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Why did Transatlantic Slavery Exist?

What is slavery?
Slavery refers to a condition in which individuals are owned by others, who control where they live, what they do for work for little or no pay. Slavery had previously existed throughout history, in many times and most places. The ancient Greeks, the Romans, Incas and Aztecs all had slaves.

Africa Before Transatlantic Slavery


Many Europeans thought that Africans were inferior to Europeans and they used this to help justify slavery. The people who suffered the most from the transatlantic slave trade were civilized, organised and technologically advanced peoples Forms of slavery existed in Africa before Europeans arrived. Some countries in the African continent had their own systems of slavery. People were enslaved as punishment for a crime, payment for a debt or as a prisoner of war. In some kingdoms, temporary slavery was a punishment for some crimes In some cases enslaved people could work to buy their freedom Children of enslaved people did not automatically become slaves

The Arrival of the European Traders


During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries European traders started to get involved in the slave trade. European traders were interested in African nations and kingdoms such as Ghana and Mali due to their sophisticated trading networks They took enslaved people from western Africa to Europe and the Americas The slave trade grew during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as European conquered much of the Caribbean islands and North and South America

Europeans wanted lots of slaves so people were captured to be made slaves


They had no chance of returning home as the distances were too great Children whose parents were enslaved became slaves as well

The Transatlantic Slave Trade had three stages:


Slave ships left ports like London, Liverpool and Bristol for West Africa carrying goods such as cloth, guns, ironware and drink that had been made in Britain. These goods would later be traded for men, women and children captured by the slave traders. African dealers kidnapped people from villages up to hundreds of miles inland. They marched these people to the coast where they would be traded for goods. Ships would sail up and down the coast filling their holds with enslaved Africans they would then be packed into ships for the voyage to the West Indies. In the West Indies enslaved Africans would be sold to the highest bidder at slave auctions

When Enslaved Africans arrived in the Americas, they were often alone, separated from their family, unable to communicate with those around them Life expectancy was short, 7-9 years on many plantations The majority of enslaved people worked on the plantations producing crops such as coffee, cocoa, cotton and indigo and sugar They worked up to 18 hours a day, sometimes longer at busy periods such as harvest. There were no weekends or rest days Children were sent to work doing whatever tasks they were physically able

Women could be separated from their children and sold to different 'owners' at any time