with the
Ottoman Empire controlling all of North Africa except Morocco and with
Muslims taking large amounts of territory from Ethiopia. In the 1580s
Morocco attacked the sub-Saharan Muslim kingdom of Songhai, occupying
the area for the next two centuries and causing the bulk of the
trans-Saharan trade in gold, textiles, leather goods, and kola nuts to
shift from the western Sudan to the central Sudan.
3. The trans-Saharan slave trade was smaller in volume than the
Atlantic slave trade and supplied slaves for the personal slave army of
the Moroccan rulers as well as slaves for sugar plantation labor,
servants, and artisans. The majority of slaves transported across the
Sahara were women destined for service as concubines or servants and
children, including eunuchs, meant for service as harem guards.
4. Muslims had no moral objection to owning or trading in slaves, but
religious law forbade the enslavement of fellow Muslims. Even so, some
Muslim states south of the Sahara did enslave African Muslims.
5. Muslim cultural influences south of the Sahara were much stronger
than European cultural influences. Islam and the Arabic language spread
more rapidly than Christianity and English, which were largely confined
to the coastal trading centers.
6. The European and Islamic slave trade could not have had a
significant effect on the overall population of the African continent,
but they did have an acute effect on certain areas from which large
numbers of people were taken into slavery. The higher proportion of
women taken across the Sahara in the Muslim slave trade magnified its
long-term demographic effects.
7. The volume of trade goods imported into sub-Saharan Africa was not
large enough to have had any significant effect on the livelihood of
traditional African artisans. Both African and European merchants
benefited from this trade, but Europeans directed the Atlantic system
and derived greater benefit from it than the African merchants did.