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HIST311: The Age of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1500-1900

Unit 3: Early Slaving Voyages   The earliest European slaving voyages began in the first part of the 16th century. Spanish and Portuguese traders purchased slaves from Upper Guinea, the Cape Verde Islands, and the Bight of Biafra, before embarking to New World destinations. During this time, most African slaves were sold in the Spanish Caribbean, with the gold mines on Hispaniola serving as a major buyer. A few decades later, Cartagena emerged as a major slave trading port on the Spanish American mainland. In the latter 1500s, the slave trade increased markedly because of the expansion of sugar production in Brazil; slaves bound for Brazil accounted for 40 percent of the slave traffic and Brazil supplied nearly all of the sugar consumed in Europe. The English and Dutch also became involved in the slave trade in the 1560s. John Hawkins, an English privateer, hijacked a Portuguese slave ship and sold the slaves on Hispaniola in 1563. Later, Hawkins made other voyages to Africa and the West Indies supplied with Queen Elizabeth I’s ships and funded by wealthy English investors.

*Beginning in the 1640s, the Atlantic slave trade began to change dramatically for many reasons. The plantation sugar complex had spread throughout much of the Caribbean, fueling the demand for African slaves. Sugar production continued to increase in Brazil and gold discoveries there also spurred the need for enslaved labor. Meanwhile, in Europe, sugar consumption continued to rise. By 1690, 30,000 Africans were being brought to New World destinations through the Atlantic slave trade each year.

The Atlantic slave trade reached its height in the 18th century. English, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, and French traders all competed for African slaves in the 1700s. The Portuguese and the English dominated the trade and often sold their human chattel to foreign buyers. Moreover, much of the trade was buoyed by European protectionist economic policies and the prohibition of commercial monopolies. By 1750, the Atlantic slave trade had expanded exponentially; over 67,000 Africans were taken to the Americas per year.

In this unit, we will study the earliest slave voyages from Africa to the Spanish Caribbean and the Spanish mainland. We will also examine how the expansion of the sugar plantation regime in Brazil and the involvement of English and Dutch traders affected the Atlantic slave trade.*

Unit 3 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take you approximately 4.25 hours.

☐    Subunit 3.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 3.2: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 3.3: 1.75 hours

Unit3 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - identify and describe the early slaving voyages by Portuguese and Spanish; - describe and assess the expansion of the plantation system and its impact on the Atlantic slave trade; and - evaluate how and why the Dutch and English inserted themselves into the Atlantic slave trade at the end of the 16th century. 

3.1 The Portuguese and Spanish   - Reading: Nativeweb: Pope Nicholas V’s “Romanus Pontifex”

Link: Nativeweb: Pope Nicholas V’s [“Romanus
Pontifex”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/HIST311-3.1-The-Bull-Romanus-Pontifex.pdf)
(PDF)  
    
 Instructions: Read this text, paying special attention to the third
paragraph. In this third paragraph, the Pope authorizes African
slave trade. This English translation of Pope’s Nicholas V’s papal
bull “Romanus Pontifex” was first published in *European Treaties
Bearing on the History of the United States and Its Dependencies to
1648,* by Frances Gardiner Davenport (ed.), Carnegie Institution of
Washington (1917).


 Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.  
    
 Terms of Use: This resource has been dedicated to the Public Domain
under a [Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication 1.0
Universal](http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/). 

3.1.1 Iberian Roots of the Slave Trade   Note: Note that this topic is also covered in “Africans in Spanish America” in subunit 5.3.1.

  • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Making of the Atlantic World” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Making of the Atlantic World” (PDF)

    Instructions: Download the PDF, and read this text for an overview of Africans in the Atlantic World. As you read, consider the following questions: What various roles did Africans play in the Atlantic system? What conditions occasioned Africans to be captured and transported to Spanish America?

    Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to The Saylor Foundation. 

3.1.2 Early Slaving Routes   - Reading: Anti-Slavery International’s Breaking the Silence: Slave Routes: “Spain” and “Portugal” Link: Anti-Slavery International’s Breaking the Silence“Slave Routes: Spain” (PDF) and “Slave Routes: Portugal” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read both articles, which will offer you a brief but detailed overview of the various routes and regions that comprised the Iberian slave trade network.

 Reading these articles should take approximately 30 minutes.  
    
 Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted by The Saylor
Foundation with permission from Anti-Slavery International. The
original version can be
viewed [here](http://old.antislavery.org/breakingthesilence/slave_routes/slave_routes_spain.shtml) (HTML)
and [here](http://old.antislavery.org/breakingthesilence/slave_routes/slave_routes_portugal.shtml) (HTML).
Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be
reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the
copyright holder. 

3.1.3 Iberian Critiques of the Slave Trade   - Reading: HistoryScoop: Fray Tomas de Mercado’s “A Critique of the Slave Trade”

Link: HistoryScoop: Fray Tomas de Mercado’s [“A Critique of the
Slave
Trade”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/HIST311-3.1.3-A-Spanish-Priests-Critique-of-the-Slave-Trade.pdf)
(PDF)  
    
 Instructions: Read this excerpt, and answer the questions provided.
In this 1587 document, a Spanish cleric proclaims that “a thousand
acts of robbery and violence are committed in the course of
bartering and carrying off Negroes” in the slave trade. As European
powers were becoming increasingly involved in buying and selling
Africans, Mercado dismisses the trade as the product of robbery,
deception, and violence.


 Reading this article and answering the questions should take
approximately 15 minutes.  
    
 Terms of Use: This resource has been dedicated to the Public Domain
under a [Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication 1.0
Universal](http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/%20).  

3.2 The Dutch   3.2.1 The Dutch West India Company   - Reading: Anti-Slavery International’s Breaking the Silence: “Slave Routes: The Netherlands” Link: Anti-Slavery International’s Breaking the Silence: “Slave Routes: The Netherlands” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read this article to get a sense of Holland’s entrance into the Atlantic slave trade network and its competition with other slave trading nations, particularly Portugal. Note that this reading covers the topics outlined in subunits 3.2.1 and 3.2.2.

 Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.  
    
 Terms of Use: This resource has been reprinted by The Saylor
Foundation with permission from Anti-Slavery International. Please
note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced
in any capacity without the explicit permission from the copyright
holder. 
  • Web Media: YouTube: Perry Leenhouts’s “Going Dutch: The Netherlands’ Slave Trade”

    Link: YouTube: Perry Leenhouts’s “Going Dutch: The Netherlands’ Slave Trade” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch the video for an introduction to Dutch involvement in the Atlantic slave trade.

    Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.2.2 Slaving Routes   Note: This topic is covered by the reading titled “Slave Routes”: “The Netherlands” assigned below subunit 3.2.1.

3.3 The English   3.3.1 Early Involvement in the Trade   - Reading: The National Archives: “Britain and the Trade” and “Adventurers and Slavers”

Link: The National Archives: [“Britain and the
Trade”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/HIST311-3.3.1-Britain-and-the-Trade.pdf)
(PDF) and [“Adventurers and
Slavers”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/HIST311-3.3.1-Adventurers-and-Slavers.pdf)
(PDF)  

 Britain and the Trade also available in:[  

iBook](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/HIST311-3.3.1-Britain-and-the-Trade-The-National-Archives.epub)  
    
 Instructions: Read this article, which includes transcripts of
primary source documents. This material will give you a good
overview of Britain’s early forays into the slave trade.


 Reading these articles should take approximately 1 hour.  
    
 Terms of Use: This resource been reposted with permission for
educational, noncommercial use by The National Archives. It can be
viewed in its original form
[here](http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/blackhistory/africa_caribbean/britain_trade.htm) (HTML)
and
[here](http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/blackhistory/early_times/adventurers.htm) (HTML).
Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be
reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission  from the
copyright holder. 

3.3.2 Slaving and Empire   - Reading: Anti-Slavery International’s Breaking the Silence: “Slave Routes: United Kingdom” Link: Anti-Slavery International’s Breaking the Silence: “Slave Routes: United Kingdom” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the article to get an overview of the relationship between the British Empire and the slave trade. As you read, consider the following questions: When and how did Britain become involved in the Atlantic slave trade? In what ways did the profits of the slave trade transform the life of people in Britain? What role did the Royal African Company play in the slave trade and who were shareholders in the company? What is the link between banking houses and the slave trade? Describe the industries, companies, and prominent individuals in Greenwich and how some perpetuated and others resisted the slave trade. What was the Society of Merchant Venturers of the City of Bristol? This society and its members engaged in what type of activities? Who were Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce? Why were these men well-known? Describe how each earned his reputation. How many of Liverpool’s banks were owned by slave traders in 1750? What is the Industrial Revolution? In what ways did the slave trade contribute to Britain becoming a leader of the Industrial Revolution? When did Britain abolish slavery?

 Reading this article and answering the questions above should take
approximately 45 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted by The Saylor
Foundation with permission from Anti-Slavery International. The
original version can be
found [here](http://old.antislavery.org/breakingthesilence/slave_routes/slave_routes_unitedkingdom.shtml).
Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be
reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the
copyright holder.
  • Web Media: BBC Radio 4’s “Slavery and Empire” Link: BBC Radio 4’s “Slavery and Empire” (RealMedia Player)
     
    Instructions: Listen to this radio segment. The material will give you a good sense of how slavery has been interwoven with Britain’s imperial past.

    Listening to this segment should take approximately 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.