*** African Atlanyic slave trade -- country traders

The Atlantic Slave Trade: Individual Country Traders

Figure 1.--.

The Portuguese who launched the voyages of discovery south built the first fort creating a trading post in Africa at Arguin in present day Mauritania (1448). The profits achieved by the Portuguese attracted the interest of other larger European powers. Traders from other countries in the 16th century established rival trading stations and in some cases seized the Portuguese trading stations. Spain began the slave trade (1479). England entered the slave trade (1562). Other countries gradually joined in the rade: the Netherlands(1625), France (1642); Sweden (1647); and Denmark (1697). From Senegal south to Cameroons there were about 60 forts that served as trading posts for the slave trade. The Europeans differed from the Arabs in that they did not normally conduct raids themselves, but usually bougth slaves from Arab slave brokers and African chiefs. Europeans built trading post and forts all along the coast of West Africa. The Europeans exchanged rum, cloth, guns, and other trade goods for their human cargo. Imense fortues were made in the trade. Portugal dominated the trade. A nahor factoir here was the country's huge colony Brazil, located a short distanbce from Africa across the Atlantic.

Individual Countries

All of the major European maritime powers (Portugal, Britain, France, and the Nethrlands) were involved in the Atlantic slave trade. Spain was also involved, but primasily as aecopint rather than transporting the caoptive Africns. The Portuguese who launched the voyages of discoivery south aling the African coast to find a maritime route to Asia built the first fort in Africa at Arguin in present day Mauritania (1448). The profits achieved by the Portuguese attracted the interest of other larger European powers. Traders from other countries in the 16th century established rival trading stations and in some cases seized the Portuguese trading stations. Spain began the slave trade (1479, but did not become major polayer in transporiung csptive ASfricans. Portugal and Spain were especially important because they had American colonies that needed labor, especilly as Ameri-Indians began dieing from European fiseases. England entered the slave trade (1562). Other countries gradually joined in the trade: the Netherlands (1625), France (1642); Sweden (1647); and Denmark (1697). While many countries were involved, it was the Portugese ho dominated the trade.


The Atlantic slave trade was dominastd by the Portuguese. This was because Portugal founded a huge colony in Brazil, ashort trip from Africa. And it was in Brzil that the production of sugar on plantainms manned by slaves was devloped. And thus Pprtuguese slavers were the most importnt of all the mariime nations participating in the grisly enterprise. The Portuguese begn the trade. As part of the boyages south to find a maritime foute to India and China, Prortuguese navigtors sailed south along the African coast (mid-15th century). During these expeditions they begn deal in captive Africans along with other goods to finance the missions. The Portuguese began transporting cstib Africans for slave workers in sugar plantations on the Cape Verde and Madeira islands in the eastern Atlantic. Spain absorbed with the Reconquista, thhok no interest in thius until Colubus fateful voyage (1492). The Spanish only began trabsporting captive Africabs to replace the Amerr-Indians who begandieung of European dises in their new colonies, but it was the Portuguese who continued to dominate the transatlantic slave trade. TheSpnish purchased slaves, but for the nost part left the transport to mothers, especilly the POortuguese and English. Spain becme involved long with Portugal when for a short time the personl union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns--thr Inerin Union (1580-1640). This wasn interludem before and after thetwo countries were rivals. This was the beginnjng phase of the tras-tlsntic slave trade. Before 1640, almost all slave voages came from Iberianb ports carrying some 0.5 captive Africans, mostly to Brazil. This is a subtsntisl numbe, of it was just he begoong of the total trasport of the 10-12 million thst are believes to have been transportted. At first captive Africans were brought to Iberian portsd snd then shipped on to the New World. Gradually Iberiuan slavers woyuld nove directly from the Africn coast ro Portuhuese and Spanish colonies. Spain signed the Asiento de los Negros agreements authorizing other nations to transport Africans to their colonies (1545). This continued into the late-18th century. In the early phase of the slce trade, Portuguese slavers carried boutv 75 percemt of the captives (16th-mid-17th century). After, the Bitish emrged s the primary country involved in the slve trade. The British would eventually seliver sime 3.2 million cative frivabs to the New World, motly to the Caribben. Portugese slavers continued to dominsare selivedries to Brzil. From the mid-seventeenth century onward, the rise of British naval and commercial power saw the emergence of an enormous British transatlantic slave trade in the North Atlantic. Between 1543 and 1810, British slave traders loaded more than 3.2 million Africans aboard ships destined largely for the Caribbean. Throughh the mjor phases of the slave trade, the Potuguese were mnjo plsyers, primtoly because they dominted deloveries to Brazil. When Britain and Amrrica outlawed theslave trade,.the Portugese afain bcme the major participant. Historians believe that the Portuguese landed some 5.9 milliom captibe Africans in Brazil and an dditionsl 2. million illegally after mrica nd Brita in outlawed the trease (1808-67).


The English were the first to challenge the Spanosh Mainm. The orincipal attrction was the fabulous wealth being transported on Spnisg treasure ships. The Englisdh monsrch, nmely Queen Elizabet I became complicit in state sanctioned piracy (16th century). The Sea Dogs became legends. Gradually the English began founding colonies. The first Caribbean colony was Barbados (1625). Jamaica seuzed from Spain (1652) became the largest and most important colony. Both isdlans as well as mny smller ilnds were suitble for growing sugar cane and proved to be amazingly profitable. This is when The British turned fom state-sponsored piracy to slave trading and sugar production. England with its growing navy and merchant marine very quickly became a major factor in the Atlantic slave trade (17th century). As this was occuring, England was in turmoil wiyh the Civil War (1642-51), Commonralth, Restoration and Glrious Revolution (1688). So it was not abreally planned development, but the work of entrenprenurial indviduals. The Act of Union turned England into Britain, giving the Scotts the ability to participatre in the enterorise (1707). Beginning in the mid-17th century, it grew into an enormous activity. British slavers were responsible for anout a third of all trans-Atlantic slave transits. British slavers trnsported nearly 1 million captive Africans to Jamaica alone and nearly 0.5 million to Barbados and the othrer smaller islands. he total reached 3.2 millionm. Slave trading and slave based sugar productionm played an important role Britain's phenomenal economic success. Slavers outfitted in London, Bristol, and Liverpool. The slavers were finnced investor groups who laid their plans in seyyings like the Jamaican Coffeehouse in London.YThey purchased trade goods to be used to buy the captives. This was commonly done on credit. Manufacturers and merchants thrughout Briutain participated. Finally the slave trade was outlawed (1807). The Americans did the same.


Portugal and Britain dominated the transatlantic slave trade. France was the third largest parucipant in the Atlantic slave trade. This was primarily due to staggering numbers of captive Africans tranported to Saint-Domingue (Haiti). Saint-Domingue was the western portion of Hisasniola. The French gradully achived defacto control and one of Louis XIV's many wars in Europe eventually persuaded the Spanish to cede western Hispaniola to the French under the Treaty of Ryswick (1697). Available data shows that 1.4 milliomn Africans were transportefd on French ships, nostly in the late-18th centuty. Some 1.2 million survived the Middle Passage to enndure the extrodinarily harsh conditions in the French Caribbdan sugar islands. Sizeable numbers were transported on French ships to Guadeloupe (nearly 0.1 million) and Martinique (over 0.2 million). French Guiana was less important, in part becuse uunlke the islands, slaves could run away into the interior and merge with the Amer-Indian populstion. The great proportionn (nearly 0.8 million) were delivered to Saint-Domingue. Such was Europe's hunger for sugar, Saint-Domingue was by far the New World’s most lucrative 18th century colony. French possessions in the Caribbean were larger in population and more productive than British and Spanish holdings in the 18th century, primarily because of Saint-Domingue. The value of this trade explains the many naval battles fought in the Caribbean between the British and Franch during the 18th century. The value of the sugar explains wht Fance settled for Mrtnuqiw abd Gualupe instrad if Canads after the French bd Inian War (1754-63). (During the Americn Revolution, Admiral De Grasse tended to be more interested in the Caribbean than American waters.) The French slave trade was conducted from several Atlantic coastal ports. Le Havre was France's major slave-trading port. Slavers based in Le Harve transported captives Africans to Martinique, French Guiana, but primarily to Saint-Domingue. Slavers were also active from Nantes, Bordeaux, and La Rochelle. French slavers purchased captive Africans from West Africa (from Senegambia to West-Central Africa). They were trasported to Dutch and French Guianas, Caribbean islands, and even the Spanish Caribbean mainland as well as the Mississippi Delta. The vast Louisiana tarritory was a French colony for much of the 18th century. The great majority of the captive Africans, however, transported to the sugar planters of Saint-Domingue. The huge numbers wee needed becuse the conditions in the French sugsr olsnbytations were so brutal that thec slave population was not self sustining. This did not end until the Haitian slave rebellions (1791). While France lost Haiti, it still had other profitable operations in the Caribben aeea anbd the IUndiuan Ocean. SAfter Btritain ended the slve trade vand began to pressure other countries to do so as well, France was reluctant. There sdrill were substantial profits. And theFrench Abolitionist Movement was not as influential as the Brutish movement. In addition the French were uncertain about British motives, many French were suspious that they were relly attemting to damage the French reconomy.


The Netherlands was the smallest of the European maritime nations. The Dutch were involved in wars of indepoedence with Spain, Portugal, and France to achievce and maintin their indeoendenc, often with English assistance. As a result of war wiuth Oortugal, the Dutch occupied Brazil for a tim and played major role in tranbsferring sugar technology from Bezil to the Caribbean, The Dutch maritime outrech would be a major factor in sustaining their campaign for independence. The Dutch had several Casribbean islands, but they were not as suitable for sugar growing as the British, and French islsnds, becuse there were too arid. Dutch Guiana on the other hand was suitable. The Dutch transported about 0.6-0.9 milliom captive Africans to the New World (1596-1829). The first captive Africans landed in what is now the United States were delivered by Dutch traders (1619), but this was a trlatuvely rare occurance. There were three major areas the Africabs trans ported by Butch traders were sold. Many were sold in Brazil. Most of the Africans brought to the Caribbean were landed on Curaçao and St. Eustatius. This was, however, primarily for trans-shipment to nearby Spanish colonies. Other Africans were sold to sugar planters in Dutch Guiana (Suriname). A major problem planers encountered here was thst many of their slves (somthing like 10 percent) ran off int the interior and creted maroon communities beyond Duch cintrol. The Dutch organized molitary campigns to captyre the escoe slaves as well as capture Amer-Indians. They were lrgely unsuccsful. Not only were the expitioins expendive, but cmpigns into the interoor often resulted in substnyil losses, more from the rugges condition than actual casualties. The marions and Aner-Indians simoly retreated futhe into the interior. Several maroon leaders becme lefenf, such as Alabi of the Saramaka. Dutch authorities found it more practical to negotiate with maroons.

Obtaining the Captives

The Europeans differed from the Arabs in that they did not normally conduct raids themselves, but usually bougth slaves from Arab slave broakers and African chiefs.


From Senegal south to Cameroons there were about 60 forts that served as trading posts for the slave trade. These forts were called baracoons. Here the captives were brought from interior and held in dugdeon like conditions until the slave ships would arrive to purchase them. Facil,ities also include trading areas, wearhouses, and port facilities. Several areas were especially important for these baracoons, normally mouths of rivers. The baracoon in the 19th century shifted a little upriver to make it difficicult for Royal Navy coastal patrols to monitor operations.


Gallinas is located in modern Sierra Leone (a former Spanish/British colony) close to the Liberian border. During the slave trade of course, the area was not yet colonized. Slavers referred to the Galinas River. Galinasswas, however, an estuarine area created by the Kerefe and Moa Rivers. Galinas is notable because it where the baracoons were located from which the Amistad captives were shipped. Most of course were captured furtherinland and only shipped from Galinas. The captives shipped throuh Galinas commonly came from the Mende, the Kisi, the Kono, and various other interior tribes. Records from the 1820s and 1830s show that slave ships stopped at the mouth of the Gallinas. About 2,000 slaves a year were shipped through Galinas. Galinas was an ibternational market place. Here European, Arab (most ethnic Arabs and Arabized Africans) and African slavers mingled and made their business deals. An Ameican trader described Galinas in 1939 as �not only the centre of an extensive and lucrative traffic, but the theatre of a new order of society and a novel form of government ...." It was not a vey healty place, essentially a swampy enviroment, rife with tropical diseases. A satellite town grew up around the baracoons, warehouses, and trading center aling the river banks. A slave ship would stop usually about once a month. They were fast-sailing ships, usually brigs or schooners. As the Royal Navy began to patrol the area, the slavers carefully prepared to quickly transfer the captives from the baracoons to the ships. The ships would pull in as close as possible. The captives were transferred over the sand bars ahd surf by large canoes. The first load of captives would be chained belo deck before the next canoe load arrived. Royal Navy patrols during the 1820s-30s disrupted operations, usuallu only temprarily. The Royal Navy becamne much more aggresive in the 1840s, attacking the baracoons ahnd lsargely closung down the operation.



The Europeans exchanged rum, cloth, guns, and other trade goods for their human cargo. Imense fortues were made in the trade.


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Created: 12:12 PM 4/25/2007
Last updated: 8:28 AM 5/25/2022