The Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved Africans
The transatlantic slave trade is now generally accepted to have been a crime against humanity, even in those countries on both sides of the Atlantic that actively participated in it. The French Government, for example, designated the trade as such in February 1999, and UNESCO has also endorsed this point of view, launching a “Slave Routes Project” in an effort to “break the silence” that the Organization believes still surrounds this tragedy. The objectives of the project are to encourage the production and popularization of scientific knowledge about the transatlantic slave trade and to promote inter-cultural peace and dialogue.
Though recent decades have seen an explosion in academic publications on the slave trade, comprehensive accounts of a general nature are still not readily available for educational purposes, contributing to the silence around the trade that the UNESCO project seeks to break. Students around the world still have a limited understanding of the tragedy that the slave trade represented, and the understanding that they do have of it is still too largely determined by their immediate cultural and political environments. Increasing the availability of teaching materials on the slave trade should, therefore, be an important part of the UNESCO project...
This book’s focus, however, is on the slave trade itself, the begimrings of which are usually dated to 1502, when the first references to enslaved Africans appeared in Spanish colonial documents, and which ended in the 1860s. Though there is no attempt here to present a meaningful assessment of the trade in enslaved Africans that took place across the Sahara or in the Indian Ocean, the rise of the trade, should, however, be understood in the context of the westward movement of slave trading in Africa first competing with, and then replacing, the older, eastelm slave trade. According to the historian Patrick Manning, while some six million slaves were sent eastwards from West Africa between 1500 and 1900, an estimated 10 million were shipped westwards to the Americas.