When you think of the African slave trade, do you realize that over 10 million people were removed from that continent in less than 500 years? Some scholars believe it may be as large a number as 20 million.1 I would like to pose a few questions and attempt to answer them in this collection of writings and opinions. The evidence and historical documents will show some of the economic and social impacts the Slave Trade had on the African continent.
The first thing that needs to be established is just how many slaves were brought to the Americas. This has proven to be quite difficult at best. There have been many scholars debate just this subject alone. As you will see, many well known scholars have problems justifying their own estimations or guesses.
A quick study of Philip D. Curtin’s work: From Guesses to Calculations: Shows his writings are a compilation of bits-n-pieces of information from previously thought of unimportant publishing’s. His sole purpose was to try to determine a more accurate account of the number of people brought over from what parts of Africa and to what final location. He goes on to make it clear his findings should not be construed as being accurate or to be relied upon with any degree of certainty: but rather an accuracy range of about 20% approximations.
“It should also be understood that some estimates would not even reach that standard of accuracy. They are given as the most probable figures at the present state of knowledge. These considerations have made it convenient to round out most quantities to the nearest one hundred, including data taken from other authors...”
By the following chart you can see clearly the late eighteenth century was the apex of the slave trade, as described by Philip Curtin. You can clearly see that over 60% of all slaves delivered to the New World were brought over between 1721-1820. Eighty per cent of the total were landed during a century and a half, 1701-1850. 2 I suppose one could find a similar spike in the sugar trade of the Americas, as well as the Rum exports from the colonies and the firearm exports from Europe.
A variety of Opinions
One conclusion that might be drawn is that, in reducing the estimated total export of slaves from about twenty million to about ten million, the harm to African societies is also reduced by half. This is obvious nonsense.
Phillip D. Curtin
No global estimate of the slave trade, or of any “underdevelopment” or “underpopulation” it may have caused [is] possible to believe or advocate any particular set or range of figures becomes and act of faith rather than an epistemologically sound decision.
Many specialists believe that Curtin’s...