Free «Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and the Middle Passage» Essay Sample


The Trans-Atlantic Trade was started by the Portuguese traders in the middle of the fifteenth century after they had identified that slaves were the more readily available commodity than the rare gold they were dealing in at that time. During the seventeenth century, the trade was flourishing and reached its climax as the eighteenth century was drawing to the end. This trade was quite fruitful since the merchants made profit at every stage in the triangular trade.

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The trade started because of the growing European empires in the New World required work force which the indigenous people could not be relied upon for its provision since most of them were dying from diseases brought about by the Europeans from Europe. The Africans proved to be resistant to these diseases and were great workers.

The term “Middle Passage” is used to refer to the part of the Atlantic Trade that links Africa to the new world along which the Africans forcefully passed as they headed to the New World. Ships moved from Europe carrying commercial commodities which were sold in Africa, then from Africa they transported slaves across the Atlantic and exchanged for raw materials in the New World and in turn this raw materials were taken back to Europe for the manufacturing industries. Therefore this trade formed a triangle. The transatlantic journey or the middle passage lasted for about six to eight weeks (Mariners' Museum. 2002).

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Impacts of the trans-Atlantic trade and the middle passage

The forced movement of the many Africans to go and Settle in various areas of the Americas had great implications that are still felt today. These impacts are demographic, economical or cultural. In terms of the African population, many people were transported from this region, especially men leaving behind more women. This resulted in either population remaining constant or going down. The population was also decreased through the intertribal wars. Also, since there were very few people who were productive on the land, children suffered from malnutrition resulting in to death thus reducing the population.

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On the other hand, the slave trade resulted in the increase of the population in the New World. This increase was both from the physical movements of the Africans in the land and also as a result of those born in the Americas and Caribbean. Currently, ten percent of the population of the United States of America is descended from slaves.

Economically, on the part of Africa, selling out their people resulted in shortage of labor together with the imports from Europe brought lower the African Industry. On the other hand, the Europeans gained so much from this trade and even historians suggest that the free labor from the many slaves has been connected to the European industrialization, scientific evolution and capitalism among others. On the part of slaves themselves, there were no any economic gains because this people were not allowed to have any property or avail anything to their children or relatives to inherit. Even at a time when slavery was over, these people had so much difficulty in acquiring economic self-sufficiency. Those who did not have resources to start off with were prevented to progress by ethnic discrimination and utter violence.

On the cultural side, as much as the slave owners tried their best to oppose the slaves in every aspect, African slaves owned a very important and alive cultural legacy which they carried with them across the Atlantic and which they used to protect themselves against the oppressions of slavery. This cultural vigor also multiplied in to and included European cultural developments to produce an intricate and often slight hybridity of cultures. Three of these most significant areas of this legacy are those of religion, language, and music (Anonymous, 2001).

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