The African Slave Trade existed for a number of years in Africa and Europe before it reached the shores of North and South America. There are a number of reasons why the colonization along the Atlantic helped to contribute to the slave trade and increase the amount of slaves in the world. This paper will discuss those reasons.
The most obvious reason was because of the vast amount of human resources needed to harvest the virgin fields of the Americas. The fields were not planted and harvested in the methods utilized by the Europeans. When the Europeans arrived in the Americas in 1492, they noticed a vast amount of potential wealth sitting in these lands. However, they required human hands to harvest the wealth. Sugar was particularly labor intensive to harvest, but it would bring in significant wealth (Berlin, 2015). The most obvious answer to this question were the Native Americans and other indigenous peoples found in the region. Unfortunately, these individuals lacked immunity to the European diseases, such as smallpox. They were naturally vulnerable to the diseases and fell victim to them. It is estimated that ninety percent of Native Americans died from smallpox, measles, influenza and other viral diseases to which they had no native immunity (PBS, 2015). Sadly, the diseases were often given to the Native Americans intentionally in an act of germ warfare.
As the population of Native Americans was decimated, the conquistadors and colonialists were forced to find other means of cheap human labor. As a result of this, the importation of African slaves began in large numbers. While sugar was a common crop in the Caribbean, cotton and tobacco were also crops that were labor intensive and required cheap human labor. During the years of the international slave trade, it is estimated that 12.5 million Africans were imported to the Americas as slaves (Gates, 2014).
- Berlin, I. (2015). The discovery of the Americas and the transatlantic slave trade. Retrieved from: https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/imperial-rivalries/essays/discovery-americas-and-transatlantic-slave-trade
- Gates, H. (2014, January). How many slaves landed in the U.S.? Retrieved from: http://www.theroot.com/articles/history/2012/10/how_many_slaves_came_to_america_fact_vs_fiction.html
- PBS. (2015). Guns, germs and steel. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/gunsgermssteel/variables/smallpox.html