Introduction by Steven Mintz
|Digital History ID 444|
Why was Africa so vulnerable to the slave trade? The answer lies first and foremost in West and Central Africa's political fragmentation. By the era of the slave trade, many of the region's larger political units -- such as the empires of Ghana and Mali -- had declined. The absence of strong, stable political units made it more difficult for smaller states to resist the slave trade.
In retrospect, it seems clear that the Atlantic slave trade depended upon a highly complex set of variables. Trade winds and ocean currents made it easy to sail from the western African coast to Brazil and the Caribbean. The importation of new food crops from the Americas -- such as cassava, squash, and peanuts -- stimulated population growth in Africa. Rapid population growth, in turn, made the slave trade possibl