TRANS-ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE 1450-1750
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was the most abominable and cruel from of slavery, but it was neither the first nor the only slave trade. Slavery was a recognized institution around the world long before the Egyptians enslaved the Jews. Arabs raided European countries and captured white slaves which they sold in Africa. By the 18th century, a large part of the European population were descendants of serfs and slaves. In other words, slavery was not just about the black people who endured the Middle Passage. It was a part of human history.
Worldwide, domestic slavery was the most common form of enslavement. Rich men had slaves in their households, and, in some societies, the number of slaves determined his social status. In West Africa, severe forms of slavery existed. The slaves were usually men and women captured in war whose labor led to surplus production and whose numbers amplified the armies of imperial expansion. In most parts, slaves born within the master's household were better treated than war captives or trade slaves--often as members of the family. Slaves could occasionally rise to positions of importance or buy their own freedom. Nonetheless, a master had ultimate power over his slave. If a master chose to kill a slave, he could do so without question. The disgrace which cloaks the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is the inhumanity of treatment the slaves received. The ultimate degradation and dehumanization of slaves singularly characteristic of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was the reduction of human beings to mere commodities and labor units. The minimum amount of food, clothing, and shelter was given to those slaves who survived the Middle Passage, and the maximum amount of work was expected of them.