The 16th century marks a historical beginning of trade and commerce among Europe, Africa, the Americas (including the Caribbean) – the transatlantic slave trade. So that we have a clear and concise concept of slave trade and the impact on an economy, we must hold a clear and concise understanding of the term. Slave trade is described as the “business or process of procuring, transporting, and selling slaves, especially black Africans to the New World prior to the mid-19th century.” The trading of slaves would become one of the world’s largest industries that would last for nearly four centuries and gave rise to a global economy. The transatlantic trading business had lasting effects that we still witness today.
The economy of slave trading and European colonization was partly motivated by religion. Many brought Christianity to the continent of Africa. And, colonizers from Europe would use religion to influence their beliefs upon natives in African countries during the slave trading regime in an attempt to gain laborers for The New World. Although the role of Islam is not particularly discussed at height during this time, Islam also played a role in the institutionalization of slave trading in Saharan Africa: “The Arab-controlled Trans-Saharan slave trade helped to institutionalise slave trading on the continent.” However, European Christians seized on such an opportunity when they noticed “caravans loaded with Africans en-route to the Middle East. Others arriving much later in West Africa observed slavery in African societies, leading them to assume that African enslavement was intrinsic to the continent.” The inception of slavery would then begin in the 1500s and last until the 19th century. During this time slaves would produce the world’s largest cash crops: cotton, sugar, tobacco, molasses, cacao and rum.
From the 17th century, Quakers had long voiced their belief on the idea of slavery. They believed that all people were “equal in the sight of God” and the enslavement of people was wrong. Their opinion was complete opposite of a more popular belief where “the Bible was not only regarded as infallible, it was also their primary reference tool and those looking for answers to explain differences in ethnicity, culture, and slavery.” There was no thought of bad morality on the subject of slavery because it was justified within the Bible. It would later become illegal.
It was not until the beginning of the 1800s, after centuries of slave trading throughout Europe, Africa and the Americas, this trading business had come to a complete halt. The Slave Trade Act was passed by United Kingdom Parliament on March 25th, 1807. The Act simply abolished slavery but not necessarily freed those under slave ownership. The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 had spawned from the protests of Quakers and Evangelical English Protestants early on. Fortunately, the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 of the House of Commons abolished slavery throughout all of British empires allowing freedom rights for many who were enslaved.
Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. (1985) New York: Penguin.