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Contact Between Africans and Europeans from c. 1450.

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Presentation on theme: "Contact Between Africans and Europeans from c. 1450."— Presentation transcript:

1 Contact Between Africans and Europeans from c. 1450

2 Geo-Political Shifts 14 th and 15 th century saw a consolidation of Islamic power in the Middle East, limiting European access to trade routes 1453 conquest of Constantinople a significant moment—the end of “Eastern Christendom” Increased production and population also created the need for a new outlet for European ambitions

3 The “Navigation Revolution” Changes in both navigation and ship- building technology Several new navigational tools— the portolan chart and the astrolabe— developed through contact with the Islamic world

4 Caravels maximized cargo while remaining maneuverable Each caravel carried a crew of between ten and thirty Lateen rigging allowed more precision in movement than in square-rigged ships Technological advances allowed the creation of ships built for the open ocean

5 Prince Henry “The Navigator” 1394-1460 Founded school for navigators in 1419 Represented a new interest in sea-faring by elites Not personally responsible for much exploration, but served as a connection between sources of funding and sailors

6 West Africa: European Arrival Voyages began as an extension of Portugal’s interests in Madeira and the Canary Islands Sierra Leone (1460), Elmina (1471), Sao Tome (1472), Angola (1480) Portuguese funded voyages first, followed by British and Dutch

7 Portuguese Ambitions John II (ruled 1481-1495) of Portugal developed comprehensive plan to reach the Indian subcontinent Portuguese crown financed and supported sea voyages in exchange for 22% of profits (the “royal fifth”)

8 Ecology and the Balance of Power West Africa has few good natural harbors European ships were not equipped to navigate coastal lagoons—needed to anchor off-shore African canoes could maneuver easily, but could not overpower European ships Violent interactions generally ended in stalemate

9 European ships anchored several hundred yards offshore and paid local Africans to ferry goods back and forth to shore on canoes African traders were able to control the length of Europeans’ stay on the coast

10 Africa as the “White Man’s Grave” In addition to the problems associated with anchoring ships, European presence in West Africa was hampered by the disease environment—especially the prevalence of malaria The death rate among Europeans who ventured into the forest region was very high—up to 90% would be dead within a year Even for Europeans on ships and at the coast, disease posed a major problem

11 African/European Trade Desire for gold initially paramount, but many other goods were acquired by European traders Areas associated with specific products— Europeans often moved goods from one part of the coast to another Coastal trade undercut Trans-Saharan trade

12 Trade strengthened (and sometimes created) coastal communities Where overt violence occurred, it tended to be between Europeans European involvement in slave trade began with the acquisition of slaves in present-day Nigeria for sale in present-day Ghana

13 East Africa: Portuguese Arrival Vasco da Gama’s ships arrived in 1498, on the way to India Portuguese did not arrive with any knowledge of the region Unlike in West Africa, they found good harbors and an established maritime culture Rather than simply trading, they sought to exert political and military power over the region

14 Portuguese attempts to control the Swahili coast were brutal but wildly unsuccessful Violence undermined the very prosperity the Portuguese sought to access Swahili city states eventually sought the assistance of Omani Arabs and, after two centuries of conflict, drove the Portuguese out (leaving them only a foothold in southern Mozambique)


16 The Contours of the Atlantic Slave Trade

17 Timeline 1510s: first importation of African slaves to the Americas 1640s: “Sugar Revolution” creates plantation system 1750s: Peak of slave imports in the Americas 1807: Unilateral abolition of the slave trade by Great Britain (accompanied by enforcement)

18 The “Numbers Game” How many people were removed from Africa by the slave trade? Estimates range from 4 million to 20 million Patrick Manning’s numbers: 9 million from the West Coast (in the Atlantic Slave Trade), 5 million from the interior and East Coast (in the “Oriental” slave trade) Philip Curtin’s number: up to 12 million in the Atlantic Slave Trade

19 The demographic or statistic impact of slavery and the slave trade was not homogenous across Africa The impact changed over time Some groups (the Asante, for example) flourished because of the income from the slave trade, while others were seriously destabilized In regions heavily impacted by the AST, political power tended to become militarized and centralized


21 Age and Gender Proportions Internal trade, as well as East Coast and Trans-Saharan trades, tended to consist of more women, Atlantic trade of more men All slave trades tended to focus on adolescents and young adults The slave trade tended to “flatten” age distributions Removal of many young people of one gender could also skew fertility

22 Was Commerce Between Africans and Europeans Inherently Unequal? Walter Rodney—How Europe Underdeveloped Africa From the beginning, Africa was exporting raw materials and importing manufactured goods— leaving the continent disadvantaged European technology, including the technology of violence, was simply more advanced The slave trade, in particular, stripped Africa of human resources

23 Counterpoint: John Thornton Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800 African imports from Europe were not “essential goods” but rather luxuries African demand for particular goods—especially various types of cloth—was powerful in determining the success of European traders European traders frequently had to go through very specific rituals and practices (including taxation by local rulers) in order to trade

24 African political leaders/rulers were able to exert significant control over their participation in trade Example: in the mid 17 th century, the ruler of the Benin kingdom shut down slave trading with Europeans for almost a decade in response to what he perceived as poor terms of trade

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