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The Atlantic Slave Trade HIST 1004 1/30/13. What is Slavery?

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Presentation on theme: "The Atlantic Slave Trade HIST 1004 1/30/13. What is Slavery?"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Atlantic Slave Trade HIST 1004 1/30/13

2 What is Slavery?

3 Slavery outside the Americas Some form of slavery has been attested for practically every human civilization around the globe. American slavery is unique in its scale and its treatment of slaves.

4 Society with Slaves vs. Slave Society

5 Slavery Outside of the Americas Other forms include domestic slavery, state slavery (soldiers, bureaucrats,janissaries), concubines, temple slavery. Trans-Atlantic slave trade actually linked into pre-existing slave trade networks between Africa and the Islamic world and Europe.

6 From Luxury to Staple: A brief history of sugar… Sugar first cultivated in India By 7 th century: sugar refined into crystals Sugar productions spreads to China and across the Islamic world (where first sugar plantations and mills are developed) English sugar from Arabic sukkar from Sanskrit sharkara Enters Europe through Spain and the Crusaders

7 New World Sugar Plantations 1492: Columbus brings sugar cane from Canary Islands 16 th century: sugar production introduced in the West Indes By 1600: Brazil is Atlantic world’s largest sugar producer 1635: Dutch West India Company dominates Brazilian sugar plantations Mid-17 th century: Dutch, English, and French colonies in the Caribbean switch from tobacco to sugar production

8 Sugar and Slavery The expansion of sugar plantations led to the spread of trans-Atlantic slavery. Why and how?

9 Sugar and Slavery Sugar plantations are labor Intensive year round. Epidemics thin out Amerindian labor pool. Indentured servitude not economically feasible. – Exchange passage to the Americas for term labor. – Typically 3-4 years. – Skyrocketing land prices make indentured service less appealing.

10 Sugar and Slavery Portuguese experience using African slaves in African sugar colonies. – African slave trade pre-dates trans-Atlantic slave trade. – Convenient source of slaves for transport to the Americas. Slaves cost more than indentured servants. Slaves work (on the average) twice as long as indentured servants. Larger plantations and rising sugar demand makes slavery feasible.

11 Sugar Boom = Slave Boom

12 By late 17 th century: three times as many African slaves as European settlers in Caribbean. Slave trade doubles over course of 17 th century. Nearly quadruples by end of 18 th century.

13 Plantocracy By 18 th century, 90% of people in Caribbean were slaves. A small number of men owned most of the land and most of the slaves. Hardly anyone in between – estate managers – government officials – artisans – small farmers – free blacks

14 Plantocracy Plantation profitability depended on extracting as much labor from slaves as possible. 6 day work weeks, up to 18 hour work days, 80% of slave population engaged in hard labor.


16 Slave Health Despite predominance of young slaves, no natural increase in slave population. Poor nutrition and overwork lowered fertility. Hard labor during pregnancy and while caring for an infant made carrying a pregnancy to term difficult and increased infant mortality.

17 Slave Health Average life expectancy 23 for men and 25.5 for women. Typically survive 7 years after arrival in Americas. 1/3 rd of newly arrived slaves died from disease during period known as “seasoning”.


19 “It is at this price that you eat sugar in Europe.” - Suriname (Voltaire’s Candide)

20 Free Blacks and Runaways Potential to purchase freedom or receive manumission. Free Blacks could own property and some owned slaves. Maroons: runaway slaves, built substantial communities in Jamaica, Hispaniola, and the Guianas. Escape to opposing colonial empires. Piracy and runaway slaves (and free blacks).

21 Contemporary Slavery Don’t think of slavery as part of a distant past. 20-30 million slaves worldwide today 14,500-17,500 people trafficked into the US every year $32 billion industry ($15.5 billion in industrialized West)

22 Slavery in the US Slavery has been uncovered in 90 different US cities in the past decade. Slaves come from 60 different countries. 50% - commercial sex industry 50% - agriculture, domestic service, manufacturing, and other industries National Underground Railroad Freedom Center – Invisible: Slavery Today

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