by Alexandra in WMass
Mon Jun 19th, 2006 at 08:42:54 AM EST
On the occasion of France's first national day to remember the slave trade, slavery and its abolition I posted a short diary and promised a more detailed story on Bordeaux and its role in the slave trade. The result is a three part series on the topic:
Each diary is a combination of text, images and quotes from historians and historical texts. I'm including links (updated as I post the diaries) to the main sections since you may want to skip to those that seem most interesting to you. Let us know what you found most interesting, what additional stories you have and what you think students should learn in school.
Follow me below the fold for part I and links to each part as they are put online....
***Back from the front page ~ whataboutbob
A short overview:
Between 1492 and 1870, approximately eleven million [15-18 million by other estimates
] black slaves were carried from Africa to the Americas. They were taken to work on sugar, coffee, cocoa, and cotton plantations, in gold and silver mines, in rice fields, or in houses as servants. The shippers were, in order of scale, the Portuguese (and Brazilians), the English, the French, the Spaniards, the Dutch and the North Americans. [To date details of some 27,000 slave voyages have been inventoried]. At the height of the traffic, in the1780s, the English and French were each carrying nearly forty thousand slaves a year. These captives were usually procured by barter with African monarchs or merchants who were established on the estuaries of nearly all the great African rivers that flow into the Atlantic. The goods exchanged for slaves were textiles, copper or iron bars, guns, drink (wine, brandy, and rum), and a vast number of miscellaneous objects such as beads, hats, shaving bowls and knives. Hundreds of thousands of Africans participated in the trade but especially the kings in Ashanti, Dahomey, Benin, Loango, Congo and Angola. Mozambique and Madagascar also contributed their thousands of prisoners to the European boats. Slavery in Africa resulted from captivity in war, from kidnappings or raids on neighbors, or sometimes from judicial decisions after crimes.
Slavery made England rich, as it made Spain and Portugal rich before her; slavery to satisfy the needs of France's Caribbean possessions made France rich and was still important enough commercially in the nineteenth century to make Napoleon sacrifice a French army to put down the [ultimately successful] slave revolt in what is now Haiti.
( source: Hugh Thomas The Slave Trade: The Story Of The Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440 - 1870)
(click the picture to enlarge)
1823 engraving of the French slaving vessel Vigilante and the leg and arm shackles probably used onboard.
Source and additional information:The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas:A Visual Record
UNESCO map of the slave trade. Click here for the more detailed and very informative pdf version
Early worldviews of Africa:
In 1380 a new, unique and beautifully illustrated World Atlas was added to France's King Charles V`s royal library. This Catalan Atlas made between 1375 and 1380 is attributed to the best Majorcan cartographer of the time, Abraham Cresques. It provides a glimpse of Europe's knowledge of the rest of the world.
Catalan Atlas (facsimile with color enhanced click on the map for a larger version - original here)
[...] the narratives of contemporary travelers were extensively used by Cresques in Africa. Here the special feature of interest on the Catalan Atlas is the inscription and picture of the vessel recording the departure of the Catalan, Jacome Ferrer, on a voyage to the 'river of gold' southwest of the new Finisterre of Bojador in 1346. This refers to the northwest coast of Africa which extends beyond Cape Bojador to a point just north of the Rio d'Oro. Here unfortunately the map ends [...] But in the allotted space the map does show some knowledge by Cresques of the gold producing region of the middle Nile and of the regional name Ginuia [Guinea], the Kingdom of Melli, and stages on the routes from Morocco to the Niger, i.e., Sigilmessa, Tebelt, Tagaza, and Tenbuch [Timbuktu] are marked. Also its treatment of the Atlantic islands: the Azores, Canary, and Madeira groups, is more complete than any representation of earlier times. (Source: Jim Siebold's monographs)
Detail of the West African coast seen in the Catalan Atlas. click on the map for a larger version.
Next to the city of Timbuktu is an illustration of Mansa (Emperor) Moussa on the throw of the Mali Empire holding a gold nugget. As the map explains "This Moorish ruler is named Musse Melly [in fact Mansa Moussa], lord of the negroes of Guinea, This king is the richest and most distinguished ruler of this whole region on account of the great quality of gold that is found in his land." European's interest in exploring Africa was only heightened by accounts of this gold.
The search for gold:
The history of the European seaborne slave trade with Africa goes back 50 years prior to Columbus' initial voyage to the Americas. [...] The first Europeans to come to Africa's West Coast to trade were funded by Prince Henry
[1394-1460], the famous Portuguese patron, who hoped to bring riches to Portugal. [...]
In 1441, for the first time, Portuguese sailors obtained gold dust from traders on the western coast of Africa. The following year, Portuguese explorers returned from Africa with more gold dust and another cargo: ten Africans.
Forty years after that first human cargo travelled to Portugal, Portuguese sailors gained permission from a local African leader to build a trading outpost and storehouse on Africa's Guinea coast. (Source: PBS series)
Elmina, formerly Edina, took its name from the Portuguese word `Al Mina' meaning `the mine'.
It was given to this town because of its richness in gold. The town is situated along the Coast of the central region of Ghana, about 12 km west of Cape Coast. [...] In 1482, the desire for more gold and to spread Christianity, led Portuguese Don Diego D'Azambuja to gather about 200 soldiers, masons, carpenters and other artisans to build St George's Castle. This was meant to serve as a trading post, which would protect trade and traders from possible attacks by other European states and local people. The castle was taken over by the Dutch in 1637, who kept control for 274 years. The castle was used to `store' slaves, along with ivory and gold, while they waited for slave ships to arrive and collect them. It is estimated that at least one thousand men and women were held in the dungeons at any one time.
(Source: UNESCO Breaking the Silence Learning about the Transatlantic Slave Trade web site Ghana page).
Elmina was one of many forts set up by Europeans on the African coast in the years to follow. Just in what is now Ghana 28 coastal forts were build, representing every major slave trading county. In 1705 William De La Palma, Director of the Dutch West India Co. wrote "Concerning the trade on this Coast, we notified your Highness that nowadays the natives no longer occupy themselves with the search for gold, but rather make war on each other in order to furnish slaves. . . The Gold Coast has changed into a complete Slave Coast." Despite these early beginnings it's important to note that "85% of all slaves were transported to the new world after 1700. In statistical terms, the first 250 years of the slave trade were merely a prelude to the enormous expansion of the eighteenth century"(Source: The Diligent: A Voyage Through the Worlds of the Slave Trade by Robert Harms).
The French involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade is thought to have begun with small traders in the 1540s bringing enslaved Africans to the Spanish colonies, but increased dramatically with the development of France's own colonies in Saint Domingue (today's Haiti), Martinique, and Guadeloupe in the 1660s through to the 1680s. [...] In an 80 year period in the 18th century 1.25 million slaves were taken from Africa by over 3000 French ships, and sold largely in the Caribbean islands. By 1789 [year of the French revolution] 30-50% of all French trade was with its colonies, with 12% of the French workforce making a living in trades connected with slavery. Source: UNESCO Breaking the Silence Learning about the Transatlantic Slave Trade
web site France page
From 1643 to 1850 a total of 4220 French slave trading expeditions, departing from at least 17 different French ports have been identified. Nantes was by far the largest and accounts for 41% of expeditions followed by Bordeaux, La Rochelle and Le Havre with about 11% each. Bordeaux is the second largest French port with approximately 500 expeditions in total. An estimated 150,000 Africans were deported by Bordeaux ships towards France's colonies in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean, that's close to two thirds of the city's current day inhabitants. Nevertheless, Bordeaux remains a minor slave trade port when compared to the British goliath of Liverpool and its 5,700 slave ships expeditions. Bordeaux's slave trade represents about 4.4% of the British trade and 8.4% of Liverpool's. (source: Historians Eric Saugera and Jean Mettas)