Africa and the Atlantic World African states, 1500-1650



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Chapter 26

Africa and the Atlantic World

African states, 1500-1650

The States of West Africa and East Africa



  • Developed over 8th-16th centuries

  • Kingdom of Ghana

  • Not related to modern State of Ghana

  • Major Gold Trader

  • Mali Empire, 13th century

  • Songhay Empire, 15th century

  • Sunni Ali (r. 1464-1493) created effective army, navy

  • Musket-bearing Moroccan army destroys Songhay forces, regional city-states exert local control

Swahili Decline in East Africa

  • Portuguese Vasco da Gama skirmishes with Africans on eastern coast, 1497-1498

  • 1502 returns, forces Kilwa to pay tribute

  • 1505 Portuguese gun ships dominate Swahili ports

The Kingdom of Kongo

  • Relations with Portuguese beginning 1483

  • King Nzinga Mbemba (Alfonso I, r. 1506-1542) converts to Christianity

The King of Kongo and European Ambassadors

Slave Raiding in Kongo



  • Initial Portuguese attempts at slave raiding

  • Soon discovered it is easier to trade weapons for slaves provided by African traders

  • Dealt with several authorities besides Kongo

  • Kongo kings appeal without success to slow, but not eliminate, slave trade

  • Relations deteriorate, Portuguese attack Kongo and decapitate king in 1665

  • Improved slave market develops in the south

The Kingdom of Ndongo (Angola)

  • Ndongo gains wealth and independence from Kongo by means of Portuguese slave trade

  • But Portuguese influence resisted by Queen Nzinga (r. 1623-1663)

  • Posed as male King, with male concubines in female dress attending her

  • Nzinga establishes temporary alliance with Dutch in unsuccessful attempt to expel Portuguese

Regional Kingdoms in South Africa

  • Chieftans develop trade with Swahili city-states

  • 1300: Great Zimbabwe

  • Dutch build Cape Town in 1652, increased involvement with southern African politics

  • Encounter Khoikhoi people (“Hottentots”)

  • British colonies also develop

Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Pre-Islamic paganism, ancestor worship

  • Islam develops in commercial centers

  • Timbuktu becomes major center of Islamic scholarship by 16th century

  • African traditions and beliefs blended into Islam

  • Gender relations, standards of female modesty

The Fulani

  • Movement to impose strict adherence to Islamic norms in Africa

  • 1680 begins military campaigns to enforce sharia in west Africa

  • Considerable influence extends to south as well

Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Like African Islam, syncretic with African beliefs

  • Antonian movement flourishes early 18th century

  • Founded by Doña Beatriz, claims possession by St. Anthony of Padua (13th century Franciscan preacher, patron saint of Portugal)

  • Promotes distinctly African Christianity

  • Jesus a black man, Kongo the holy land, heaven for Africans

  • Christian missionaries persuade King Pedro IV of Kongo to burn her at the stake

Social Change in Early Modern Africa

  • Trade with Europeans brings new goods to Africa

  • New crops from Americas

  • Manioc becomes staple bread flour

  • Increased food supply boosts population growth despite slave trade

Population Growth in Africa

Foundations of the Slave Trade



  • African slavery dates to antiquity

  • War captives, criminals, people expelled from clans

  • Distinct from Asian, European slavery

  • No private property, therefore wealth defined by human labor potential, not land

  • Slaves often assimilated into owner’s clan

The Islamic Slave Trade

  • Dramatic expansion of slave trade with Arab traders

  • New slaves acquired by raiding villages, selling on Swahili coast

  • Arab traders depend on African infrastructure to maintain supply

  • European demand on west coast causes demand to rise again

Arab Slave Trader

The Early Slave Trade



  • Portuguese raid west African coast in 1441, take 12 men

  • Met with stiff resistance

  • African dealers ready to provide slaves

  • 1460: 500 slaves per year sold to work as miners, porters, domestic servants in Spain and Portugal

  • 1520: 2,000 per year to work in sugarcane plantations in the Americas

Slaves at Work in a Mine

The Triangular Trade



  • 1. European manufactured goods (especially firearms) sent to Africa

  • 2. African slaves purchased and sent to Americas

  • 3. Cash crops purchased in Americas and returned to Europe

The Atlantic slave trade, 1500-1800

The Middle Passage (Africa-Americas)



  • African slaves captured by raiding parties, force-marched to holding pens at coast

  • Middle passage under horrific conditions

  • 4-6 weeks

  • Mortality initially high, often over 50%, eventually declined to 5%

  • Total slave traffic, 15th-18th c.: 12 million

  • Approximately 4 million die before arrival

African Slave Export per Year

Impact on African Regions


  • Rwanda, Bugunda, Masai, Turkana resist slave trade

  • Benefit from distance from slave ports on western coast

  • Other societies benefit from slave trade profit

  • Asante, Dahomey, Oyo peoples

Social Effects of Slave trade

  • Total African population expands due to importation of American crops

  • Yet millions of captured Africans removed from society, deplete regional populations

  • Distorted sex ratios result

  • 2/3 of slaves male, 14-35 years of age

  • Encouraged polygamy, women acting in traditionally male roles

Political Effects of Slave Trade

  • Introduction of firearms increases violence of pre-existing conflicts

  • More weapons, more slaves; more slaves, more weapons

  • Dahomey people create army dedicated to slave trade

African Slaves in Plantation Societies



  • Most slaves in tropical and subtropical regions

  • First plantation established in Hispaniola (Haiti, Dominican Republic) 1516

  • Later Mexico, Brazil, Caribbean and Americas

  • Sugar major cash crop

  • Later: tobacco, rice, indigo, cotton, coffee

  • Plantations heavily dependent on slave labor

  • Racial divisions of labor

Destinations of African Slaves

Regional Differences



  • Caribbean, South America: African population unable to maintain numbers through natural means

  • Malaria, yellow fever

  • Brutal working conditions, sanitation, nutrition

  • Gender imbalance

  • Constant importation of slaves

  • North America: less disease, more normal sex ratio

  • Slave families encouraged as prices rise in 18th century

Resistance to Slavery

  • Half-hearted work effort

  • Sabotage

  • Flight (Maroon populations)

  • Revolts

Slave Revolts



  • Only one successful revolt

  • French-controlled St.-Domingue (1793)

  • Renamed Haiti

  • Elsewhere, revolts outgunned by Euro-American firepower

African-American Culture

  • Diversity of African cultures concentrated in slave population

  • Blend of cultures

  • African languages when numbers permit, otherwise European language adapted with African influences

  • Creole languages

The Abolition of Slavery

  • Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797), former slave authors best-selling autobiography

  • Eloquent attacks on institution of slavery

  • Economic costs of slavery increase

  • Military expenses to prevent rebellions

  • 18th century: price of sugar falls, price of slaves rises

  • Wage labor becomes more efficient

  • Wage-earners can spend income on manufactured goods

End of the Slave Trade

  • Denmark abolishes slave trade in 1803, followed by Great Britain (1807), United States (1808), France (1814), Netherlands (1817), Spain (1845)

  • Possession of slaves remains legal

  • Clandestine trade continues to 1867

  • Emancipation of slaves begins with British colonies (1833), then French (1848), U.S. (1865), Brazil (1888)

  • Saudi Arabia and Angola continue to the 1960s



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