Volume of Transatlantic Slave Trade by Embarkation Region (in Thousands) 1519–1700 The vast bulk of individuals enslaved in the New World originated in West Central Africa. Prior to 1519, all Africans transported over the Atlantic landed in Old World ports, namely those in Europe and the offshore Atlantic islands. However, when Portugal and Spain expanded their trading networks, they too began transporting Africans to their new colonies.
By 1650, almost half of all enslaved people in North America had been born in Africa. The majority of these were likely brought over before the establishment of the slave trade in England in 1621, since after that time importations into the British colony stopped entirely. Slaves captured in Africa and taken to Spanish South America would have been released upon arrival in the New World.
In addition to imports from Africa, there was also a small but significant number of American slaves. In total, about 5% of all slaves imported to the New World were born in the Americas. These children were usually bought by farmers or plantation owners who then sold them down the road. There are very few records of these births and deaths because most families used indentured servants instead.
The majority of slaves came from regions between West Africa and South America, with the largest influx coming from Benin, Nigeria. Using data on population sizes for each region of origin, we can estimate that around 2.5 million Africans were enslaved across the Atlantic over the course of three centuries.
The vast bulk of individuals enslaved in the New World originated in West Central Africa. But in that year, the Portuguese royal commission charged with investigating reports of demons on ships found that many of those accused were actually slaves being shipped to Brazil.
From about 1550 to 1670, Europeans enslaved Africans for trade within their colonies. The English established trading posts on the Gold Coast (now part of Ghana) and along the African coast, while French traders moved inland to Burkina Faso and Mali.
In the 17th century, Dutch traders carried out the first large-scale slave trades from Africa to the Americas, supplying sugar plantations in the Caribbean and South America with labor. By the 18th century, slavery had been abolished in most of the European countries, including Portugal, Spain, and France. In order to meet the demand for labor in the growing number of plantations in the Caribbean, more than 200,000 Africans were imported by European merchants between 1650 and 1820.
After the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815, British manufacturers wanted a source of cheap labor closer to home so they started importing slaves from Africa again.
The great majority of persons enslaved and transported in the transatlantic slave trade were people from Central and West Africa who had been sold to Western European slave traffickers by other West Africans or half-European "merchant princes" (with a small number being captured directly by the slave traders in Liberia). Less than 5% of all slaves came from Eastern Europe.
In total, an estimated 3.5 million people were enslaved in the New World between 1450 and 1866. Almost half of them (1.6 million) were transported across the Atlantic in ships' holds along with cotton, sugar, and other goods that were traded for African commodities such as gum, kola nuts, ivory, and gold. The remaining 2.0 million Africans were enslaved within the Americas, mainly in the southern states of America but also in northern Mexico and South America.
Enslaved people were taken to the New World on three major routes. The first route led from west to east across North Africa. The second route went from south to north through the Middle East and India. The third route started in southeastern Asia and traveled overland through Persia, Afghanistan, and into the Indian subcontinent. From there, they would follow the coast of India or take one of the many inland waterways to China.
Historians John Thornton and Linda Heywood of Boston University estimate that over 90 percent of Africans seized and later sold as slaves to the New World in the Atlantic slave trade were enslaved by other Africans who sold them to European sailors. Smaller numbers were enslaved by Arabs, Indians, and Europeans.
In Africa, the people enslaved for export to the Americas were typically captured during wars or raids, when entire communities would be forced into slavery. The captives would usually be taken to ports where they would be sold to the highest bidder. Sometimes tribes or nations would work out agreements to share revenue from their exports; often, however, there were no restrictions on how the buyers used their new slaves.
The number of Africans enslaved and shipped to the New World is unknown, but it must have been a large number, given that it took only one ship to contain 50 slaves back then. Some historians have estimated that up to 10 million Africans may have been enslaved during this time. Others claim that the figure is lower and that not more than 3 to 4 million may have been transported across the ocean. Still others put the number at 11 to 12 million.
In conclusion, blacks were kidnapped off the streets of African cities by slave traders and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to be sold as slaves. The trade lasted for hundreds of years until it was abolished by countries around the world.
The Portuguese, British, Spanish, French, Dutch, and Danish were the leading Atlantic slave-trading nations, in order of trade volume. Several had set up colonies on the African coast, where they bought slaves from local African chiefs.
In total, these European nations shipped between 100,000 and 110,000 slaves to the Americas. Brazil alone imported between 20,000 and 25,000 slaves per year during the 17th century.
After the 1650s, when the European slave trade was prohibited by international agreement, American slavery gradually replaced the European version as the main source of labour for the growing economy. In 1860, the last year for which data is available, America's population was 31 million people, with about 5 million living in the South. This means that there were about 160 slaves for every 100 Americans.
In the southern states of the United States, slavery was an important part of the economy until the mid-19th century. It provided many jobs for white farmers who owned no land themselves. And it played a major role in the development of the country - through its use as an economic engine unrivaled in power after Britain and France.
But slavery also had very negative effects.