Atlantic Slave Trade Effects of the Atlantic Slave Trade The changes in African life during the slave trade era form an important element in the economic and technological development of Africa. Although the Atlantic slave trade had a negative effect on both the economy and technology, it is important to understand that slavery was not a new concept to Africa.
In fact, internal slavery existed in Africa for many years. Slaves included war captives, the kidnapped, adulterers, and other criminals and outcasts. However, the number of persons held in slavery in Africa, was very small, since no economic or social system had developed for exploiting them (Manning 97). The new system-Atlantic slave trade-became quite different from the early African slavery.
The influence of the Atlantic slave trade brought radical changes to the economy of Africa. At the time of the Atlantic slave trade, Africa was an area that had far-flung interests based on agriculture, industry, and commerce (Curtin 54). Complex stratified societies based on settled village agriculture were developed throughout the continent. “Essentially agricultural, the peoples of Africa displayed a remarkable degree of specialization within this ancient economic pursuit,” writes John Hope Franklin, the author of From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans (p.
18). In addition to agriculture, artistry was a significant area of economic community. Even less complex communities included some with various skills. Furthermore, the use of metals played an important role.
Iron was developed very early in the economy of Africa; Africa exported iron for many years, and blacksmiths and other ironworkers were found in many parts of the continent. Africans also worked in silver, gold, copper, and bronze. Lastly, internal slave trade played a role in the economy. Slaves represented a small part of the total value of African exports (Klein 56). The tendency of communities to specialize in some phase of economic activity made it necessary that they maintain commercial contact with other communities and countries in order to secure the things that they did not produce (Hope 16).
Some villages, for example, specialized in fishing, others concentrated on metallurgy, while others made weapons, utensils, and so on. Traders traveled from place to place to barter and to purchase. Upon returning they were laden with goods that they sold within their own community (Hope 17). As the Atlantic route expanded, accounting for nearly two thirds of all Africans leaving the continent, it created systems for the gruesome work of collecting and exporting slaves and brought the expansion of a system of slavery in Africa itself. The rising prices for slaves, steadily driven by increasing American demand, powerfully influenced local African developments where slave trade was well established. For example, in some cases such as Kingdom of the Kongo to the south of the Zaire or Congo River, slave trade was quickly organized from a region that had only limited slavery and became a steady exporter of slaves (Klein 58).
Large-scale warfare, in which obtaining slaves for the Atlantic trade was a major theme, became more common. The effects of slave trade soon led to civil wars, kidnappings, and disruptions, which brought about the decline of the existing kingdoms on the one had and the rise of new but smaller ones on the other. Entire trading networks became intimately tied to the supply of slaves to the Atlantic economy. Certain regions found slave trade so attractive that they have up their interests in gold mining and trading goods, and turned to the profitable business of capturing and exporting of slaves.
Agriculture also suffered as a result of the expansion of the slave trade. Various viable agricultural lands in the interior of many of the exporting regions in Africa were abandoned for the sake of a more profitable business As the result of slavery, the concept of a family, an important aspect of African life, changed. Most damaging effect of this transformation involved children. Because most of the captive slaves taken were male, women had to take on new tasks to sustain the economy, thus devoting less time to their families (Module 99). The men who remained began to take on second and third wives, mostly to produce more children, a ready source for the slave market.
As greed and insatiability for money grew, many women often had their children kidnapped and enslaved. Raising children became a business. As the result of the damaging changes brought to Africa by the Atlantic slave trade, the overall development of the economy and technology suffered. Without slave exports, Africa would have had fewer imported goods because many slaves were exchanged for various forms of money.
In fact, the export of slaves was very profitable and it did bring wealth to the African sellers. However, very little of this wealth was invested in expanding African production and improving the economical and technological developments (Klein 67). As mentioned above, as the prices for slave grew, entire trading networks became tied to the supply of slaves. As a result, Africa did little to increase its economical and technological development beyond slave trade.
By the end of the nineteenth century nearly five or six million persons were held in slavery on the African continent (Manning 63). Although internal slavery existed on the continent prior to the Atlantic slave trade, African slavery had little if any effect on the economy. As explained throughout the paper, the expansion of the Atlantic slave trade brought radical changes to the economy of Africa. These changes played a major role in the development of the economy and technology of the continent.