SLAVE TRADE

People have been bought and sold as slaves around the world through much of history. This trade reached new heights in the 16th to 19th centuries, as Arabs and Europeans plundered Africa. In the 18th century, it is believed that up to eight million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean.

HOW WAS THE SLAVE TRADE ORGANIZED?

West African slaves were normally captured by African raiders. At the coast they were exchanged for European guns or textiles. The European traders packed the slaves into ships and sailed for the New World. Once the Africans were sold, the European captains picked up cargoes before sailing home.

HOW WERE SLAVES TREATED IN THE NEW WORLD?

After the ordeal of the Atlantic crossing, the slaves were prepared for auction. Once sold, they were forced to work long hours on PLANTATIONS for no pay. Many slaves were treated with cruelty, and were chained and branded. Those who tried to escape were punished by whipping or even hanging.

BIOGRAPHY: TOUSSAINT L’OUVERTURE 1746–1803

Toussaint was a freed slave from the French colony of St. Dominique (Haiti). He joined a slave uprising in 1791. When revolutionary France abolished slavery, Toussaint became a respected leader. However, after a change of government, he was seized and imprisoned.

PLANTATIONS

Slaves in the Caribbean and the US were forced to work on plantations—estates where sugar cane, cotton, or other crops were grown. The owners paid workers no wages, so their profits were huge.

WHY WERE PLANTATIONS CREATED?

Plantations in the New World marked the start of farming on an industrial, global scale. Plantations produced “cash crops”—crops grown for sale and export rather than local use. The use of slave labor reduced costs.

Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley

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