Africa and the Atlantic World

by Cole Bennett and Philip Smith

Social Effects of the Slave Trade

The Atlantic slave trade alone deprived African societies of about sixteen million individuals, in addition to another several million consumed by the continuing Islamic slave trade during the early modern era. West African societies between Senegal and Angola were especially vulnerable to slave raiding because of their proximity to the most active slave ports. The slave trade also diverted labor from Africa to other lands and distorted African sex ratios, due to the fact that two thirds of all exported slaves were males between the ages of fourteen and thirty-five. This forced Angolan women to work in the fields and practice polygamy.

Political Effects of the Slave Trade

The slave trade brought turmoil to African societies. During early modern times African peoples fought many wars for reasons that had little or nothing to do with the slave trade, but it encouraged them to participate also in conflicts that might never have occurred in the absence of trade. Violence escalated quickly when Africans traded slaves for European firearms. When the kingdom of Dahomey obtained effective firearms. its armies were able to capture slaves from unarmed neighboring societies and exchange them for more weapons. The Dahomey army, which included a regiment of women soldiers, became largely a slave-raiding force. Not all countries took advantage of that system, however.

Plantation System in the New World

Most plantations in the new world were in tropical and subtropical parts of the world. The main cash crops at the time was sugar, but lesser cash crops included cotton and indigo. Even though they were spread out throughout the new world, many plantations had things in common. They all specialized in one cash crop that was I major demand, and most of them provided food for their community. Almost all of the workers in the plantations were African Americans, and all of the supervisors/owners where Europeans. In the Caribbean and South America, many of the slaves died out from diseases like yellow or malaria. Also, the working and the living conditions were very rough for the slaves. They worked long hours and were fed low nutrients.

Resistance of Slaves

Since the slaves did not like the conditions in which they worked, they would resist in many ways. One costly way they revolted was simply working slowly in the plantation and more in their personal gardens. They would also sabotage the plantation equipment or even run away. Once they ran away, they would gather in mountaInous of forested area and create a new society. The most dramatic way that the slaves resisted was in revolts. Since the number of slaves far outnumbered any other group of people on the plantation, it was easier for them to organize and overwhelm their masters. While revolts didn't bring slavery to an end, it did end in a lot of death between both parties, and struck fear in plantation owners.