Trans-Saharan Slave Trade


 

Learning Objective: To analyze the development of the slave trade across the Sahara.

  • What is the trans-Saharan slave trade?

 

  • The trans-Saharan slave trade involved trade in slaves across the Sahara, especially between West Africa and the Muslim world to the north.

 

  • This slave trade formed part of the trans-Saharan trade, the wider commerce which began about 1000B.C. involving other commodities.

 

  • Those other commodities included gold, ivory, kola nuts, leather goods, ostrich feathers, produced in West Africa in exchange for cowries, salt, weapons, beads, and copper from North Africa.

 

 

  • Expansion

 

  • The trans-Saharan slave trade developed with the expansion of Arab power and spread of Islam in the Middle East and North Africa during the 7th century A.D.

 

  • Slaves were in high demand for use as soldiers, labourers, and servants.

 

  • Cowries, salt, and cavalry horses were exchanged for the slaves.

 

  • The merchants involved in the wider trade included Arabs, Berbers, Tuaregs, and the Mande Dyula.

 

 

  • Numbers

 

  • Between 650 and 1600 about 6 million slaves were exported across the Sahara; and 3 million between 1600 and 1900.

 

  • In total, 9 million slaves were exported to the Muslim world through the trans-Saharan trade. (Austen 36-38, 275)

 

 

 

East African Slave Trade

 

Learning Objective: To examine the evolution of the slave trade in East Africa.

 

  • What is the East African slave trade?

 

  • The East African slave trade involved trade in slaves on the East African seaboard relating to the coasts of Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Delagoa Bay.

 

  • These regions were dealing with cities of the Red Sea, southern Arabia, the Persian Gulf, India, Sri Lanka, and China.

 

  • The East African slave trade, as with the trans-Saharan slave trade, formed part of the wider commerce which began in 100A.D., involving ivory, gold, rhinoceros horn, tortoiseshell and palm oil, produced in East Africa and exchanged for items such as iron tools and weapons, glass beads and Chinese porcelain.

 

  • By 900A.D. ivory dominated the export of the region; later gold would assume the major export.

 

  • This slave trade formed part of the trans-Saharan trade, the wider commerce which began about 1000B.C. involving other commodities.

 

  • Those other commodities included gold, ivory, kola nuts, leather goods, ostrich feathers, produced in West Africa in exchange for cowries, salt, weapons, beads, and copper from North Africa.

 

 

  • Expansion – 900 to 1840

 

  • Between 900 and 1700 slaves were steadily exported, but they formed a minor component of the wider trade.

 

  • By 1750 slave exports from the east coast grew in response to French demand for labour on their new plantations in Mauritius and Seychelles (Bourbon) in the Indian Ocean.

 

  • By 1840 Brazil, too, was drawing large numbers of slaves from Mozambique.

 

 

 

  • Expansion – 1850 to 1920

 

  • After 1850 slaving became a major enterprise in East Africa.

 

  • Slave exports to the Eastern world increased, as well as the large supply to clove plantations of Zanzibar, an enterprise developed by the sultan of Oman who had moved his capital city to Zanzibar, in order to control the flourishing port city.

 

  • Arabs and their Swahili agents were the major participants in the East African slave trade; they penetrated the interior of Africa and raided fiercely for slaves.

 

 

  • Numbers

 

  • Between 650 and 1920, about 8 million slaves were exported in the East African slave trade;
    • about 3.9 million slaves from the Swahili coast,
    • and 4.1 million from the Red Sea coast. (Austen 275)

 

Summary

  • As a major phenomenon, the slave trade in Africa began as part of the wider commerce, dominated by exchange of non-slave goods between Africans and early foreign visitors.

 

  • The wider commerce involved trade across the Sahara as well as trade with the Eastern world, across the Red Sea and Indian Ocean.

 


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