What caused African enslavement

The history of slavery

Ancient slavery

In ancient Greece 3500 years ago, slaves were made into a commodity. The famous philosopher Aristotle called slaves living property.
Most of them were citizens who owed someone else. They were then sentenced to slavery by the courts. But prisoners in wars were also enslaved.

The introduction of slavery had a major impact on the development of the country: the exploitation of slaves gave free people more time to think about politics and other things. This is how the idea of ​​democracy came about, but at that time only applied to free citizens.

There were even more slaves in the Roman Empire, now Italy. Imagine: There were 20 slaves for every free citizen! You may be familiar with gladiator fights? These were nothing more than slave fights for the amusement of the Romans. Whoever won and survived could be pardoned by his master and thus released into freedom. But one always died. In contrast to the Greeks, the Romans had even more power over their slaves: they could kill them without being punished. There were also uprisings: the most famous is the uprising of Spartacus.

But not only in Europe, but also in Egypt, India and China there were slaves. They had to work in the household, in the fields or on large structures.

And if we look further around the world, we see: Even the Native Americans, the Mayans and Incas had slaves. Here, too, they had to toil in the fields or were made soldiers in wars.

Slavery in the Middle Ages

In Europe in the Middle Ages there were slaves who Serfs were called. A serf had no civil rights and had to cultivate fields that did not belong to him. Sometimes serfdom was passed on to children as well. Due to the dependence on the feudal lord, they were mostly automatically serfs again. This form of slavery existed in the countryside until the end of the 19th century.

Slavery in Modern Times

Slavery in modern times began with the Conquest of America and Africa in the 15th century. In South and Central America, the Spanish colonists first turned natives into slaves. Above all, they had to work in mines in order to obtain treasures such as gold for their masters. However, the Spaniards infected many of them with European diseases from which most of the Indians died.

That's why the Spaniards began African to let work for you. The first country to enslave people from Africa was Portugal. In 1444 Portuguese sailors explored the west coast of Africa. They captured many black Africans and traded them for goods. There was slavery in Africa before that too. However, slaves had human rights: they had their own property and a family and often belonged to their master’s family like a relative. It was only through the Europeans that people were made into a commodity with which a lot of money could be earned.

Some African kings sold their own countrymen. In the 17th century America began to grow sugar cane, coffee, cocoa and cotton. African slaves now had to toil on the plantations. The number of Africans known as field slaves rose to the unimaginable. A total of up to 100 million people have been abducted from Africa!

An example

  • A slave trader paid for a healthy black African man on the Guinea coast in Africa:
  • 310 grams of gold
  • 27 rifles
  • 160 thalers
  • 240 meters of Danish calico (printed cotton fabric)
  • Gunpowder
  • 710 liters of brandy
  • 815 liters of rum
  • 250,000 cowries (the shell of a snail that lives in the Indian Ocean)
  • 315000 flint stones (flint stones)

Triangular trade

The triangular trade describes the trade with the people from Africa in three stages:

  1. In Europe ships were loaded with barter goods with copper and iron goods, weapons and liquor. The Europeans exchanged this on the west coast of Africa for so-called "ebony". That was, so to speak, the code name for the blacks, alluding to their skin color.
  2. The ship - loaded with people up to the hatch - was now sailing for America. There the Africans were exchanged for goods such as coffee, sugar, cocoa and cotton.
  3. And then the ship sailed back to Europe. There it was already expected by the Europeans. Cocoa and coffee were very much in vogue at the rich royal courts.