World History



























































African Slave Trade

A capitalist economic system can benefit society by producing the best possible products at the lowest possible prices due to competition among producers. But with companies focused on making the best possible profits, capitalism can sometimes harm people. The African slave trade was one example.

African slave trade = the business or process of procuring, transporting, and selling slaves, especially black Africans to the New World prior to the mid-19th century.

After the discovery of America, European countries began sending people to the New World to establish colonies to produce goods for trade. With native populations dying off, Europe looked for another source of cheap labor. Although slavery no longer existed in Europe, Europeans began importing slaves from Africa to work on plantations and mines in the New World. Before this time, most African slaves had been enemies captured in battle. But, as the slave trade grew, Africans began kidnapping other Africans in large numbers and selling them to European slave traders.

Due to ocean currents and prevailing “trade winds,” European sailors learned they could make the fastest crossing to America by first sailing south to Africa. On the last leg of this Triangular Trade Route, the Gulf Stream ocean current sped ships from America back to Europe. Leaving West Africa for America on the “Middle Passage” of this three -part journey, ship cargo holds were crammed full of Africa’s chief export, human beings. Conditions on the slave ships were appalling. Many slaves died of disease from eating rotten food and breathing foul air. Some desperate slaves took their own lives. When these African people were sold at slave markets in the New World, the profits were used to purchase plantation products such as sugar, coffee, tobacco, and cotton, which were shipped back to Europe and sold there. It was a splendid system of trade for everyone except the Africans whose lives were ruined.

triangular trade = a system of trade between England, West Africa, and the New World. Slaves kidnapped in Africa were transported during the “Middle Passage” of this triangle.

Middle Passage = the sea journey undertaken by slave ships from West Africa to the West Indies.

export = something that is shipped to another country for sale.