Disruption and Resistance
Slave Trade in the Atlantic World
Social and Demographic Change
The slave trade caused two main changes within the African populations; a distorted sex ratio and a change in the population numbers. Two thirds of exported slaves were males between the ages of 14-35 because they were more likely to repay the buyer's investment. They could endure several years of hard labor in the fields, and generate a profit for plantation owners. The removal of such as large portion of the male population caused several social changes within their home continent. In some areas, such as Angola, only a third of the remaining population were men. In those areas, women were forced to take up tasks usually completed by males, such as working in the fields.
Political changes also took place as a result of the slave, namely due to the trade in European firearms. During the first leg of the triangular trade, European merchants carried guns and weapons to the African coast to trade for human cargo. The different kingdoms and tribes were often eager to collect the new violent technologies as payment for slaves, because they could then have an advantage over their neighbors and expand their holdings. As a result, violence increased dramatically, especially after the late seventeenth century. One kingdom in particular, the Kingdom of Dahomey, used firearms to gain land. Their armies were able to capture slaves, get more weapons, expand their borders, and capture even more slaves in a devastating cycle.
The Plantation System
When Europeans started traveling to the Caribbeans and the Americas, they noticed that there were stretches of fertile land everyhwere. They figured that huge profits would be able to be made by these plantations as the demand for sugar and other goods increased in Europe. The first of these plantations was built on the island of the Hispaniola by the Spanish in 1516. By 1530 these plantations started extending to a Brazil, and by the early 17th century English, Dutch, and French plantations started showing up in the Carribeans and Americas. Most of the plantations produced sugar because it was the most popular cash crop at the time, but they also produced tobacco, rice, and indigo. To improve the efficiency and profitibility of the of the plantatiom, slaves were brought over becasue they could do more work than say on family of 8 people. Most plantation systems at the time had about a hundred slaves.
Many slaves were not easily accepting of their servile status (obviously), and they resisted it in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, most of the time the slaves were punished for their acts of defiance. Some of the ways of resistance though included: working slowly for their masters, but dilligently in their own gardens, sabotaging work equipment/routines, and the most serious form was running away. Slaves that were able to run away successfully from the plantations gathered in mountainous, forested, or swampy regions and started their own communities that they governed by themselves.