Assess the Impact of European commercial activities in the Atlantic Islands and West Africa from 1415 to 1600.
When one queries the assessment of the European commercial activities and its impact in the Atlantic Islands and West Africa between the years 1415 and 1600, trickery, social violence, intrusion and the horrors of slavery comes to mind. There were many negative impacts such as population loss, loss of self worth and loyalty, the Europeans involved caused the demise of the European cloth industry. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to set foot in this area in the fifteenth century. During the history of Portugal (1415-1542), Portugal discovered an eastern route to India that rounded the Cape of Good Hope, established trading routes throughout most of southern Asia and they colonized selected areas of Africa. It was the genius of Prince Henry the Navigator(1) that coordinated all these quests of expansion. Prince Henry placed at the disposal of his captains a plethora of resources, of which he was the head, and the best information and most accurate instruments and maps that could be obtained. He sought to meet with the infamous Christian Empire of "Prester John"(2) by way of the "Western Nile" (the Senegal River), and, in alliance with that to crush the Turks and liberate the Holy Land. Slavery was practiced in Africa before the beginning of the European slave trade. Slavery and the slave trade were an integral part of African societies and the Arab world was supplied with African slaves for centuries before the arrival of the Europeans. The African slave trade provided a large number of slaves to Europeans and their African agents. Initially, the Portuguese started trading in copper, brass, European cloth, etc in exchange for gold, which was in high demand in Europe. Above all things, the most impact full commercial activity of all was the European Slave Trade and its economic and social effects it had on West Africa and the Atlantic Island. The Atlantic Islands which were involved with the European commercial activities were: The Azores, Madeira, Sao Tome & Principle, Cape Verde, and Goree Islands. The African countries that were involved in the Portuguese trade were the coast of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Liberia, Angola and Morocco.
In order to assess the impact or extent to which West African and the Atlantic societies were affected by the European commercial activities, one must certainly look into the number of slaves that were either traded or raided from their homelands. Population loss is certainly a focal point when assessing the impact of the European Commercial activity. According to Walter Rodney in ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ he states that “One of the uncertainties concerns the basic question of how many Africans were imported. This has long been an object of speculation, with estimates ranging from a few millions to over one hundred million. A recent study has suggested a figure of about ten million Africans landed alive in the Americas, the Atlantic islands and Europe.” The actual number of slaves is certainly a very difficult figure to ascertain. However there is no doubt that it was an absolutely staggering number of natives that were taken from their homelands, sold and enslaved. Population loss is a very serious loss when it comes to the development of a people. The economy and the social fabric of the people are utterly destroyed, leaving Africans in a state of chaos. The impact of the population loss as it relates to commercial activity is so severe that at present more than a bicentenary Western Africa is still in shambles, with an economy barely able to stand. It was even more difficult during the years of the slave trade for West Africans to replenish their population simply because when trading the adult males were high in demand in opposed to that of the females, thus leaving the remaining ratio of men to women in West Africa in trouble. John...
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