After the discovery of North and South America, the trade of goods between Africa, Europe, and America became known as the triangular trade route. Guns and gunpowder from Europe were exchanged for slaves from the West African coast, who were taken to American colonies. Sugar, cotton, rum, tobacco, and coffee were then brought to Europe from America.
With the development of the plantation economy in America in the mid-17th century, the importation of slaves increased sharply. During this period, the so-called triangular trade route (Europe – Africa – America) was developed. European goods, like firearms, steel, alcoholic beverages, and fabrics, were sent to Africa in exchange for slaves, who were delivered to the New World and exchanged for colonial goods, such as tobacco, sugar, and cotton.
Trading companies from several European countries held a monopoly on the slave trade. Despite an official ban, private entrepreneurs also engaged in the slave trade. At the beginning of the 18th century, this monopoly gave way to free trade in African slaves. By the 1780s, the export of Africans as slaves had reached 100,000 people a year.
Participation in the slave trade is associated with the rapid development of many cities in Europe and America, including Bristol, Liverpool, London, Nantes, Amsterdam, New York, Boston, Rio de Janeiro, and others.
The sale of colonial goods in Europe brought new benefits to merchants and slave traders. This triangular trade brought enormous profits to the slave traders, planters, and European entrepreneurs. To Africa, the slave trade brought war, devastation, looting, and violence.
Starting in the middle of the 16th century, the entire Atlantic coast became a vast reservoir of slaves for plantations in the New World. Hundreds of thousands of Africans were used as slaves to work on sugar, tobacco, and cotton plantations, as well as in mines.
The Americas became the dominant slave market. For four centuries thereafter, European slave traders exported people from West and Central Africa to the New World. The trade was so successful that in the 18th century, as many ships of slaves were sent from Africa as in the 16th and 17th centuries combined.
In the four-plus centuries that this system flourished, at least 65-75 million Africans were forcibly removed from their homeland. Some of them were brought to the Americas, where they were doomed to life-long slavery, while others died from inhuman conditions on the way across the ocean.
The slave trade became so widespread that it not only provided labor for the planters in the American colonies but also became the main source of trade for capitalist countries. Africans tried to oppose their oppressors in all areas.
Their methods of resistance, both individual and collective, varied greatly but included slowing down work, simulating illnesses, destroying tools, abusing livestock, and fleeing. Occasionally there were attempts on the life of the owners (primarily through poisoning), self-mutilation and suicide, the murder of their children, the purchase of freedom, and rebellion.
The transatlantic slave trade brought about far-reaching changes in the economic and political life of sub-Saharan Africa. In some areas, it completely destroyed the development of productive forces. The huge outflow of people between the 17th and 19th centuries halted population growth throughout vast territories of West Africa.
Meanwhile, during that same period, other parts of the world experienced a rather strong population explosion. Forcible withdrawal of slaves deprived Africa of their youngest and most healthy people, i.e., their most valuable workforce.