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 The Slave Trade
The men...on being brought aboard ship, are immediately fastened together two and two, by handcuffs on their wrists, and by irons riveted on their legs. . . . They are frequently stowed so close as to admit of no other posture than lying on their sides.
— Alexander Falconbridge, former surgeon on a slave ship, 1788
Essential Question: What caused the slave trade to develop?
Governments, individuals, and businesses all saw advantages to increased overseas trade. To maximize the economic advantage, labor had to be inexpensive and plentiful. This need led to the beginning and development of the slave trade which brought power, profits, and luxury goods to developed countries. It also brought suffering to enslaved people and centuries of inequality.
Origins of the African Slave Trade
The African slave trade was another result of the expanding Atlantic trading system and the colonization of the Americas. When the Portuguese brought their first cargo of enslaved Africans to Europe in 1441, they sold the enslaved people within European countries. The slave trade grew gradually as the Portuguese continued to explore and trade along the west coast of Africa.
Planter Society Europeans established plantations that used a large work force to farm crops. (See Topic 1.7.) Common to plantations were labor-intensive crops such as rice, sugar cane, coffee, and cotton that required hundreds or even thousands of workers. Members of planter society organized and profited from this labor.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, as Europeans began establishing a plantation economy in the Americas, plantation owners first turned to indigenous peoples as slave laborers and forced them to work under cruel conditions. Deaths from European diseases and harsh treatment created a demographic catastrophe among indigenous peoples. Demographic means “having to do with populations of large groups of people with a shared characteristic,” such as a certain nationality.
Because so many indigenous people died of disease or overwork, Europeans looked for another form of labor. They decided to use enslaved Africans, which meant a significant change to the Atlantic slave trade.
Topic 1.9

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