CAPE HISTORY – UNIT 2
THE ATLANTIC WORLD AND GLOBAL
TRANSFORMATIONS
Module 1: Atlantic World: Interactions

Changing Afric...
According to Michael Crowder, the supplies of gold were mainly concentrated on the Gold Coast.
He argues that the reason f...
Atlantic Trade Period
Ghana, Mali and Songhai were powerful states in Africa before the arrival of the Europeans and conta...
The disintegration of large nation states e.g. Ghana, Mali and Songhai and the expansion of small states
in Africa contrib...
Goods Traded

Items
Traded

Areas
Traded

Groups / Traders

Year

Horses for slaves

Africans
Europeans

Early 16th centur...
The Goods in the Triangular Trade
Capitalism and Slavery

Items

Year

Sent to

From

For

Wool

1680

Holland, Hamburg,
E...
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Caribbean Studies changing african responses to european contact.doc

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Caribbean Studies changing african responses to european contact.doc

  1. 1. CAPE HISTORY – UNIT 2 THE ATLANTIC WORLD AND GLOBAL TRANSFORMATIONS Module 1: Atlantic World: Interactions Changing African Responses to European Contact: i. Trade in gold and other commodities ii. Trade in African captives Pre-Atlantic Trade Period - What they traded? West Africa was in contact with other continents (socially /economically) during and after classical ancient times. Long distance trading was evident and many items were traded between continents. These included millet, beans, wheat, rice, palm oil and yams were spread all over West Africa for over three centuries before the Portuguese arrived. About 5000 BCE, cattle rearing was introduced into West Africa via Asia and Egypt. By the 10th century the Fulani of Northern Nigeria was popular for mixed farming – i.e. cattle and plants. From as far back as 500 BCE, Metal mining / trade in metal goods was present in N/Nigeria – e.g. Nok. NB. By the 4th century CE iron technology / trade in iron goods was all over W/Africa. Centres of Iron Trade included Oume – S/Ivory Coast and Oyo – SW/Nigeria Two groups of people (ironsmiths) were the Awka and Nkwerri people. They travelled and traded between the South Ivory Coast, South Western Nigeria and the entire Igbo country.  GOLD Gold mining was present from the 1st millennium in West Africa. W/Africans traded exclusively in gold throughout the Sahara and the Arab World. By the 10th century the demand for gold by the Arabs stimulated the industry and the production of gold products in West Africa. NB West Africa was Western Europe’s main supplier of gold by the 14th century. The trade in gold opened West Africa to International markets as she traded with Asia, the Mediterranean and Europe. The industry however was controlled / dominated by the West African kings and nobles. Gold coins were also being issued by the Romans in North Africa who got this gold from Senegal by CE 296. 1
  2. 2. According to Michael Crowder, the supplies of gold were mainly concentrated on the Gold Coast. He argues that the reason for trading gold was because gold and silver formed the basis of European currency and this was mainly being supplied by the Muslim world at the time. Gold was also used to decorate royal palaces and costumes. Gold was bought with salt, textiles and copper by the rulers of Ghana and sold to Arabs. By the 12th century West Africa was the leading supplier of gold to the economy of Europe when the main currency was gold (replacing silver). Places included: Genoa, Florence, and Venice (European Cities). NB Ghana was known as the ‘land of gold’ – this was mined outside the political boundaries of Ghana in Wangara and Bambuk. African rulers were able to influence areas of contact because of their wealth in gold.  SALT Salt was another major export of West African Countries to Europe and the Mediterranean. A popular international trade centre was Songhai (10th century).  TEXTILE The textile industry also thrived (as early as the 8th century) e.g. Cotton, silks, woollens and raffia NB The spread of Islam into the savannah influenced the growth in production of these textiles. Textiles were also exported to European markets due to contracts with Islamic merchants in the 9th and 10th centuries. At the end of the 1500’s (16th century), Timbuktu – Mali was known for its textiles technology, grain, cattle and vegetables. NB By the 1300’s Mali traders were in contact with E/African traders who linked them to Indian, Chinese and Persian markets. Also West Africa had in circulation cowry shells that was used as money for well over 200 years. Conclusion West Africa was an important participant in international trade prior to the arrival of the Portuguese and prior to the transatlantic trade in humans. Assignment    What commodities apart from gold and slaves were traded? Who traded these? When and where? 2
  3. 3. Atlantic Trade Period Ghana, Mali and Songhai were powerful states in Africa before the arrival of the Europeans and contact in the 15th century. All had prosperous economies and trading contact with Europe via the Mediterranean. The economic development of West Africa prior to the advent of the transatlantic slave trade was not very different from Europe’s. The trade in enslaved persons was a minor activity in the empires and was not a significant source of wealth for rulers of Ghana e.g. The Soninke. Sixty years after the arrival of the Europeans on the coast of Ghana, the trading of slaves began to surpass gold as West Africa’s most important export to European traders. In the Gold Coast, gold continued to compete with humans as a means of foreign exchange for African traders buying European goods. In the Trans-Saharan Caravan trade, the buying and selling of gold went hand-in-hand with the buying and selling of enslaved people. NB The expansion of slavery and slave trading was as a result of the attack upon Ghana by the Almoravid Muslims in 1042, the fall of the capital at Kumbi Saheh (1076 – 77) and the final collapse of the empire in 1203. In Mali, slave trading was not a major source of wealth for the Mali rulers, whose focus was on the expansion of their territory. This was also similar in Songhai where the sale of slaves was not an important goal. Reason for the change from the trade in gold to slaves In traditional slavery, slaves moved in homes and became a part of the family. They had rights, cultural identity and freedom and this position was temporary. Slaves were also used to form large slave armies to protect empires (Islamic kings Mali and Songhai) or to form gold mining gangs (Benin). Enslaved labour was used in all areas where agriculture grew and long-distance trade was encouraged. The tradition of the trade in African labour was changed in the early 1400’s when Arabs and Europeans bought widely in slave markets. Political rulers (elites) in West Africa redirected their attention / interest to the transatlantic slave trade because of their desire to acquire exotic goods (luxury items), although historians have argued that the items traded between West Africans and Europeans were not considered to be vital goods that the Africans themselves were unable to produce. The need to exchange Africans for European goods was rather about greed than meeting basic needs. Especially since many parts of West Africa were iron and textile producers and traders. e.g. Senegambia local iron and copper industry. Additionally, the spread of Islam in Africa influenced the growth of the trade in humans. NB These goods (African) were of a better quality than those being traded with the Europeans. 3
  4. 4. The disintegration of large nation states e.g. Ghana, Mali and Songhai and the expansion of small states in Africa contributed to the expansion of slavery as a system / mode to accumulate wealth during the 15th and 16th centuries. In other words, this new system to accumulate wealth via the slave trade was due to the breakdown of large nation states and the expansion of small states in Africa. The demand for slave labour by Europeans was supplied / met by the African elites who provided captives as long as the prices were attractive. The sale of humans (Africans) was merely seen as the sale of a commodity rather than an act of hatred by African rulers. High prices guaranteed availability. Muslim merchants negotiated the sale of prisoners that they captured in their raiding missions. They were reliable suppliers. Central Africa e.g. Angola region was also a main source for slaves by the mid 1400’s. This was due to non-stop political and military conflict. Large number of captives were taken and sold in the trade. By the end of the 1500’s, the Portuguese had a major slave-trading network in Angola. NB The course and nature of slavery in Africa was being changed by new economic forces. Conclusion At the arrival of the Portuguese in the 1440’s the process of extensive slave trading was already in full operation. From as early as 1456, treaties of peace and commerce were being negotiated with African rulers on the coast. The cooperation of African rulers allowed the Portuguese and other European groups to take advantage of the already well-established commercial economy in Africa. The Transatlantic trade merely “created a wider context” for the trade in Africa. 4
  5. 5. Goods Traded Items Traded Areas Traded Groups / Traders Year Horses for slaves Africans Europeans Early 16th century Portuguese 1440’s Gum Middle Niger and the River Senegal Europe, Mediterranean, Atlantic Islands of Madeira, Canaries, Cape Verde, Azores, Guinea Senegal 1400’s Ivory Mozambique Asians Indians Portuguese Camwood Salt, hides, copper, cotton, wools Linen Ebony Sierra Leone Senegambia Africans Salt Musk Horses, silk, silver, salt Cloth, Blanquets, Wheat Saddles, Bracelets Benin Timbuktu Benin Ghana North Africa, Sudan Tunisia, Cyrenaica Europe England Dutch France Germany Wangara Portuguese Africans Portuguese 5
  6. 6. The Goods in the Triangular Trade Capitalism and Slavery Items Year Sent to From For Wool 1680 Holland, Hamburg, East Pennsylvania Manchester, England Linen Cotton 1700’s Africa England Manchester W.I. Rum 1700’s England W.I. Mettalurgic items e.g chains, fetters, padlocks Iron Bars Guns Brass, copper and lead Africa 1690’s 1800 1900 Before 1660 Palm Oil Africa Birmingham, London Africa, WI Birmingham th Ivory 17 & 18th century Indian, cloth, beads Cotton, cloth India (Portuguese) East /West Africa Early 1600’s Africa India Slaves Sources: Crowder, Michael. Colonial West Africa: Collected Essays. ‘West Africa and the Europeans: Five hundred years of Direct Contact (1971). Hart, Richard. From Occupation to Independence. Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Williams, Eric. Capitalism & Slavery (1994). London: University of NC Press. Shepherd, Verene & Hilary Beckles. Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic World. Marsha McIntyre I. C. H. S. 09/10 Handout # 2 6

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