Consequences of the slave trade

A group of men stand on a dock and examining a slave. In the background another group of slaves sit on the dock.
Slave's arriving on a dock are examined

The slave trade was huge – British ships transported 2.6 million slaves. It has been estimated overall, about 12 million Africans were captured to be taken to the Americas as slaves.

The majority of West African slaves were taken to South America. More than 55 per cent of slaves were taken to Brazil and Spanish South America. Brazil has the second largest black population in the world outside of Nigeria. Around 35 per cent of slaves were taken to the West Indies; less than five per cent were taken to North America. The death rate of the slaves was horrific.

  • Unknown millions died in Africa before they even made it to the ships.
  • It has been estimated that perhaps a fifth of the slaves died on the Middle Passage across the Atlantic.
  • In the Americas, the death rate amongst the slaves was also very high. Some historians suggest that the death rate in the 'seasoning camps' was up to 50%.

The African slaves took with them their agricultural knowledge, skilled craftsmanship, religion, traditions, cooking, clothes, music and dance. For example, West Africans slaves brought their rice variety and cultivation techniques to parts of the southern United States. Their expertise in growing rice in the hot and swampy conditions led to rice being one of the biggest cash crops in the entire country. Musical instruments such as the banjo, language such as Haitian Creole, food such as rice and peas and dances such as the Brazilian Samba and Capoeira were imported and influenced by West African slaves.

Slavery and white supremacy

Many historians think that white supremacist racism grew in the United States and Europe because the slave under-class in the West Indies and America were all sub-Saharan Africans.

The slave trade ruined Africa because of the constant wars and the loss of millions of strong young people. Africa fell behind the rest of the world. Some historians think that this is why Africa was colonised by European countries in the 19th century.

The African historian Joseph Inikori (1987) suggested that the slave trade allowed the Industrial Revolution to happen. He believes that British industry benefited by supplying the factory-made goods in exchange for slaves and that profits made in the slave trade provided money for investment in British industry.

After Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807, the 'West Africa Squadron' of the Royal Navy patrolled the Atlantic Ocean trying to stop the slave trade. The British also signed anti-slavery treaties with many African rulers.