In the free air that we breathe today, can we imagine that there could be a human being can cost money? That a young and energetic male could fetch a higher price than an old and weak male? That a human being is ‘owned’ by another human being? Impossible though it may seem today, but this was the reality. Human history is full of horrifying facts demonstrating the cruelty and brutality residing in us. The victims, by and large were the innocent black skinned Africans, who were captivated, abducted and traded to be owned by their white masters. This essay briefly deals with the social, economic and political impact of the slavery system on the early modern world. The slavery system is the darkest blot in the human history because it lasted for almost 400 years, and almost 40 million innocent Africans perished during this period. We consider freedom and right to justice our birthright today, but it is a direct consequence of the oppression, suppression and the brutalities faced by the people of the third world at the hands of the white skinned Europeans.
Many factors have contributed to the existence and development of the slavery system. The extremely cold weather of Europe was not suitable for g rowing many types of crops which require temperate climate. Europe was the center of all technological development. Hence it had the power to dominate over others. Given this background, when the vast lands of America were discovered, the Europeans saw mesmerizing wealth in growing crops on the American soil and selling it in the European market. This gave rise to plantation economy.
There was a need for a huge amount of strong laborers who can till the soil. This need gave the rise to slavery in America, and Africans were the victims. The Portuguese pioneered transportation of African natives to the American continent around 1501. This move was followed by other European colonizers, like British, French, Dutch and Spanish. The demand was so great and long lasting that this movement lasted for almost 4 centuries. It came to be known as Atlantic slave trade and lasted from the 15th to the 19th century. (Atlantic slave trade).
Slavery has existed since thousands of years, in different forms, in almost all regions of world. Slavery in Europe, Africa, Asia and Islam differed in many ways from the Atlantic slave trade. The Roman law defined a slave as someone whose mother was a slave, or who was captured in a battle or one who has sold himself to pay off his debt.(slavery in medieval law) Whereas slavery in Islam was much more liberal, and the slaves were protected. It treated slaves as humans first, then property. It gave freedom to a slave to approach an Islamic court against his master, and the judge had the right to free the slave against the wishes of the master. Islam forbid the owners to take away young children from their mothers as slaves.(Slavery in Muslim cultures and Atlantic trade).These provisions were like a dream come true for the slaves of the Atlantic trade. They were luxuries, as the slaves of the Atlantic trade had no rights or protection. The Atlantic trade slavery was more harsh, brutal, cruel and inhuman in all its aspects, than the other forms of slaveries.
Slavery has played a very major role in the economic, social and political scene over the world. Slave trade proved to be minting machines for the traders and within Africa, the rulers were also engaged in capturing natives or war prisoners, and selling them to Europeans. In return they got ample amount of wealth and finished products from Europe, which helped in improving the general standards of living. With millions of male members of the society being transported out of the continent, Africa faced a heavy loss of population growth during these centuries. The traders in Africa became very rich, but the poor people were devastated. Huge amount of money had entered Europe, due to the slave trade. This fuelled the industrial revolution, and Europe led the revolution for mass produced items. Hence slavery is indirectly responsible for bringing about the social evils of industrial revolution.(African slave trade). One more social impact was that wherever slave societies existed, the technical development has been low. This is because the slave work force was by and large, pure physical force, and it was difficult to get any skilled work done through them. (slavery)
All evil and good things come to an end. Same was true for the Atlantic trade of slaves.
The teachings of Christianity played a pioneering role in abolishing slavery. A general awakening spread by the Religious society of friends and William Wilberforce to abolish the slave trade. Denmark was the first country to enact legislation which became effective in1803, followed by Britain in 1803. Brazil was the last country to ban the slave trade in 1988.( Atlantic slave trade).A very interesting point to be noted here is that these legislations abolished the slave trade but not slavery itself. It took another few decades for slavery to be abolished. In USA even after slavery was abolished, black codes were enacted, which represented refined form of slavery. This proves that the political will to abolish slavery in totality, was missing. It was only the massive upsurge that acted as a major force in abolishing slavery
Conclusively it could be said that the Atlantic slave trade has done considerable injustice to the native black Negroes of Africa. The torture they faced at the hands of their masters was worse than the way we treat animals today. Due to their sacrifice, we are today able to breathe the fresh air of freedom, and develop ourselves. Their sacrifices are the foundation stones for the new world. Today’s developed world is directly or indirectly a result of the social. Political and economic impact of the Atlantic slave trade.
- Atlantic Slave Trade, Wikipedia, The free encyclopedia, 16 July 07, Retrieved on 16 July 07 from: <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_slave_trade>
- Slavery in Medieval law, Slavery in Medieval Europe, Wikipedia the free encyclopedia, 25 June 2007, Retrieved on 16 July 2007 from: <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_medieval Europe >
- Slavery in Muslim cultures and Atlantic trade, Religions and ethics-Islam, Retrieved on 15 July 2007 from : < www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/history/slavery_4.shtml >
- Slavery, wikipedia the free encyclopedia, 15 July 2007, Retrieved on 15 July 2007 from : < en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery >