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Trade in African Slave Labor

This paper examines the effects that the expansion of overseas trade from Europe and the increasing social stratification of some societies in Africa had on the development of the buying and selling of human beings for use as slave labor between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. As Europeans expanded their borders, and especially as they began to colonize the Americas, a demand for inexpensive mass labor developed. European traders, mastering new navigational techniques and sailing enormous cargo ships, sought to trade local goods for exotic treasures from foreign ports. In Africa, one of the most exotic treasures available was the human slave. While some traders organized their own collection processes, most bartered with local chieftains for their cargo, and entire economies rose from the sale of African natives, until the trade was finally halted by public opposition to the entire concept of slavery.

In 1861, Elias Peissner wrote, "Slavery, irrespective of its being right or wrong, is a historical fact, and depends as such, in its rise, growth, and decay, on the various circumstances of time and place which surround it, and have surrounded it, in different nations and periods." While slavery has flourished at various times throughout history, most notably in Greek and Roman societies, in ancient Egypt, and in parts of Asia during antiquity, the trade in African slaves that was in effect from approximately 1450 to 1870 stands as the most notorious and recent example of human slavery based exclusively on race. It came about primarily because of the rapid expansion of seagoing trade and the willingness of some members of the developing upper classes within Africa to meet a demand of the market.

Peissner observes, "Modern Negro Slavery is . . . indeed a 'peculiar institution.' It arose not in times of barbarism, nor through accidental warfare of fighting tribes. It was, in this respect, unique, isolated, one by ...

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Trade in African Slave Labor. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 01:05, March 26, 2019, from