Posts Tagged ‘Slave Trade’

By following the money trail it is possible to  discover how intertwined British Imperialism was with its emergence as an economic power and the prosperity created for the nation.

Please read the following eight short pieces by James Walvin, on the monuments and show pieces across Britain and the people behind them, all connected to various trades directly linked to Slavery.

I will continue to explore this topic in a number of posts in future under a similar title

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Consider this piece by Dr Nazeer Ahmed about the Atlantic slave trade although focusing in this extract on the sugar trade;

The introduction of sugar transformed America, Europe and Africa alike. Its impact on history was far greater than that of Mayan gold treasures or the rich silver mines of Mexico. To understand how it happened, it is important to know the process of sugar extraction….

…..the Native Americans were not suited for the kind of backbreaking work required on the sugar plantations. So, labor had to be imported.

At first, Muslim slaves from Portugal and Spain were imported, but it was soon realized that Europe could not meet the increasing demand for labor. African labor was ideally suited for this task

Sugar processing yields molasses as a by-product. Fermented molasses yield rum. Molasses were processed into rum in the factories that sprang up in New England, as well as in England, Holland and France. Much of the rum was consumed in Europe. From there, some of it found its way to West Africa. European merchants paid for the slaves with rum, guns, horses, and industrial products from southern Spain, and fine muslin cloth imported from India. Guns were in demand by the African slave agents who used them to hunt for more slaves. Both guns and rum were destabilizing factors in West Africa. It was a recipe for men to get drunk and kill each other. There were enormous profits to be made at each stage of the sugar-molasses-rum-gun-slave transaction. In the process, Europe and America grew rich as Africa bled in agony.

Now consider the progression of this trade into the formation of the Joint Stock Company; the very root of the world of globalised business of today;

The slave trade was not a business for the common man. Since it required enormous capital….French and English pirates were active against Portuguese shipping throughout the 16th century. Rich merchants in London, Liverpool, Paris, and Amsterdam financed the expeditions. On occasions, even their monarchs participated.

By 1600 the Atlantic slave trade had taken on the character of organized international trade. As sugar plantations grew in the Americas, so did the demand for slaves. Indeed, slaves had become a “commodity” wherein profits depended on timeliness and speed of delivery. The European slave traders had their counterparts on the African coast. The coastal chiefs controlled the trade, employing slave catchers who raided several hundred miles into the interior and hauled in the captives. Competition was intense

Trade with India, West Africa and the Americas required enormous capital. Ships had to be built, soldiers hired, fortifications erected and depots maintained in distant lands. The overhead was high. Initially, only the kings, noblemen or rich merchants could supply this capital. The Dutch were the first Europeans to open up this trade for broader participation.

In 1602 the Dutch East India Company was formed which enabled a broader spectrum of merchants to invest in the profitable Indian Ocean trade. The evolution of this one institution, the joint stock company, was the single most important development in the world in the 17th century.

Ultimately, it proved to be the means by which Europe conquered and colonized much of the world. By the year 1660, the Dutch had already accumulated the experience of sixty years in the formation and operation of trading companies. The British and the French realized that in order to compete they too must form similar trading companies

As the British gained dominance of the oceans, the Atlantic slave trade gathered momentum…..Many more millions were killed in the tribal wars that were fought in Africa to capture the slaves. When all these numbers are added up, a conservative figure for the total casualties of the Atlantic slave trade would be fifteen million.

Oppression cannot be institutionalized without moral justification. A sociology of domination emerged in 18th and 19th century Europe and America, condemning the black man to an inherently inferior position and providing a moral justification for his enslavement

A small example of the link between diets (food commodities), slavery, industrialisation/commercialisation/capitalism and colonialism. In short, how the dominant contemporary form of supremacism works, how part of it was formed and how EVERYTHING we think we know must be viewed in this context and DE-COLONISED