African History

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please read the file in the attachment and answer the questions bellow :

The Trans Atlantic Slave Trade (TAST) was a component of the larger and older system of plantation slavery. Plantation slavery, which was begun by Italian speaking merchants on the island of Cyprus in the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean) in the thirteenth century, was the driving force in the establishment and growth of the TAST.

It is important to remember that the system of plantation slavery was first and foremost a system of production. The establishment of the system of plantation slavery by private individuals in the 13th century signaled the rise of the free enterprise system and global market economy that we know today. It marked the start of the shift from feudal economies, where basically self-sufficient societies produced what they consumed and consumed what they produced, to the production of commodities for sale and export. It marked the separation of the direct producers from the fruits of their labor.

The system of plantation slavery, based on mass production and enslaved labor, also created the world’s first global commodity: sugar. The drive for profits was the central dynamic that fuelled the system. Mass production of sugar dramatically lowered the price of sugar and spectacularly increased the demand for sugar, which in turn produced an insatiable demand for labor and land. The plantation became the model for the modern business enterprise. As the center of sugar production migrated from the Mediterranean into the Atlantic and then to the Americas, plantation slavery would completely transform Europe, Africa and the Americas, destroying societies in its wake, overturning the old ways of doing business and bringing to the forefront new forces and social groups.

The TAST, which some have called ‘the Middle Passage,’ was itself a very profitable outcome of the system of plantation slavery. The TAST, which historian Colin Palmer has called the fourth stream of the African Diaspora, lasted from the late fifteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century and involved the forcible removal of at least 12 million West Africans from their homes and communities to work on plantations in the Americas.

But the TAST did not merely result in the forcible removal of millions of West Africans to the new world. It also had a horrific effect on the people and civilizations of West Africa. Walter Rodney, one of the most influential scholars of African history, has made several arguments regarding the causes and impact of the TAST on West African societies. In the excerpt that you are reading, Professor Walter Rodney provides his perspectives on this topic. Your task is to be prepared to answer the following questions, based on your reading of the Rodney material, in order to demonstrate your understanding of his arguments.


The historian Walter Rodney posits several factors in the development of the European run Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (TAST). The development and growth of the TAST was a slow process that went through several stages. What began as a trickle at the end of the fifteenth century became a flood by the middle of the eighteenth century. According to Walter Rodney:

(1) Why does Rodney object to the use of the term “slave trade?” What is the significance of his objection? In other words, what difference does it make in today’s understanding of the TAST to call it a trade or not to call it a trade?

(2) Rodney identifies a shift in how European ships obtained slaves? Describe the shift. Give examples.

(3) How did constant warfare fueled by the TAST contribute to the process of enslavement?

(4) Did the slave trade affect all regions in West Africa the same way? How and where were the outcomes different?

(5) Rodney speaks of changes in West African societies and argues that the African allies of European slavers were not always the same in every period. How did the appearance and rise of a new class of elites in West African coastal communities allied to the European slave trade change the process of enslavement? And what name did Rodney give this new group of elites?

(6) How did the corruption of the old African systems of government by the new breed of local African entrepreneurs (businessmen) tied to and working on behalf of the global market contribute to the process of enslavement? Your answer must provide examples.

(7) How did the structure and size of many West African societies contribute to the process of enslavement? Your answer must provide examples from the reading.

(8) How did the growth in the influence of European slave traders and European slave trading companies like the Royal Africa Company and the Dutch West India Company contribute to the process of enslavement?

(9) What are some of the ways the internal class structure, economy and culture of West African societies was transformed by the TAST?

(10) What is the impact of the Portuguese shift from a search for gold to a search for labor? What specifically did European capitalism need African labor for?

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