The Atlantic Slave Trade

David Northrup

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:
The Atlantic Slave Trade

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  • History of the Americas
  • European History
  • African History
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  • Regional and National History


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The slave trade was one of the earliest and the most capital-intensive forms of Atlantic interaction. The largest intercontinental migration in history before the mid-1800s, this forced transportation of enslaved Africans repopulated the Americas and greatly affected cultural and racial mixes there. Europeans had acquired some slaves during the first two centuries of direct contacts with sub-Saharan Africa, but only with the growth of West Indian plantation colonies in the mid-1600s did slaves become the predominant African export. In all periods Africans received vast quantities of European, American, and Asian goods in return. The growing transportation of trade goods, of millions of Africans, and of plantation products gradually tied the Atlantic continents together. The earliest studies of the Atlantic slave trade were by British abolitionists, who emphasized the cruelties of the Middle Passage across the Atlantic as a way of rallying support for ending the trade. While this approach to the subject is still common, modern scholarship has opened up several new areas of study: the slave trade as a business, the participation of African merchants in this business, and the social and cultural consequences of so large an African migration to the Americas. All aspects of studying the slave trade have benefited from efforts to measure the flow of slaves across the Atlantic with greater precision.

Article.  6468 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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