Slavery in Africa

Slavery in Africa

Slavery is viewed as an ancient and universal institution and thus it can be found in a diversity of forms throughout Africa. During the period of the Atlantic world, slavery served multiple roles within Africa and provided a foundation for the transatlantic slave trade in that Europeans found slaves for sale within Africa. In many parts of Africa, land was held in common and therefore people’s ability to work the land, and their position within their society, related to the number of people whom they controlled. This patron-client system meant that patrons were always looking for more clients, both free and unfree, as a way to increase their power. The nature of this agricultural and political system made slavery and pawnship (debt peonage) a common system in Africa, yet it was a system that is hard to generalize about and one that possessed great differences from the African slavery that developed in the Americas. While the role of African slavery in the Americas has been more thoroughly studied, and is better known, than slavery in Africa, the rise of the transatlantic slave trade, and then its gradual abolition in the 19th century, had important consequences for slavery within Africa.

A Group of Slaves, Being Led to the West African Coast by Traders




A Group of Slaves, Being Led to the West African Coast by Traders


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