The Atlantic slave trade or The Atlantic slave trade or transatlantic slave trade took place across the Atlantic Ocean from the 15th through 19th centuries
The Atlantic slave trade or The Atlantic slave trade or transatlantic slave trade took place across the Atlantic Ocean from the 15th through 19th centuries. The vast majority of those who were enslaved and transported to the New World, mainly on the triangular trade route and its Middle Passage, were West Africans from the central and western parts of the continent who had been sold by other western Africans to western European slave traders, with a small minority being captured directly by the slave traders in coastal raids, and brought to the Americas.
The South Atlantic and Caribbean economic system centered on producing commodity crops, making goods and clothing to sell in Europe, and increasing the numbers of African slaves brought to the New World. This was crucial to those western European countries which, in the late 17th and 18th centuries, were vying with each other to create overseas empires. The Portuguese were the first to engage in the New World slave trade in the 16th century. Between 1418 and the 1470s, the Portuguese launched a series of exploratory expeditions that remapped the oceans south of Portugal, charting new territories that one explorer described as "oceans where none have ever sailed before."
In 1526, the Portuguese completed the first transatlantic slave voyage from Africa to the Americas, and other countries soon followed. Shipowners regarded the slaves as cargo to be transported to the Americas as quickly and cheaply as possible, there to be sold to labour in coffee, tobacco, cocoa, sugar and cotton plantations, gold and silver mines, rice fields, construction industry, cutting timber for ships, in skilled labour, and as domestic servants. The first Africans imported to the English colonies were classified as "indentured servants", like workers coming from England, and also as "apprentices for life". By the middle of the 17th century, slavery had hardened as a racial caste; they and their offspring were legally the property of their owners, and children born to slave mothers were slaves. As property, the people were considered merchandise or units of labour, and were sold at markets with other goods and services.
The major Atlantic slave trading nations, ordered by trade volume, were: the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Spanish, and the Dutch Empire
Slaves were kept in a factory while awaiting shipment
The major Atlantic slave trading nations, ordered by trade volume, were: the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Spanish, and the Dutch Empire. Several had established outposts on the African coast where they purchased slaves from local African leaders. These slaves were managed by a factor who was established on or near the coast to expedite the shipping of slaves to the New World. Slaves were kept in a factory while awaiting shipment. Current estimates are that about 12 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic, although the number purchased by the traders is considerably higher. Near the beginning of the nineteenth century, governments in the Atlantic World acted to ban the trade, although illegal smuggling still occurred. In the early twenty-first century, several governments issued apologies for the transatlantic slave trade