Effects of the Slave Trade on West Africa

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DSC Date:12th/3/13 History Assignment
Topic: Examine the social, economic and political effects of the slave trade on West Africa

The trans- Atlantic slave trade was a system developed in the late 15th century which exploited and brought the African people into enslavement by transporting them to the colonies of the new world where they served their purpose as a ‘’cheap’’ labour force . As a result of this, the slave trade brought about many social, economic and political effects on West Africa. Firstly, the population in West Africa decreased significantly in order to meet the great demand for Africans as a source of labour. During 1700 and 1850, it was calculated that over 21 million Africans from various tribes were obtained so that 9 million slaves could be sent to the new world. Millions of Africa’s strong and most capable youthful men and women were forcibly captured and exported from Africa throughout this trade. The slave trade further affected West Africa as this rapid depopulation led to the creation of a ‘matritocal society’. There was now a shortage of men in the African society as male slaves were highly favoured in the Americas due to their ability to do much more hard work. It is believed that approximately two-thirds of the slaves taken to the New World were male and only one-third female. In addition, members of the ruling classes such as kings, chiefs and rich merchants who became slave dealers exploited the common people. They disregarded the importance of their own people and sold skilled Africans into slavery to unknown regions leaving Africa undeveloped. The family structure was also negatively affected. Many families were separated due the need for more and more slaves, leaving orphans, and families with single parents, and without the usual support system. Furthermore, as African people were being captured for the slave trade; some through kidnappings and slave raids by members of other tribes, this created general insecurity. Great fear of being enslaved developed among many Africans who even abandoned their homes for safety. This gave rise to distrust and divided communities as aggressive tribalism increased and in some cases entire tribes and nations were virtually destroyed. Another effect of the slave trade on West Africa was that it led to cultural diversity. As Europeans (such as the Dutch and Portuguese) began to settle in African states they spread their cultural practices such as language; many African tribes and European languages were mixed thereby forming new languages like ‘swahili’. The slave trade also contributed to spiritual erasure. Certain religious institutions were so focused on meeting the needs of the trade and consequently, became depraved. They developed a deep desire for Europeans goods and this also resulted in a new class of African entrepreneurs. The Europeans traded goods such as firearms, iron, horses, cloth and tobacco in return for slaves. And with the supply of these goods, the Africans created businesses by selling the valuable products to the public and received great profits. The trans-Atlantic trade also had several effects on the economy of West Africa. The slave trade resulted in West Africa being robbed of its most valuable raw material, which was its human resource. The economic development of the nation was therefore hindered by exporting and exploiting its human labor force. Additionally, they neglected their other industries and the mining industry collapsed as the trade in slaves seemed to be more profitable and than the traditional trade of gold. Consequently, West Africans concentrated almost exclusively upon only on one export ‘crop’ which was the trading of humans and this created a sense of insecurity that discouraged economic enterprise. Furthermore, West Africa suffered from brain drain as it...
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