How Slave Trade Started


The year 1445 is very spectacular, because that was the year that Atlantic slave trade began. The Portuguese were at the forefront of the slave trade business, as they shipped slaves from West Africa to Europe. The slaves were sold in slave markets that was mostly located in Portugal and Spain.


The discovery of slaves was a welcomed development, as most people now got cheaper labour. During the mid-sixteenth century, there was a steady rise in the shipping of slaves from Africa to the Carribean, Brazil and North America.


Initially, the major pioneers of the slave trade business was the Portuguese and the Spaniards, but things started changing and more people seemed interested in the slave trade business. During the second half of the seventeenth century, most parts of Northwest Europe started going into the slave trade business massively. Great Britain quickly became the major dealers in the slave trade business. Soon after, the French and Dutch also joined the business. They all got their products (the slaves) from different African colonies.

This was the period when “triangular trade” began. Triangular trade is when Europeans went to get slaves from Africa, took them to America, where they exchanged them for products like sugar, molasses, cotton, tobacco, indigo, which they took back to Europe.

It would shock you to know that over twelve million Africans had already been transported to different parts of the world for slavery between the sixteenth to the 19th century.


Most of these slaves were taken from the western part of Africa. They were taken to unknown destinations were they faced the most horrible circumstances and even death.

Most slaves were gotten with the help of African rulers, who organise the capture and sold the slaves to the Europeans for a token.

Slavery wasn’t new to Africans, their rulers had already been practicing slavery for many centuries. They usually captured slaves for personal use or shipped them down to the Middle East. Europe and America only expanded the business and made it more popular.

The slaves that made it to the coast, had to face the most horrible experience of their lives “The Atlantic Crossing”. The Atlantic Crossing was one of the most horrible experiences ever. Before the end of the voyage, the slave masters usually lost over twenty percent of their slaves.

The slaves were treated in a very terrible way while they worked in their master’s plantation. Their freedom was taken from them, and they suffered brutality from their masters. The suffering of the slaves in a plantation was increased if any slave attempted to escape or of there was a protest from the slaves against their masters. Many of the slaves died of different diseases after a few years. This was due to the terrible condition of their job description. Because of the high death rate and low birth rate of slaves, their slave masters had to continually order for more slaves to be shipped to them from Africa.


Even though Britain wasn’t the inventor of the Atlantic trade, they were at the forefront of slave trade in the 18th century. The people of Great Britain, gained a lot from the cheap labour that they got from slaves.

After much profits had been made from this evil act, in the nineteenth century, Great Britain started to play a great role in the movement to abolish slave trade. Their parliament enforced laws to stop the use of slaves on British soil. They made this move in the year 1807, they also granted twenty million pounds to slave owners as compensation. Great Britain was very serious about the abolition of slave trade, they went as far as creating a naval patrol that patrolled around West Africa to apprehend slave ships. This move was to ensure that other countries that were still practicing slave trade, would follow their decision.


France finally followed the British in the abolition of slave trade in the year 1815, but Spain and Portugal continued to export African slaves for a long time. The Atlantic slave trade was finally brought to an end in the nineteenth century.

Great Britain established some policies to fight against slavery. Wilberforce was spearheading the movement and implementation of anti slave policies at the parliamentary level. He pioneered this movement for so many years.

There was protest that happened across Great Britain in the 1830’s, these protests was to make a stand against slave trade. After this protests, hundreds thousands of petitions were filed with many signatures backing these petitions. The level of pressure that was placed on the slave trade issue, made it impossible to be able to sweep the issue under the carpets. It was part of this movement that changed the Christian orientation, seeing it as a religion which gives the believers the duty to liberate the oppressed, people also stood their grounds that the freedom of others should not be restricted in any way. As the levels of literacy increased, the movement against slave trade grew stronger.

In England, powerful activists like Ottobah Cugoano and Olaudah Equiano campaigned against slave trade. There was a large community of freed slaves in London that numbered up to tens of thousands.

Slave uprisings started in the Caribbean, there was a major slave rebellion in Jamaica between the year 1831 and 1832. These actions by the slaves in Jamaica, had a great impact by the British parliament to end colonial slavery once and for all.

The end of the Atlantic slavery did not bring an end to slave trade all over the world. Slavery was a major thing in the Americas and it continued until the 1880s. Brazil was the last country to end slavery in the year 1888, but it continued in the Middle East and North Africa until the earliest twentieth century


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