The Kingdom Of Kongo


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the kingdom of kongo slavery

The course of human history is marked by appalling crimes. But even the hardened historian is filled with horror, loathing and indignation on examining the record of African slavery. How was it possible? How could it have gone on for so long, and on such a scale? A tragedy of such dimensions has no parallel in any other part of the world.
The African continent was bled of its human resources via all possible routes. Across the Sahara, through the Red Sea, from the Indian Ocean ports and across the Atlantic. At least ten centuries of slavery for the benefit of the Muslim countries (from the ninth to the nineteenth). Then more than four centuries (from the end of the fifteenth to the nineteenth) of a regular slave trade to build the Americas and the prosperity of the Christian states of Europe. The figures, even where hotly disputed, make your head spin. Four million slaves exported via the Red Sea, another four million through the Swahili ports of the Indian Ocean, perhaps as many as nine million along the trans-Saharan caravan route, and eleven to twenty million (depending on the author) across the Atlantic Ocean.
Of all these slave routes, the "slave trade" in its purest form, i.e. the European Atlantic trade, attracts most attention and gives rise to most debate. The Atlantic trade is the least poorly documented to date, but this is not the only reason. More significantly, it was directed at Africans only, whereas the Muslim countries enslaved both Blacks and Whites. And it was the form of slavery that indisputably contributed most to the present situation of Africa. It permanently weakened the continent, led to its colonization by the Europeans in the nineteenth century, and engendered the racism and contempt from which Africans still suffer.
For two hundred years, 1440-1640, Portugal had a monopoly on the export of slaves from Africa. It is notable that they were also the last European country to abolish the institution - although, like France, it still continued to work former slaves as contract laborers, which they called libertos or engages a temps. It is estimated that during the 4 1/2 centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Portugal was responsible for transporting over 4.5 million Africans (roughly 40% of the total). During the eighteenth century however, when the slave trade accounted for the transport of a staggering 6 million Africans, Britain was the worst transgressor - responsible for almost 2.5 million. (A fact often forgotten by those who regularly cite Britain's prime role in the abolition of the slave trade.)
The great slaving companies were formed in the second half of the seventeenth century, when the Americas, and other parts of the world which the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) and various papal edicts had reserved to the Spaniards and Portuguese, were redistributed among the nations of Europe. The whole of Europe - France, England, Holland, Portugal and Spain, and even Denmark, Sweden and Brandenburg shared in the spoils, establishing a chain of monopoly companies, forts, trading posts and colonies that stretched from Senegal to Mozambique. Only distant Russia and the Balkan countries were missing from the pack - and they received their own small contingents of slaves via the Ottoman Empire.
Expanding European empires in the New World lacked one major resource -- a work force. In most cases the indigenous peoples had proved unreliable (most of them were dying from diseases brought over from Europe), and Europeans were unsuited to the climate and suffered under tropical diseases. Africans, on the other hand, were excellent workers: they often had experience of agriculture and keeping cattle, they were used to a tropical climate, resistant to tropical diseases, and they could be "worked very hard" on plantations or in mines.
Between 1450 and the end of the nineteenth century, slaves were obtained from along the west coast of Africa with the full and active co-operation of African kings and merchants. (There were occasional military campaigns organised by Europeans to capture slaves, especially by the Portuguese in what is now Angola, but this accounts for only a small percentage of the total.) In return, the African kings and merchants received various trade goods including beads, cowrie shells ... more

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Africa

The combination of individual and national power and the need to find a safe route to the trade markets of the Indian Ocean led the Europeans to the continent of Africa in the late 1400's. They would soon discover the abundance of its natural resources and in the next four centuries would systematically trigger the breakdown African societies. These acts would lead the Africans to be integrated into an exploited and racially dominated labor structures that would spread throughout the world.

     It began with the exploration of the Portuguese in and around western Africa in the late 1400's to gain access to the Akan goldfields of West Africa. Once they gained access to these fields it helped finance future exploration round the southern tip of Africa and reach the trade markets of the Indian Ocean. They purchased silk, spices, perfumes and other goods, return it to Europe and sold it for a profit. They built the fort of Elmina in West Africa to protect their interests from other European countries who were also seeking fortune in Africa. When they reached the eastern coast of Africa it was amazed by the wealth of the Swahili States comprised of Zanzibar, Kilwa, Mombassa and Sofala, they wanted to seize them. They first sailed into the important towns and demanded the rulers to become Portuguese subjects and pay them tributes. When the rulers refused the Portuguese would raid the towns until they gave into them. They built a fortress called fort Jesus in Mombassa to protect their interest in the east. The Portuguese discovered the island of Sao Tome of the West Coast of Africa in 1470 and would soon become the largest producer of sugar for the European markets. The laborers consisted of African slaves brought over from the African mainland. These sugar plantations were owned and run by European overseers and it would become the model for the plantation slavery systems in the Americas.

     The practice of slavery and slave trade existed in African societies before the Europeans It is important to point out that they were either regarded as private investment for the local chiefs, kings, and merchants or dependent royal subjects for producing revenue and performing administrative and military duties. Before the Europeans, they were used to build and strengthened states. They were acquired through wars and trade, and were kept to work on the land or used in warfare. After the Europeans arrived, the slave trade changed dramatically. The Europeans caused internal divisions among African societies. The Oyo-Dahomey Wars, local/regional conflicts among the Asante, and internal division within the Kongo kingdoms helped the Europeans acquire slaves in exchange for textiles, guns and ammunitions to expand their territories. The Europeans benefited from this by shipping off the slaves to the plantations of the Americas. As a result the African societies experienced a drastic change. The depopulation of skilled craftsmen increased wars between tribes. Families were torn apart and children that were left behind became vulnerable to being captured by rival tribesman. The slave trade as a result expanded because of the participation of African rulers and merchants in the international exchange economy, involving the exports of humans.   ... more

the kingdom of kongo

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