The African Slave Trade: Precolonial History, 1450-1850

The African Slave Trade: Precolonial History, 1450-1850

The African Slave Trade: Precolonial History, 1450-1850

The African Slave Trade: Precolonial History, 1450-1850

Excerpt

Nearly five hundred years have passed since Europe and Africa -- continental Africa, the land of the blacks -- first made acquaintance and began their trading intercourse.

After this early discovery of one another, Africans and Europeans knew four centuries of varied friendship and hostility, good and evil, profit and loss; and the fortunes of Africa and Europe, through all these years, were caught and woven ever more tightly together. Then came the onset of European conquest and now, in our own day, an end to the colonial system and the rise of independent Africa. And so the cycle is rounded and complete. The relations of equality and self-respect that were known in the early years of this long connection are reforged or are once again in the making.

But why did history take this course? Why was European conquest so much delayed; and why, after that delay and the often lengthy experience of one another, did so large a part of Africa collapse into rapid and unrelieved subjection to Europe? We know that the Spanish occupied Central America; the Portuguese seized Brazil; the French and British spread across the seaboard lands of North America; and all of them flew conquering flags in the Eastern world. Yet Africa, except for small footholds here and there, remained inviolate until the nineteenth century. Then, almost from one decade to the next, wide areas of Africa became colonies of Europe.

One can ask the question in other ways. Why did Europe tremendously expand and grow in power and wealth, while Africa failed to do the same? How was it that early European captains . . .

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