The Transatlantic Slave Trade Global History and Geography I name

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The Transatlantic Slave Trade

Global History and Geography I Name: ____________________

E. Napp Date: ____________________
The deaths of many Native Americans from new diseases and harsh working conditions created a need for a work force for the Spanish colonists. The solution was found in the transatlantic slave trade. Slavery had existed in Africa long before the arrival of the Europeans. However, the transatlantic slave trade expanded slavery on a massive scale.

Over a four hundred year period from 1441 to 1888, European and American slave traders removed millions of Africans. Many of the captives died during the voyage from Africa to the Americas known as the “Middle Passage” due to the horrible conditions on board the ships. The enslaved Africans that survived found themselves prisoners in a strange land.

Generally, enslaved people were captured by warring African tribes or ethnic groups and traded to European and American slave traders in exchange for guns and other goods. The transatlantic slave trade encouraged tribes to go to war with each other to obtain slaves to trade for European guns and other goods. It created a legacy of violence and bitterness.


  1. What factors caused the transatlantic slave trade? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  2. What was the Middle Passage and why did many Africans die during the Middle Passage? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  3. How were Africans captured and how did this process affect Africa? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

As Europeans settled more colonies, the slave trade grew. Slaves worked the Spanish sugar plantations in the Caribbean Islands of Cuba and Haiti. They also worked the Portuguese sugar plantations in Brazil. The English forced slaves to work in the southern colonies of North America.

  1. What lands were African slaves brought to? Why? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Between 1441 and 1888, Europeans and their descendants in the Americas enslaved many millions of Africans. Torn from their homeland, men, women, and children were shipped to the Americas and forced into slavery.

The transatlantic slave trade was a highly profitable maritime business. Slaves made possible the taming of the wilderness, construction of cities, excavation of mines, and the establishment of powerful plantation economies.

The transatlantic slave trade was the second leg of a triangular economic route between Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Traders left European ports headed for Africa's west coast. There they exchanged goods for humans and loaded their human cargo into ships. The transatlantic voyage itself-the infamous "Middle Passage" -usually took six to eight weeks.

Historians do not agree on the exact number of Africans who were forcibly transported across the Atlantic, although it is generally accepted that the number exceeds ten million.

Slave traders actively encouraged wars in Africa, resulting in the death or enslavement of millions more Africans on that continent than ended up in the Americas. Scholars of African history believe the total number of Africans killed or abducted in Africa and the Americas could be between 50 and 100 million. Whatever the figure, the slave trade brought death and dislocation on an unimaginable scale. Its full impact will never be fully known.

Word Bank:

Smallpox, Sugar, Native Americans, Died, Triangular, Middle Passage, Cultural Diffusion, Warfare, West, Millions

Which statement best describes a result of the scarcity of native Indian labor in Latin America during the colonial period?

  1. unskilled laborers were imported from Asia

  2. many people from Spain and Portugal immigrated to the region

  3. Native American Indians from the British colonies went south to work

  4. large numbers of African slaves were imported

Middle Passage:
The Middle Passage was the journey of slave ships across the Atlantic Ocean, accounting for the Diaspora or the movement of a people out of their homeland of millions of Africans to the Americas. The time a ship took to make the Middle Passage depended upon several factors including its point of origin in Africa, the destination in the Americas, and conditions at sea such as winds, currents, and storms. With good conditions and few delays, a 17th-century Portuguese slave ship typically took 30 to 50 days to sail from Angola to Brazil. British, French, and Dutch ships transporting slaves between Guinea and their Caribbean island possessions took 60 to 90 days. A century or so later, larger merchant ships came into use in the trade and reduced these times somewhat.

This diagram shows how Africans were crammed into slave ships. Now, read the passage above again. Given the information in the passage and the diagram, explain why so many Africans died during the Middle Passage?


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