Slavery and Servitude in the Colonies

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What are the short-term and long-term consequences of the transatlantic slave trade?

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There were obviously countless consequences from the transatlantic slave trade throughout history. To list them all would be nearly impossible, but we'll look at several of the biggest ones.

One of the immediate consequences was the transplanting of millions of Africans to the Americas and Europe as part of the slave trade. This depleted nations in Africa of able bodied men and women as well as intelligent thinkers who could have helped the nations prosper, while also endangering the lives of those individuals and putting them in an unfamiliar and dangerous situation.

Additionally, it created and propped up a system of mercantilism that led to monopolies and conflicts, including the oppression and taxation of the colonies of Great Britain that led to the American Revolution.

In the long term, it created a system of racism and oppression in the Americas by identifying people of African descent with slavery and manual labor, leading to their undervaluing and oppression that lasts to this day in the Americas.

In Africa, the depletion of the able bodied men and women who could have contributed to those nations set them back decades if not centuries in terms of development and labor, leading to them becoming "third-world countries" in modernity, when historically they weren't much different from the rest of the world in terms of technology and government.

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The consequences of the slave trade, both short term and long term, are vast and complex. One perspective that I would add to the answers below is its effects on the Africans themselves.

In the short term, the slave trade had a hugely disruptive effect on the societies of Africa, particularly in West Africa. Local rulers in the coastal areas grew wealthy in this trade and there was a limited trickledown of wealth in the region. European goods and firearms were also introduced to the area. Overall though, the slave trade was a catastrophe. It led to wars with the peoples of the interior that resulted in countless deaths. Because men were more sought after as slaves, a huge gender imbalance also occurred. The resulting population drain created an imbalance in population stability that led to famine, political instability, and economic disasters. In many ways, the region has yet to completely recover.

A significant long term effect is the African diaspora. There are hundreds of millions of people of African descent in the Americas as the result of the slave trade. In many places, such as Brazil and the Caribbean, a creole culture has developed combining African cultures and traditions with indigenous and European ones. In the United States, the legacy of the slave trade lives on in a large African American population which is still struggling for equal status in a nation in which their ancestors were once enslaved.

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In the short-term, the slave trade brought death, disaster, and unimaginable suffering to those Africans dragged from their villages and transported across the Atlantic in chains. In the long-term, thriving civilizations which had lasted for thousands of years were fatally undermined, as the delicate balance within indigenous societies was disrupted by the unwelcome incursions of European slave-traders. Over the course of many centuries, slavery gradually sapped the strength of native populations, making them ever more vulnerable to colonial exploitation.

As for white Europeans, in both the short and the long-term, the slave trade proved immensely profitable. Slaves were seen as commodities, rather than human beings, and could therefore be exploited at will to serve the economic interests of colonial powers. Whole industries such as sugar refinement, tobacco, cocoa, and cotton were dependent on a regular supply of slave labor.

In the long-term, however, an over-reliance on slave labor prevented the development of modern industry in places such as the Southern United States. Lacking the requisite economic strength necessary to wage a modern conflict, the South was badly placed to defeat the North in the Civil War, which ironically, was caused by slavery in the first place.

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The first major short-term consequence was the uprooting of millions of Africans, against their will, to work as chattel slaves in the New World. These people were sold by chiefs who had captured them in war and thought little of selling slaves; slavery did not carry the same connotation in Africa as it did in the New World and, in many cases, was a temporary condition. The Africans were packed into slave ships and treated inhumanely, before arrival in the New World, after which they were sold. Slaves were often worked to death on plantations; after all, there was always a new supply of slaves to be found on the next shipment.

Long-term, the slave trade weakened the major kingdoms of Africa and made the continent easier for Europeans to subdue and colonize, thus bringing more poverty. Africa still lags behind much of the developed world in economic and health terms. The slave trade also fueled the sugar industry. Sugar, the key ingredient in rum, was part of the Triangle Trade, a trading system between the New World, Africa, and Europe. This allowed the colonists in the New World to obtain manufactured goods. The slave trade also fueled the South's cotton kingdom, even after the United States prohibited the slave trade in 1808. The descendants of these Africans were instrumental in working the plantations that produced cotton. This cotton powered textile mills in the Northeast and in industrial cities in Europe. Slavery would also be the key cause of the Civil War.

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