Atlantic slave trade

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Jan 31, 2023

Table of Content


The triangular trade, also known as the Atlantic trade or the Western trade, is a "slave trade" linking Europe, Africa and America, for the deportation of black slaves, who were first bartered in Africa for European products (textiles, weapons) and then in America for colonial raw materials (sugar, coffee, cocoa, cotton, tobacco).

Geographically, Rio de Janeiro was the first slave port in the world, ahead of Liverpool and Nantes. Most of the coasts of West Africa were thus linked to the Caribbean, Brazil and the southern United States, the Mascarene Islands being also concerned by the Eastern slave trade.

The triangular trade was very concentrated over time: it grew in the 18th century, particularly from 1705 onwards, and then fell after the right to visit foreign ships, imposed by the English in 1823 thanks to the domination of the seas by the Royal Navy, after having negotiated international treaties in the preceding years to make the abolition of the slave trade effective in the early 19th century. Shortly afterwards, slavery was abolished in the English colonial empire and during the 1848 Revolution in France. It then continued in the United States, Cuba and Brazil, but mainly with slaves born in the country.

The preparation of a French slave trade expedition in the 18th century

The slave trade was a highly concentrated activity in France: Robert Stein counted 500 families who had armed 2,800 ships for Africa in Nantes, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Le Havre and Saint Malo. Among them, 11 families (i.e. 2%) had armed 453 ships (i.e. 16%).

The slave owners were not only involved in the trade, but also in other, less speculative activities, such as insurance, straight to the islands or cod fishing. They often occupied a very important place in the port societies and were very influential. Between 1815 and 1830, almost all the mayors of Nantes had been slave traders.

The outfitting of a typical 18th century slave ship required a large sum of money: some 250,000 pounds in France, the value of a private mansion in an elegant Paris street such as rue Saint-Honoré. It was three times the value of a ship of the same tonnage sailing straight to the islands. To finance their expedition, the shipowners shared the financial risks. They called on a number of people to take shares in the company. Called shareholders or associates, the latter could be very numerous. In France, ship owners often found capital from their friends, acquaintances and relatives.

The choice of the ship depended on the strategy of the ship owner. If he opted for a fast voyage, then the ship had to be thin and fast. If he wanted to be economical, a ship at the end of its career could be suitable.

The average tonnage of the slave ship was often greater than that of the ships destined for the islands.

The slave ship also had to respond to imperatives:

Between 1749 and 1754, the average tonnage of Nantes slave ships (187 observations) was between 140 and 200 tons.

The goods transported had to be sufficiently numerous and diversified (cocoa, coffee...). The European ships carried in their holds raw textiles, finished textiles, weapons, firearms, wines and spirits, raw raw materials, semi-finished or finished products, fancy goods and ornaments, volatile consumables, monetary instruments, gift items and customary payments.

The cargo of a slave ship bound for the coasts of Africa represented 60 to 70 percent of the amount of money needed to outfit the ship. Indeed, many trade products were relatively expensive. This was the case for "Indians", textiles which represented between 60 and 80 % of the value of the cargo.

The standard composition of the assortment, described above, was built up little by little. It did not become effective until the last third of the 17th century, more than a century after the beginning of the trade. Before that, European slave traders had offered different products. But if they did not satisfy the demand, they were withdrawn from the negotiations. This was the case, for example, with food, animals and citrus fruits, which were present in the first Portuguese shipments.

The number of crewmen on a slave ship was twice as large as on other merchant ships of the same tonnage. In France, there were 20 to 25 men per 100 tons, or one sailor for every 10 captives. The crew was made up of young people, novices, sometimes shipowners' sons, uprooted people and adventurers of all kinds.

For the success of a slave trade expedition, four men were particularly important:

In order to carry out a slave trade expedition, the shipowner appointed a captain. He did not hesitate to give the captain a share in the profits of the expedition in addition to the bonuses. The captain had to combine several skills:

The capture of the future slaves

With the exception of the specific case of Portugal, the only country to have colonized the interior of Africa before the nineteenth century, in its zone of influence, the capture of future slaves was not carried out on the beaches but inland, where Europeans exchanged them for weapons. The American writer and journalist Daniel Pratt Mannix (1911-1997) estimates that only 2% of the captives of the Atlantic slave trade were taken by white slave traders.

Initially, in 1448, Henry the Navigator ordered the establishment of commercial relations with the Africans, but the Portuguese soon launched military expeditions along the rivers of Angola that allowed them to capture slaves and then to arm intermediaries to whom they then subcontracted the capture or purchase of their victims.

The lançados, half-breeds of Portuguese, acted as intermediaries between Western and African slave traders from the last third of the sixteenth century in Gambia and Liberia. Other lançados had established themselves in the kingdom of Dahomey. In the nineteenth century, their role as middlemen and slave producers was very important there, especially when Francisco Felix da Souza obtained from King Ghézo, in 1818, the office of "Chacha" (head of trade for the kingdom of Dahomey).

In the Congo, from the 17th century onwards, caravans of pombeiros (indigenous merchants acculturated and sponsored by the Portuguese) went into the interior of the continent to produce or buy slaves.

Elsewhere, captive production was a purely African affair.

We must not forget the Arab traffickers, very active for centuries in the slave trade, who could also sell slaves to Europeans, even on the west coast of Africa.

According to Jamaican-American sociologist Orlando Patterson (en) (1940-), the main modalities of enslavement were capture in war, abduction, tribute and tax payments, debts, punishment for crimes, abandonment and sale of children, voluntary enslavement, and birth.

The comparison of several sources shows that there could be, according to the regions, one or several predominant modes of reduction in servitude:

There is little information on the number of captives who died on African soil. However, for Angola, there is such information: according to Miller, the losses there were 10% during capture operations, 25% during transport to the coast, and 10 to 15% when the captives were parked in barracons on the coast. In total, the losses would be between 45 and 50 %.

It is impossible to extrapolate these data to draw conclusions for the whole of Africa. It is assumed that losses were related to the distance traveled and the time required to reach coastal trading sites. Thus, losses could be very different in different regions.

The slave exchange

Exchanges were made either on land or on the boat. In both cases, the modalities of the exchange between African and European slave traders had varied little over the centuries. The European merchandise was displayed in front of African brokers and intermediaries. Then the European slave traders paid customs, i.e. anchorage and trade taxes. Then both parties agreed on the basic value of a captive. This bargaining was bitterly debated.

It was not until the nineteenth century that Western fiat currencies were introduced into sub-Saharan Africa. These included the American dollar, the piaster and the Maria Theresa thaler.

Before, African brokers used their own unit of account such as the bar in Senegambia or the ounce in Ouidah. For European goods, they did not take into account Western prices.

In some regions, it was the choice in the assortment that determined the value of a batch of slaves. In 1724, in the Senegal River region, 50 captives were traded for :

This is what the 50 captives were worth to the African slave traders. On the other hand, the French slave trader converted the whole into French fiduciary money and these 50 captives cost him 2,259 livres tournois. Thus each captive cost an average of 45 livres.

In other regions, the price was set in local units of account. For example, in Ouidah a cannon was equivalent to a dozen slaves, in Douala there are iron bars and copper pots that served as currency, and in the museum in Banjul there is a table that converts a kilo of slaves into pistols, crystals or clothing. But for Western slave traders, the cost of a slave could easily vary. In 1773, in Ouidah, the price of a male captive was set at 11 ounces. At this value, the goods exchanged were different depending on the broker:

Prices had evolved over the four centuries of the Western slave trade.

The arrival of the French and English in 1674 on the coasts of Africa, until then the preserve of the Dutch, caused a sudden rise in the price of slaves, which increased sixfold between the middle of the seventeenth century and 1712, leading to the development of new supply routes within the continent, which weakened traditional African societies.

The mass arrival of new slaves in the West Indies at the same time lowered their purchase price by the sugar cane planters, and increased production, which had the effect of lowering the price of this commodity on the world market and encouraging its consumption, with the consequence of an immense development of the sugar economy and the slave trade.

Prices had evolved over the four centuries of the Western slave trade, both on the English and French sides.

If the ship belonged to a company, it went to the trading posts belonging to their nation. There, captives were stored for deportation. With the free trade, the shipowner determined where the ship would sail: in the best case, the ship sailed within a predefined area; in the worst case, the ship sailed slowly between each slave trade center (also called "flying trade"), from Senegambia to Gabon and beyond.

The duration of the cabotage very frequently exceeded three months.

The boarding of the captives was done in small groups of four to six people. Some preferred to jump and drown rather than suffer the fate they imagined: they believed that the whites would eat them.

As soon as they were on board, the men were separated from the women and children. They were chained two by two by the ankles and those who resisted were shackled at the wrists.

Crossing the Atlantic

The historian and former colonial administrator Hubert Deschamps (1900-1979) described the Atlantic crossing as a "black passage".

The term Middle Passage means the same thing but refers to the central, transatlantic part of the Triangular Trade.

The crossing usually lasted between one and three months. The average duration of a crossing was 66 and a half days. But depending on the departure and arrival points, the duration could be very different. Thus, the Dutch took 71 to 81 days to reach the West Indies while the Brazilians made Luanda-Brazil in 35 days. Before starting the crossing, it often happened that the slave ship anchored in the islands of Principe and São Tomé. Indeed, the captives were exhausted by a long stay, either in the baracons, or in the case of itinerant trade under sail. The women and children were parked on the quarterdeck while the men were on the forecastle. The area of the forecastle was greater than that of the after forecastle. They were separated by the railing.

The captives were locked up two by two. They slept naked on the boards. To gain more surface area, the carpenter built a scaffold, a false bridge, on the sides. The rate of piling up was relatively high. In a volume representing 1.44 m3 (i.e. a "barrel of bulk", 170×160×53), the Portuguese placed up to five adults, the British and the French, from two to three. For Nantes slave traders, between 1707 and 1793, the general ratio between tonnage and number of Blacks can be reduced to an average of 1.41.

The Franco-Italian slave trader Theophilus Conneau testified in 1854: "Two of the officers are responsible for stowing the men. At sunset, the lieutenant and his first mate go down, whip in hand, and put the Negroes in place for the night. Those on the starboard side are stowed like spoons, as the saying goes, facing forward and fitting together. On the port side, they face aft. This position is considered preferable because it allows the heart to beat more freely.

If the weather permitted, the deportees spent the day on the bridge. The men were always chained and kept separate from the women and children. They were taken up to the upper deck in groups at around eight in the morning. The irons were checked and they were washed with sea water. Twice a week, they were coated with palm oil. Every two weeks, the nails were cut and the head shaved. Every day, the waste bins were emptied, the steerage was scraped and cleaned with vinegar. Around nine o'clock, the meal was served: beans, rice, corn, yams, bananas and manioc. In the afternoon, the slaves were encouraged to get busy (organization of dances). Around five o'clock the deportees returned to the steerage.

On the other hand, in case of bad weather and storms, the deportees remained confined in steerage. There was no emptying, no body washing, no floor cleaning. The contents of the tanks flowed over the boards of steerage, mingled with rotten things, with the fumes of those who were seasick, with vomit, with the "flow of the belly, white or red". All the hatches could be closed. The darkness, the air made unbreathable by the overturning of the waste bins, the rolling of the ship that made the naked bodies rub against the planks, the belief that the white slavers were cannibalizing the captives terrorized and weakened them.

Most revolts took place along the African coast. They could also take place on the high seas, but this was much more rare. According to Hugh Thomas, there was at least one insurrection every eight voyages.

Some of them succeeded:

But most of the time, revolts were put down and the leaders were used as an example: they were publicly beaten and hanged, or worse. Some of them could be victims of barbaric acts:

Until 1750, the most active period, it remains close to one in six.

Various mortality factors were identified: the length of the voyage, the health of the slaves at the time of embarkation, the region of origin of the captives, revolts, shipwrecks, insufficient water and food in the event of a prolonged crossing, lack of hygiene, epidemics (dysentery, smallpox, measles...), promiscuity.

Children under 15 years of age were more fragile than men. Women were more resistant than men.

The mortality of deportees during the crossing would be between 11.9% and 13.25%. Some were as high as 40% or even 100%.

In the case of the Nantes slave shipments, the mortality rate of deportees was around 13.6%.

In the Americas

Slaves had to be systematically quarantined before being unloaded. But arrangements with the authorities were frequent. The surgeon ensured that they were given a proper appearance: skin lesions and wounds were concealed, hair was cut and the body was coated with palm oil. They were then ready to be sold in the slave markets.

In most colonies, slaves were sold in lots. An announcement was sent to the local planters. The sale could take place on the ship or on land. There were several selling techniques such as auctions or scramble. The colonies that imported the most slaves were Brazil followed by the West Indies.

After the sale, the slaves were subjected to a sort of "training" (a period of acclimatization called seasoning by the Anglo-Saxon slavers). Cut off from their roots (they were separated from their family, their ethnic group, their linguistic group, they were given a new name), they had to get used to the particular conditions of the country (learning the language, social life on the plantations, forced learning of religion, etc.) and the working conditions. Totally de-socialized, they had to reinvent community ties that could no longer be those of Africa and create immaterial goods (prayer, spirituality, music through work songs that are at the origin of negro spirituals and gospel songs).

Sugar cane, where productivity and profitability can be maximized, is the crop that consumes the most slaves and wears them out the fastest. Planters assigned the youngest slaves to this crop, who were whipped when productivity slowed.

It was with the sugar revolution in America that the trade became so extensive. According to the American economist Robert Fogel (1926-2013), "between 60 and 70 percent of all Africans who survived the Atlantic crossing ended up in one or another of the .

The sugar revolution began in Brazil in the 1600s, and then spread to the Caribbean from the third third of the 17th century. Lacking Amerindian slaves, the Portuguese began importing slaves from Africa in the late 16th century. This encouraged miscegenation, while some escaped slaves founded quilombos. Around 1580, fugitive slaves started a millenarian and syncretic movement, influenced by Christianity, in the Bay of All Saints, Bahia: the Santidade de Jaguaripe was suppressed with the help of the Jesuits and the Roman Inquisition.

The large plantations (fazendas) cultivated for export. The work is simpler than for tobacco or cotton. Slaves cut the cane with machetes before transporting it by oxcart to the mills.

The typical plantation, with an area of 375 hectares, included 120 slaves, 40 oxen, a large house, commons and huts for the slaves.

At the end of the eighteenth century, the culture of coffee was developing.

Research by Quebec historian Marcel Trudel on 1,587 slaves whose age at death is known gives an average age of death for slaves in Quebec of 19.3 years between 1730 and 1800.

The slaves in the plantations of the eighteenth century

In the eighteenth century, on French sugar plantations, it is often believed that most slaves were uniformly subjected to treatment of such gratuitous cruelty as to be beyond comprehension. However, it would be against the interests of the master to damage his work tool, especially since he often had to buy them at a high price. The master therefore kept an eye on the health of the slaves. The Black Code also regulated the treatment of captives. Thus, the masters were obliged to educate and evangelize the slaves. On the other hand, it also provided for a range of corporal punishments (amputation, execution).

The moguls, or new arrivals, were not immediately put to work. For a maximum of six months, they were put aside to acclimatize.

Slave mortality on 18th century plantations

At the end of the eighteenth century, in Guadeloupe, the mortality rate of slaves oscillated between 30 and 50 per thousand. In metropolitan France, the mortality rate was between 30 and 38 per thousand. Three factors explained these differences between the metropolis and the French West Indies:

Proportion of Blacks and Whites in the French West Indies

The slave traders returned to Europe with sugar cane and gold, or trade goods, corresponding to the sale of slaves. But also with so-called "high value" products (cotton, sugar cane, tobacco and precious metals).

For the Nantes slavers, the average mortality rate was 17.8%. This is only an average. Some crossings could be made without any deaths, while others could record a mortality rate of 80% or more.

The beginning of the Western slave trade is generally considered to date back to 1441, when Portuguese navigators kidnapped black Africans to make them slaves in their country.

Another motivation for the slavery organized by the Portuguese was the imperative need for the crews of sailors to rest during their endless journeys to the West Indies and to China (in Macao) and Japan (in Nagasaki). These voyages could last for months, resulting in high mortality among Portuguese crews (due to fatigue and scurvy). Hence the need to rest in ports of call in the Portuguese Atlantic possessions: mainly the Cape Verde Islands and the islands of Sao Tome and Principe. For this reason, the Portuguese authorities decided to bring Portuguese farmers to cultivate the land of these Atlantic islands (in order to feed the sailors who stopped over with fresh food that limited scurvy). These Portuguese farmers, used to the relatively dry climate of Portugal, died in great numbers in the equatorial climate of these African islands. On the other hand, the Africans, who were used to this climate, were much better able to work in such conditions: hence the idea of the Portuguese to bring slaves from the African continent to work the land of these islands: this was the beginning of the slavery of Africans by the Europeans.

First stage, from the 15th to the mid-17th century

It was the Portuguese who stood out. They deported nearly 757,000 slaves, or three quarters of the deportees during this period. Three out of four deportees were shipped from Central Africa and were destined for Brazil (34 percent) and the Spanish mainland (43 percent). The rest of the slaves came from West Africa.

In total, 90% of this trade took place after 1672 and the creation in England of the Royal African Company, which mainly supplied Jamaica, and in France of the Senegal Company to supply the island of Santo Domingo.

In the 15th century, with the trans-Saharan trade, the slave trade as well as the trade of African products, such as gold or malaguette pepper (also called the seed of paradise), were present in some European markets. With the capture of Ceuta in 1415, the Portuguese learned about the trans-Saharan trade. They knew many details. Their goal was to reach the African gold mines. To achieve this, they did not attempt to take control of the trans-Saharan routes (which were firmly maintained by the Arabs). They preferred a new route, the sea route.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to venture to the Atlantic coast of Africa. Several factors contributed to this:

In 1441, Antao Gonçalves captured black Africans, Azenègues, who were offered as trophies to Prince Henry. This event is considered the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade. But at the time, this episode was insignificant. Indeed, for several decades, the trans-Saharan trade had been providing Portugal with black slaves. The Portuguese continued the raids. These provided an immediate profit and made the expeditions profitable.

A new method of obtaining captives took shape very early, the trade. As early as 1446, Antao Gonçalves bought slaves. In 1448, 1,000 captives were deported to Portugal and the Portuguese islands (the Azores and Madeira). In the 1450s, the Venetian Ca'da Mosto received 10 to 15 slaves in "Guinea" in exchange for a horse. He tried to make contact with Sonni Ali Ber, the emperor of the Songhai. These efforts were in vain.

Assuming Portuguese success, the Castilians and Genoese launched their own expeditions. They were countered by Portuguese diplomacy.

The Portuguese had several objectives.

Thus, in the second half of the fifteenth century, the Portuguese became bolder. The Portuguese crown began to establish stable trade relations with sub-Saharan Africa. In 1458, Prince Henry the Navigator wanted his men to buy slaves rather than raid them. This mission was entrusted to Diogo Gomez (he returned with 650 slaves). The Portuguese Crown decided to leave the management of the new expeditions to Portuguese businessmen and merchants. The first of these was Fernando Po in 1460, who in return agreed to pay 200,000 reis annually and to explore 100 leagues of unknown coastline. The right to transport slaves was then entrusted to a succession of privileged merchants, who were obliged to pay an annual tax set by the crown.

The regulations regarding shipments changed: all imported slaves had to be landed in Lisbon (1473) and all ships bound for Africa had to register in Lisbon (1481). The Portuguese began to establish themselves on several points of the African coast. In 1461, the first trading post and the first fort were completed in Arguin. In 1462, they settled in the Cape Verde Islands. In 1481, the construction of the fortress of El Mina began. The local prince, Ansa de Casamance, took a dim view of this new building. In 1486, they were on the island of Sao Tome.

These expeditions were often brilliant commercial successes. The Portuguese were very good middlemen and, thanks to their caravels, they were able to transport all sorts of goods along the African coast. They were especially interested in gold, ivory and Guinea seed. But slaves were becoming more and more important. Indeed, from 1475 onwards, the Portuguese provided slaves to the Akans in Elmina and the successful planting of sugar cane in Madeira (1452) and then in Sao Tome (1486) required an increasing number of slaves.

The goods exchanged with the African chiefs came from all over Europe and the Mediterranean (cloth from Flanders and France, wheat from Northern Europe, bracelets from Bavaria, glass beads, wine, weapons, iron bars).

The Portuguese also had great political success. In Africa, they established commercial relations with two African kingdoms. In 1485, Cão met with Nzinga, the king of Kongo. He returned to Portugal with slaves and an emissary. In 1486, Joao Afonso Aveiro entered the kingdom of Benin. He believed that it was close to Ethiopia, the kingdom of the priest John. In Europe, in 1474, the prince claimed and obtained the ownership of Africa. In 1479, the Spaniards stopped their expeditions to Africa. They recognized the Portuguese monopoly. However, there was a political setback. In 1486, the Portuguese helped King Bemoin in Senegal. But he was deposed and executed.

The Oba of Benin finally prohibited the export of captives. For copper, the Portuguese obtained supplies from the Congo.

Unable to provide enough slaves to its colonies because of the Treaty of Tordesillas between Spain and Portugal, Spain set up an asiento, a privilege by which the beneficiary undertook to provide a certain number of slaves to the Spanish colonies. In return, he was in a monopoly situation: Spain agreed that the empire would buy captives only from the holders of the asiento. The asiento was thus granted in turn to the Portuguese, then to the Genoese (and their Company of the Gates), to the Dutch, to the French Company of Guinea, and to the English.

Then came the Dutch, the English and the French. They traded with the Africans for gum, gold, pepper, ivory... and slaves.

However, despite the papal bulls, the French and the English made some expeditions on the coasts of Africa, to the great despair of the Portuguese.

The trade on the African coast was structured very slowly.

Around 1475, the Portuguese bought slaves in the Gulf of Benin. The Ijos and Itsekiris engaged in this trade. The slaves they traded were either purchased inland or were convicted criminals. Some of the slaves were taken to Elmina. They were sold to other Africans for gold.

From 1486, the Portuguese began to trade with the kingdom of Benin. In 1530, the kingdom of Benin expressed reservations about the slave trade, and by 1550, the Oba of Benin prohibited the trade.

In 1485, the Portuguese bought the first slaves in Congo. By 1550, the Congo became the main trading area. But the Portuguese demand for captives was so high that the monarch was soon overwhelmed. Other peoples agreed to meet this demand (the Pangu in Lungu, the Tio people). From 1,000 deported slaves in 1500, between 4,000 and 5,000 were deported annually from the Congo from 1530 onwards.

Angola (or Ndongo) also supplied slaves to the Portuguese. As early as 1550, the kings of the Congo and Angola disputed supremacy in supplying captives to the Portuguese. Around 1553, a new African state delivered slaves. This was the monarchy of Ode Itsekiri on the Forcados (near the kingdom of Benin).

In the early 17th century, many fishing villages on the Niger estuary became self-sufficient towns with large slave markets. Some of these towns eventually became powerful monarchies: Bonny, New Calabar, Warri, Bell Town and Akwa Town in Cameroon; and there were powerful trading republics, such as Old Calabar and Brass.

Very slowly, black slaves began to populate the new Spanish imperial possessions. The phenomenon was gradual, discreet, and full of false starts. Thus, a decree of 1501 prohibited the deportation to the Indies of slaves born in Spain, as well as of Jews, Moors and "new Christians", i.e. converted Jews. However, some merchants and captains obtained private permission to take some black slaves to the Indies.

The slave trade to the Americas did not begin until January 22, 1510, when King Ferdinand gave permission to send fifty slaves to Hispaniola for mining. These slaves were to be "the best and strongest slaves that could be found". It is certain that he was thinking of the Blacks. As for the Indians, they could not resist the bad treatment in the fields and mines (and especially the smallpox epidemics). In 1510, there were only 25,000 Indians left on Hispaniola.

The rise of gold mining, especially in Cibao, and then of sugar in Hispaniola, inaugurated, between 1505 and 1525, the first triangular trade between Africa, Europe and the Americas, which led to the deportation of nearly 10,000 slaves to Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Cuba, where the colonists had set up a sugar plantation economy

Until 1550, most African captives were destined for the Iberian Peninsula, Madeira, Sao Tome and Principe. From 1550, Spanish demand for America took off. Slaves were pearl fishermen in New Granada, longshoremen in Veracruz, in the silver mines of Zacatecas, in the gold mines of Honduras, Venezuela and Peru, and cowherds in the La Plata region. Others were blacksmiths, tailors, carpenters and servants. Female slaves served as maids, mistresses, nannies or prostitutes. It was common practice to give them the most unpleasant tasks.

In the northeast of Brazil, in the captaincies of Pernambuco and Bahia, the first sugar plantations were established on American soil. The demand for slave labor exploded. The Portuguese had the Indians at their disposal. But the perseverance of Bartolomé de las Casas and other Dominicans eventually made the enslavement of the Indians illegal. In addition, the epidemic of dysentery associated with influenza had decimated the Indian population in Brazil in the 1560s. Finally, the planters were not satisfied with the work of the Indians. The Indians were not resistant to the bad treatments that were inflicted on them and especially to epidemics. For all these reasons, the demand for black slaves from the Kongo kingdom and Angola increased. From 2,000 to 3,000 in 1570, the black population of Brazil rose to 15,000 in 1600. The daily life of these slaves was very hard. Their life expectancy was about ten years. Therefore, new arrivals from Angola and Congo were constantly needed. Brazil became the main supplier of sugar to Europe.

The first French slave ship, the Esperance, left La Rochelle in 1594, headed for Gabon and continued on to Brazil

In the first quarter of the 17th century, the total number of slaves deported from Africa was close to 200,000, of which 100,000 went to Brazil, more than 75,000 to Spanish America, 12,500 to São Tomé and a few hundred to Europe.

The number of African slaves working in the West Indian colonies was relatively small. In Guadeloupe in 1671, 47% of the masters had only one slave. In the early days, in the thirteen English colonies, white and black servants worked side by side in smallholdings. Conversely, in the French islands, white indentured servants were treated harshly.

The great French-English turn of 1674

The year 1674 was the year of the great shift for slavery. Until then, for centuries, Africans had been taken across the Sahara to the Arab world, where they became servants. The long and costly journey, as well as the modest demand, limited the annual levy on African populations.

Spanish sugar planters in Venezuela and Portuguese in Brazil also bought slaves, but in limited quantities, because transportation, through the Asiento system, was the monopoly of Dutch merchants, who limited themselves to the most profitable shipments. Sugar was still expensive on the world market, which prevented it from being sold on a large scale.

The situation changed when the triangular trade took off in 1674, the year in which the French and the English began to compete with the Dutch for the monopoly of transporting slaves from the African coast to the Americas, where two large islands, Jamaica and Santo Domingo, and three smaller ones, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Barbados, became the world's main importing area for slaves.

The future king of England, Jacques Stuart, created the Royal Company of Africa in 1672, while his French cousin Louis XIV founded the Company of Senegal the same year and dissolved Colbert's Company of the Indies, one of the first French colonial companies, which he reproached for its inability to import slaves. In 1674 Louis XIV became an absolute monarch. He distanced himself from Colbert and fell in love with the Marquise de Maintenon, who lived in her early youth in Martinique and bought the castle of Maintenon from Charles François d'Angennes, a buccaneer who became the richest planter in Martinique in 1678.

The arrival of the French and English in 1674 on the coasts of Africa caused the price of slaves to rise sharply, leading to the development of new supply routes within the continent, which weakened traditional African societies.

The mass arrival of new slaves in the West Indies at the same time lowered their purchase price by the sugar cane planters, while sugar production increased very rapidly, which had the effect of lowering the price of this commodity on the world market and encouraging its consumption in Europe.

To leave the way clear for sugar planters, James II and Louis XIV tried to oust the small tobacco planters of Barbados and Santo Domingo, who were also suspected of collusion with freebooters. In France, the tobacco farm was a monopoly created in 1674. The purchase price from the planters was lowered and the sale price was raised. As a result, production was discouraged and most consumers preferred to buy tobacco from Virginia and Maryland, where James II had just granted land to Catholic aristocrats to create huge tobacco plantations, which were run by slaves.

Second stage, from the middle of the 17th century to the beginning of the 19th century

The Atlantic trade did not really take off until the last third of the 17th century.

In total, 90% of this trade took place after 1672 and the creation in England of the Royal African Company, which mainly supplied Jamaica, and in France of the Senegal Company to supply the island of Santo Domingo.

Three phenomena competed to accelerate the demand of the European slave traders: products became scarcer (sugar cane was put into production in Brazil and the West Indies); the choice of African slaves was imposed on the exploiters.

In the middle of the 17th century, the Dutch West India Company (or W.I.C.) was all powerful. The Dutch had established themselves in Brazil and had taken Elmina. Their position on the trade was strengthened by various agreements: the asiento in 1662, then the agreement between Spain and the firm Coijmans of Amsterdam in 1685 and the one signed with the assientis of the Portuguese company of Cacheu in 1699. But this omnipotence did not last. They were supplanted by the English and the French. The monopoly of the W.I.C. for trade with Africa lasted until 1730, and the monopoly for trade until 1738. With the opening of free trade, the number of captives deported by the Dutch increased. Between 1751 and 1775, the number of deportees rose to 148,000.

London, Bristol and Liverpool were the main British slave ports. There were also Whitehaven, Glasgow, Dublin and Plymouth. The monopoly of trade with Africa was granted to the Royal African Company in 1698. In total, there were 5,700 armed slave ships in Liverpool.

Between 1651 and 1675, 115,000 slaves were deported. Between 1676 and 1700, there were 243,000. Between 1701 and 1725, there were 380,000 slaves. Between 1726 and 1750, there were 490,000 slaves. Between 1751 and 1775, there were 859,000. The decline began in 1776 and the trade was prohibited on March 2, 1807.

17 French ports participated in 3317 slave trade expeditions. Nantes was the main French slave port from the Quai de la Fosse onwards. 1427 shipments were made there, i.e. 42% of the French trade. Other ports armed many slave ships: La Rochelle (427 to 448), Le Havre (from 399 to 451). And there were also Saint-Malo (216), Lorient (156), Honfleur (125 to 134), Marseille (88 to 120), Dunkirk (44), Rochefort (20), Vannes (12), Bayonne (9), Brest (7).

The start of the French trade was late. Bordeaux in 1672, Nantes and Saint-Malo in 1688 sent their first slave ships. Before 1692, 45 slave ships had left from La Rochelle.

As far as the slave trade in La Rochelle was concerned, it allowed for the financing of workshops where goods destined for the purchase of captives in Africa were manufactured, sold and kept. This trade gave work to the shipyards and ensured the subsistence of several hundred sailors. So many people from La Rochelle were involved in the trade in their own way. The first slave trade expedition from La Rochelle took place between 1594 and 1595 on board the ship L'Espérance which transported its captives to a Portuguese colony in Brazil.

Between 1710 and 1770, 242 slave trade expeditions were carried out from La Rochelle. In 1753, a bankruptcy affected the great shipowning families of La Rochelle, giving way to new actors. Louis-Etienne Arcère, a historian from La Rochelle, maintains that: "the trade of Saint-Domingue," he writes, "gave birth to another for La Rochelle. Manpower was needed to clear the colony's countryside, and Guinea provided it. One went to Africa to buy herds of men. They also brought back gold powder from that country. Since that time, the trade of La Rochelle has been steadily growing towards greatness.

In addition to an interruption of the slave trade in La Rochelle between 1778 and 1781, there were 195 shipments from La Rochelle and 17 from Rochefort. On April 26, 1792, the Saint-Jacques was the last slave ship to leave the port in the 18th century. In 1817, King Louis XVIII signed an ordinance prohibiting the slave trade in France, but four ships from La Rochelle were among the 674 illegal shipments made until at least 1830. The slave trade represented a third of the shipments from La Rochelle, and if we add the direct trade with Santo Domingo, the transatlantic trade represented 80% of its activity. 130,000 captives were loaded in Africa from La Rochelle to the colonies of America and mainly to Saint-Domingue. In the 19th century, the people of La Rochelle no longer armed slave ships, unlike in Nantes.

Between 1745 and 1747, there was an average of 34 slave shipments per year. Between 1763 and 1778, there were 51 per year. Between 1783 and 1792, there were 101 per year.

From the middle of the 17th century to the beginning of the 19th century, the trade between Europeans and Africans took place on all the African coasts:

The African supply was, however, relatively concentrated in the 18th century: in the Gulf of Guinea, there was the Gold Coast and the Slave Coast; in Central Africa, three quarters of the captives were sold between Cabinda and Luanda, a 300-mile long coastal area; coastal sites like Ouidah.

In the Enlightenment, the demand for American products in Western Europe grew very strongly because their prices had fallen due to the strong growth in supply: this was the case, for example, with cotton, coffee and sugar, especially from the colony of Santo Domingo, whose production was intensified by the employment of about 550,000 slaves in the eighteenth century. The consumption of sugar, almost nil in the sixteenth century in France, had risen to 4 kilograms per person per year by the end of the eighteenth century, according to an uncorroborated estimate. The creation of new plantations extended to new parts of the Caribbean such as the French part of Santo Domingo, for sugar but also for cotton and coffee, where a larger workforce was brought in than in the previous century.

Brazil had been the first destination of slave ships: in total, more than 40% of the deportees of the triangular trade were transported there.

Third stage, the 19th century

On March 16, 1792, an ordinance of the King of Denmark and Norway provided for the prohibition of the slave trade for the subjects of his kingdom and the prohibition of the importation of slaves into his territory as of 1803. In 1794, France abolished not only the slave trade but also slavery in its colonies, but this decision was thwarted by the Treaty of Whitehall, signed by large slave-owning planters with the English in an attempt to offer them their colonies, which occurred in Martinique, and then by the re-establishment of slavery by Napoleon in 1802

In 1807, the British banned the trade, followed by the United States. The other European states involved in the trade, mainly France, followed suit, but later, under British pressure, redoubled at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. And when these states prohibited the trade, their slave traders continued to operate illegally, but were tracked down thanks to the right of visit of foreign ships. In the face of the ban on the slave trade, Europeans wanted to establish themselves in Africa to set up plantation systems similar to those in the Americas. In Senegal, Faidherbe fought against these projects.

In France, after 1815, the illegal trade continued with the tacit consent of the authorities. It was presented as a means of resisting the British, who were suspected of wanting to weaken the national economy. It was not until the 1820s that the French royal navy fought effectively against the traffickers.

The abolition of slavery, in 1833 in Great Britain and in 1848 in France, also contributed to a decrease in the slave trade, while in the United States the increase in the slave population was mainly through births on American soil from the 1810s onwards. Only Cuba and Brazil, where massive land clearing took place, remained important destinations. The last known clandestine shipment of slaves from Mozambique to Brazil took place in 1862.

There were also territorial exceptions: although London had abolished the Indian Ocean slave trade as early as 1812, the abolition of the slave trade in the British East Indies was not enacted until 1843, and the abolition of slavery until 1862.

The Western slave trade had begun to decline from the beginning of the nineteenth century. However, the trade remained very dynamic until 1850, at which point it was greatly reduced and became marginal after 1867. During the nineteenth century, the nature of Western slave trade activity changed. After having been monopolized and then liberalized by the states, slave trade became illegal. However, the market still existed - Brazil, for example, did not abolish slavery until 1888 with the Golden Law, two years after Cuba - and given the weakness of international law, trafficking continued. Thus, it was not until the fivefold treaty of 1841 between the European powers, followed by the Brussels Convention (1890), that the military ships of one of the contracting states obtained the right to board the ships of slave traders from other countries, and that even the states where slavery remained legal undertook, through this Convention, to put an end to the trade.

In Upper Guinea and Senegambia (5,000 captives per year until 1850), trafficking was concentrated in the Gallinas region. Lagos and Ouidah sold 60% of the captives exported from the Bay of Benin (10,000 captives per year until 1850). In the Bay of Biaffra 9 to 12,000 captives per year until 1840. Sales were mainly made to Bonny and the two Calabars. The Congo and Angola sold 48% of the captives in the 19th century Atlantic trade. These sales took place in Loango, Cabinda, Ambriz, for the Congo, and in Luanda and Benguela, for Angola.

A disguised form of the slave trade when it freed, once bought and on the boat, blacks reduced to slavery on the Ivory Coast, engagism in its first form was so decried as a perpetuation of the triangular trade that it was almost immediately abolished.

The second attempt to bring Chinese coolies to the Caribbean was also a failure; this time not because they were slaves in disguise, but because the plantation masters found these indentured servants reluctant to work.

The third attempt was so successful that it brought the third exogenous settlement of the Caribbean. These were Indians from the subcontinent, mostly from the British Indian Empire, but also from the French trading posts of Chandernagor and Pondicherry.

Increasingly accurate statistics

In Les Traites négrières, Essai d'histoire globale published in 2004, Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau writes

"It was not until 1969 and the publication of the famous The Atlantic Slave Trade. A census, by the American historian Philip D. Curtin (1922-2009), for the quantitative history of the Atlantic slave trade to truly emerge from the mists of the imagination. What Anglo-Saxon historians call the "numbers game" began. For the first time, the works on the question were being scrutinized by critical historical analysis. Curtin's study came at a time when the history of the Black slave trade was taking off. It was also a time when the New Economic History was beginning to assert itself in the Anglo-Saxon world. A history borrowing from econometrics that immediately found in the Atlantic slave trade a formidable lever. The results of Curtin's Census were therefore immediately at the origin of vast debates, contributing to the impetus of a great deal of research. In 1999, a CD-Rom was published listing 27,233 slave trade expeditions, carried out between 1595 and 1866. This data was taken up and commented on by Herbert S. Klein in a book published the same year, and completed by David Eltis in an article published in 2001, and will be further refined with the publication of a new Census, announced by Steven Behrent, David Eltis and David Richardson. All this makes the Atlantic trade the best known trade today, from a statistical point of view. No other human migration in history - forced or otherwise - has probably been studied in such detail."

"  There is certainly not total agreement on the figures. Thus, although he revised his estimates downwards, Joseph Inikori indicated in 2002 that approximately 12,700,000 Africans had been deported across the Atlantic. However, a general consensus is emerging, confirming Curtin's overall analysis of the volume of the trade, while qualifying it in detail, i.e., in its rates. According to him, 9.5 million Africans were introduced into the various colonies of the New World and, taking into account the mortality during the middle passage, about 11 million left Africa. At a symposium held in Nantes in 1985, the French historian Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch announced that 11,698,000 Africans would have been deported, adding that what is known about the state of European navies in the modern era hardly allows us to think that this figure could have been exceeded.

In December 2008, David Eltis launched the largest database dedicated to the Atlantic slave trade: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. It lists 12,521,336 deportees between 1501 and 1866 (Portugal

Pace of the Atlantic trade

The peak was reached between 1751 and 1800 with an average of 76,000 departures per year.

If we take into account the evolution of the growth rate, certain nuances appear. Thus, if between the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth century, the average annual growth rate of the trade was 3.3 percent, it stabilized at around 2.2 percent between 1500 and 1700, and then increased by only 0.7 percent during the first forty years of the eighteenth century. It then stabilized and then declined from 1790 onwards. The eighteenth century can thus be divided into two parts: the first part recording a constant progression, albeit slowed down; the second characterized by a stabilization and then by a decline.

Departure regions of the Atlantic slave trade

According to historian Robert Stein, in Nantes, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Le Havre and Saint-Malo, 550 families armed a total of 2,800 ships for Africa in the 18th century. Among them, 22 (i.e. 4% of the total) carried out ¼ of the armament. The large study of the associates and the emergence of a managerial elite were rational responses to the risky nature of the slave trade, regardless of the location.

The members of this slave aristocracy often occupied the upper echelons of society. In the 18th century, in the great European ports, they supplied the trade and the institutions with notables. Present in societies and cultural circles, they displayed their success through the facades of their mansions, their rural properties and their lifestyle. Their affluence, influence, prestige and their ability to mobilize several types of "capital" (economic, cultural, symbolic, political...) can open the doors of power to them. Most of the mayors of the Restoration (1815-1830) were notorious illegal slave traders.

A traffic with uncertain profitability

The idea that the profits of slave ships were extraordinary, well over 100%, fired the imagination of several generations. However, recent studies on the profitability of the Western slave trade tend to show that the profits were far from being astronomical:

The figures presented above are only averages and, as such, must be strongly qualified. All the studies agree on the fact that profits are very irregular, leading to spectacular successes and resounding bankruptcies:

On the independent trade, the dangers were multiplied but also the potential gains. Indeed, these traffickers were not subject to certain costs of the national companies with privileges (salaries of employees in France and Africa).

In those days, profits were high and even monopoly companies made good money.

However, Meyer for the French and Unger for the Dutch show that there was a decline in profitability over the 18th century. Indeed, certain factors (standardization of trade goods and the rise of factories) contributed to reducing costs, but other factors (increased competition, military instability on the seas, considerable increase in the value of human beings in Africa...), more numerous, led to a decline in profitability.

They exceeded those of the previous century.

Large traders deporting slaves "illegally," whether to Cuba or Brazil, would have gone bankrupt, unless they had invested in sugar or coffee plantations. It also appears that many slave traders exaggerated their profits at this time.

Trafficking in Western economies

For Karl Marx, the sources of "primitive accumulation" at the origin of the industrial revolution were peasant expropriation and then the slave trade and exploitation. E. Williams in 1944 argued that the slave trade alone was sufficient to finance the British take-off. In the wake of numerous studies on the industrial revolution and industrialization in Europe, this thesis is now outdated:

For P. Boulle, the trade was "only one contribution among others to the development" of Great Britain. It was the multiplicity of its markets and the integration of its economic sectors that provided the industry with the means to sustain its development. At the beginning of the century, Africa's share of foreign trade was only 2%. Over the 18th century, the British trade had increased significantly (50% of the slave trade) so that in 1760, 43% of the cloth exported was to Africa. But America and the West Indies, which offered an outlet almost as large, became increasingly important over time. As for the domestic market, it became the main outlet for British industry after 1750.

In France, the slave trade (which represented 20 to 25% of the slave trade around 1750) gave rise to local industries. But these declined.

For the United Provinces, they had suffered the perverse or "boomerang" effect of their commercial success: the mass and cheapness of the products did not allow the establishment of national industries.

No one today disputes the primordial role of the slave trade in the expansion of the large plantation system, in the growth of colonial production, and in the increase of international trade in these products. It is undeniable that the international trade of the products of the colonies was profitable, that it allowed a spectacular growth of the maritime traffic and that they were numerous to make fortune there. But this is not "the" cause of Western development.

The "added value" of this servile activity was finally low: apart from the production of sugar (easily replaced, at the time, by the production of honey) and tobacco (not really useful for the life of the people of the time), this activity generated little profit (compared to other activities in Europe), especially if one considers the costly investments required to achieve it: building ships, hiring crews, making meat or salted fish in quantity, etc.

The position of the Papacy

The omnipresence of the Portuguese along the African coasts of the Atlantic during this period is also explained by the policy of the popes towards Africa:

The Portuguese also got the pope to declare that Portugal had conquered Africa as far as Guinea. With these bulls, the Portuguese did not hesitate to board any ship that was on the African coast and to hang the crew (mostly Spaniards).

All these famous bulls approving the Portuguese expeditions were promulgated because the papacy felt it necessary to act vigorously against Islam, which after the fall of Constantinople (1453) seemed to threaten Italy itself as well as central Europe. Calixtus III deployed many efforts to set up a final crusade. The projects of Prince Henry were part of this overall plan. In 1494, by the treaty of Tordesillas, the zones of influence of Spain and Portugal were delimited.

The arguments against abolition

The slave traders had the possibility of baptizing all the captives shipped to Africa. By this act, the pagan blacks who were "doomed to eternal hell", according to the Christian missionaries, had a chance to go to heaven. It was therefore the slaves, according to this argument, who benefited most from the operation. For some men, especially churchmen, this argument was essential.

Measuring the population drain of milking

It appears very difficult to evaluate the demographic effects of the slave trade, whose figures remain highly contested. The starting point for any analysis is the estimate of the population of sub-Saharan Africa in the 16th century. In the current state of knowledge, the extent of the variations in estimates makes any conclusion impossible.

Some authors, such as Philip Curtin and Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau, have considered the demographic effects of the slave trade to be negligible. To support this thesis, they rely on an estimate of the average annual number of African deportees. At the height of the trade, between 1701 and 1800, they estimate that nearly 6 million captives were deported. This corresponds to an average of 60,000 departures per year, or 0.3 percent of a population estimated by Pétré-Grenouilleau at 25 million at the beginning of the 18th century. This percentage remained, according to the estimates of the same author, much lower than the rate of growth that Black Africa would have experienced at that time (around 1 percent?).

The supporters of this thesis also consider that "the polygamous nature of African societies has undoubtedly had the effect of attenuating or even cancelling out a good part of this possible birth deficit resulting from the deportation of the male population. This argument has been strongly attacked by Pétré-Grenouilleau's opponents: apart from the fact that it conveys a racist stereotype that refers African societies to an alleged "polygamous nature," it betrays, for its detractors, a lack of understanding of the real functioning of polygamy as well as of the elementary principles of demography. There is in fact no link between birth rate and type of marital union. Polygamy, or to be more precise, polygyny, does not change the birth rate of women: it may even have the consequence of reducing this rate, by instituting a period of isolation after each birth. Pétré-Grenouilleau also mentions the deaths of captives in Africa. He estimates that, assuming that there were as many deaths as there were captives deported, this could only have slowed down population growth "locally" and sometimes cancelled it out completely.

Louise-Marie Diop-Maes takes an entirely different approach: she attempts to compare the African population of the sixteenth century, i.e., before the beginning of the slave trade, with that of the nineteenth century in order to estimate the overall effects that the slave trade may have had on the demographic development of black Africa. The sources available to historians to make such measurements are extremely incomplete, in part because of the absence of archives, and may remain so for good. Diop-Maes relies mainly on the accounts of Arab travelers to estimate the size of cities and the density of the African urban network: she estimates that the population in the sixteenth century was of the order of six hundred million (or an average of about thirty inhabitants per square kilometer).

These figures constitute, in the current state of research on the subject, a high hypothesis. The range of estimates made until then varied between 25 million (the low hypothesis taken up by Pétré-Grenouilleau) and 100 million inhabitants. Louise Diop-Maes estimates the population of Black Africa in the years 1870-1890 at about 200 million individuals: Black Africa would have experienced a reduction in its population of 400 million between the middle of the sixteenth century and the middle of the nineteenth century. In the average hypothesis of a stagnation of the African population at around 100 million inhabitants, Patrick Manning suggests that the share of the Black African population in the world population would have fallen by two thirds between 1650 and 1850.

The Nigerian demographer Joseph E. Inikori and the historian Walter Rodney have also concluded that the demographic effects of the slave trade were significant, but with substantially different methods of assessment. For Inikori, the African economic system of the time, which differed significantly from the European model, was not capable of making such a human loss. Localized population declines turned into more general problems. Without reaching the figures put forward by Diop-Maes, Inikori estimates that the Atlantic slave trade and the various natural disasters caused 112 million victims in black Africa.

The proponents of a massive demographic effect emphasize the indirect effects generated by the slave trade: it created a new system of economic and social organization in Black Africa that gradually became centered on the activity of slavery. Slaves became the main currency of individuals and states in their exchange relations. This system led to an upsurge in wars, raids and kidnappings, and permanent manhunting, which brought to a halt many of the productive activities reported by Arab travelers from the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries. Louise Diop-Maes cites the decline and closure of the prestigious universities of Timbuktu and Djenné as an indication of the profound social effects of the intensified European demand for slaves.

She believes that the trade has resulted in "the scattering and isolation of populations, hence the gradual decline of cities, the reappearance of wild life on a large scale, the differentiation of mores, customs, leading to the emergence of new languages, "ethnicities"; hence also the loss of collective memory, the anchoring of the spirit of division, social decay etc.: individuals, groups, communities, will live in an excessive and morbid mistrust of each other, each considering the other as his greatest enemy.  The individuals, the groups, the communities, are going to live in an excessive and morbid distrust of each other, each one considering the other as his biggest enemy".

The general conclusions drawn by Diop-Maes are consistent with the more localized studies carried out by William Randles in Angola or Martin Klein in Senegambia. The studies carried out on this region of Africa in the pre-colonial period make it possible to illustrate the differences in viewpoints that still exist on the consequences of the slave trade.

Martin Klein argues that, while the deportation of slaves from Senegambia was relatively small in absolute numbers, the trade totally disrupted local political organization (end of the great empires and extreme political fragmentation) and generated significant social violence. The general orientation of trade towards the north and the Sahara was disrupted by the slave trade, which shifted the continent's window of opportunity towards the Atlantic (decline of Saharan cities, coupled with the fall of the Songhai Empire, which was independent of the slave trade, after the defeat of Tondibi against Morocco in 1591). Thus, the Wolofs of Waalo and the Toucouleurs of Fouta Toro gradually deserted the north bank of the Senegal River for the south bank during the 18th century and were forced to pay a heavy tribute to the Moors of Trarza and Brakna.

Conversely, Philip Curtin claims that this same region would not have been influenced by the European trade, remaining on the margins of international trade. One of his disciples, James Webb, amplified his master's conclusions by asserting that the trans-Saharan trade was more important at the same period than the Atlantic trade in Senegambia. Curtin's theses, and a fortiori those of Webb on the impact of the slave trade on African societies, have been criticized by Joseph Inokiri, Jean Suret-Canale and some of his former students such as Paul Lovejoy - as well as some Senegalese historians such as Abdoulaye Bathily or Boubacar Barry.

Chronology by country

The first code to regulate slavery dates from 1680, and was made in Virginia. Carolina did the same in 1690.

In France, the Code Noir regulated the treatment of slaves in the colonies. In some respects, the slave was considered a human being, but he was also a thing in the legal sense of the word, placed outside any right of personality. Promulgated in 1685 by Louis XIV, the Code Noir was not abolished until 1848.

The slave, a human being

The slave, a movable property

The ambiguity of "human or commodity" was not new to the Black Code. Already in antiquity, the Roman legal system expressed it: according to natural law, morality, the slave was a man, while according to positive law, the precise Roman law, he was a thing.

A crime against humanity

The Western slave trade is now considered in France as a crime against humanity.

A business of influential people

Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau, Les Traites négrières, essai d'histoire globale, Gallimard

Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade, Robert Laffont

Serge Daget, The Black Slave Trade, Ouest-France


: document used as a source for the writing of this article.


  1. Atlantic slave trade
  2. Commerce triangulaire
  3. ^ Merritt, J. E. (1960). "The Triangular Trade". Business History. Informa UK Limited. 3 (1): 1–7. doi:10.1080/00076796000000012. ISSN 0007-6791. S2CID 153930643.
  4. ^ Vindt, Gérard; Consil, Jean-Michel (June 2013). "Nantes, Bordeaux et l'économie esclavagiste – Au XVIIIe siècle, les villes de Nantes et de Bordeaux profitent toutes deux de la "traite négrière" et de l'économie esclavagiste". Alternatives économiques. 325: 17–21.
  5. ^ Morgan, Kenneth (2007). Slavery and the British Empire: From Africa to America. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 62. ISBN 9780191566271. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  6. ^ Kowaleski-Wallace, A.P.o.E.E., Elizabeth (2006). The British slave trade and public memory. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231137140.
  7. Diop-Maes extrapole par exemple pour l'Afrique occidentale les pertes subies par les villes de Tombouctou, Gao, Kao à l'ensemble de la zone. Elle estime que si ces villes ont perdu les trois quarts de leurs habitants, l’ensemble de l’Afrique occidentale a dû perdre les trois quarts de sa population dans une proportion équivalente.
  8. Ces estimations sont basées sur un calcul rétrospectif basé sur l'état démographique de l'Afrique noire au milieu du XXe siècle. Paul Bairoch, dans son Mythes et paradoxes de l'histoire économique, porte par exemple cette estimation à 80 millions.
  9. Là encore, il s'agit d'une hypothèse haute ; une partie des études placent ce chiffre aux alentours de 100 millions, Patrick Manning à 150 millions.
  10. ^ Curran, Charles E. (2003). Change in Official Catholic Moral Teaching. Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press. p. 67.
  11. ^ A. P. Middleton, Tobacco Coast.
  12. ^ Emmer, P.C.: The Dutch in the Atlantic Economy, 1580–1880. Trade, Slavery and Emancipation. Variorum Collected Studies Series CS614, 1998.
  13. ^ Whatley, Warren C. (2017). „The Gun-Slave Hypothesis and the 18th Century British Slave Trade”. Explorations in Economic History. doi:10.1016/j.eeh.2017.07.001.
  14. ^ Curtis, Wayne. And a Bottle of Rum. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2006–2007. ISBN: 978-0-307-33862-4. page 117.
  15. Kurlansky, Mark. Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. New York: Walker, 1997. ISBN 0-8027-1326-2.
  16. Morgan, Kenneth. Bristol and the Atlantic Trade in the Eighteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-521-33017-3. Pages 64–77.
  17. Chris Evans and Göran Rydén, Baltic Iron in the Atlantic World in the Eighteenth Century : Brill, 2007 ISBN 978-90-04-16153-5, 279

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