| The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History, Second Edition
|The Atlantic System and Africa, 1550-1800
in the Americas, Part I - The Terrible Transformation
This comprehensive site contains several maps of colonial
Map of Barbados
Dutch West India Company's Settlements in the Atlantic
This site features a nice illustration of the maritime
empire created by this Dutch Joint Stock Company in the Atlantic world
during the seventeenth century.
This site presents three images of plantation life in
in the Americas, Part I - The Terrible Transformation
This comprehensive site contains numerous images of slavery
in North America.
History: The Slave Trade
Many of this site's numerous links contain images of
the Atlantic system.
Forts in Ghana
View several historical illustrations of European trading
forts on the west coast of Africa.
This site contains several images of this trading fort
which was off the coast of West Africa.
Mosque and West African Islam
Several of this site's images are of mosques built between
1550 and 1800 which demonstrate Islam's continual influence on West Africa.
According to Bulliet, et al., The Earth and Its Peoples
(Second Edition), the emergence of the Atlantic economy was "a prime example
of how European capitalist relationships were reshaping the world" (p.
506). Capitalism, as defined in the text, "was the ability to manage
large financial resources through a system of institutions." To begin analyzing
these statements, go to Joint
Stock Companies and Chartered
Company and then explain the operating principles of these two similar
yet different institutions. Describe how these new entities enabled
Europeans to manage large financial resources. To understand the
roles these companies played in creating the Atlantic economy, next go
Dutch West India Company, Royal
African Company Established, and the London
Company. Explain the goals of each company's investment in the
Atlantic world. What trading networks did each help to establish?
However, private companies were not solely responsible for creating the
Atlantic economy; European nation-states also played a pivotal role.
As you have seen, chartered companies were joint-stock companies which
had special privileges conveyed upon them by states. European governments
also pursued other policies in order to encourage transatlantic trade.
To explore them further, go to Mercantilism.
Explain how mercantilism, including chartered companies, promoted the growth
and development of the Atlantic economy. More importantly, analyze
the ways in which European capitalism and mercantilism shaped the structure
of the Atlantic economy. Who participated, and who received the greatest
share of the wealth generated by this new system? Where were most
of the manufactured products sold in this system produced? Where
were most commodities or raw materials developed? What population
flows did mercantilism and capitalism encourage?
The emergence of the Atlantic economy could not have
occurred without the participation of African merchants and governments.
Indeed, the ability of Europeans and African merchants to develop trading
conventions beneficial to both groups allowed the transatlantic slave trade,
an absolute necessity for the expansion of the Atlantic economy, to flourish.
Go to World
Trading: The Gold Coast, 1450-1880 and study the maps and images in
the first two sections on the left-hand column; then read the primary sources
in the third section. Explain the process through which Europeans
and Africans developed the slave trade. Who provided the slaves?
What did Europeans provide to African merchants in return for slaves?
Where did the exchanges take place? What roles did joint-stock companies
and African governments play?
Activity Three :
European capitalist relationships were not only creating
new economic configurations in the Atlantic world between 1550 and 1800;
they were also fostering the emergence of new societies. Much of
Chapter 19, The Diversity of American Colonial Societies, 1530-1770, focuses
on the influence of European cultural, religious, and political traditions
on these new societies. African culture also profoundly affected
them. For example, a large number of people from the Kongo
region of Central Africa were sold into the Atlantic slave trade, resulting
in the spread of the Kongo religion throughout the Atlantic world.
Go to Kongo Religion
and then discuss the main characteristics of the belief. Next, click
on Faces of the Gods.
Where are Kongo and Kongo-derived religions practiced today? Explain
the process of syncretism as it relates to the Kongo religion. How
has this religion shaped the history of Africans living outside Africa?
As a study of the Kongo religion indicates, the slave trade had great influence
on both sides of the Atlantic since it generated major changes in demography,
economics, society, and religion. In fact, it affected every aspect
of the lives of native inhabitants of the Americas as well as those of
voluntary and involuntary immigrants. One significant development was the
growth of large communities of peoples of African descent throughout
North and South America and the Caribbean Islands that are still very important
and influential today. For more information about Africans in the
Americas, go to Slaves
and Slave Systems and African
Diaspora. First, define diaspora. According to these
sites, what sections of the Western Hemisphere are commonly regarded as
part of the African Diaspora? What African cultural continuities can we
identify within diaspora communities in the Americas today?
Activity Four :
Enslaved Africans were not passive and did resist their
enslavement and exploitation at every opportunity. Some revolted during
the Middle Passage, as evidenced by John
Barbot's account of a slave revolt aboard ship. What role did ethnicity
play in the revolt? Discuss the efforts taken to prevent slave revolts
aboard ship and describe what transport conditions were like for the slaves.
After arriving in the Americas, some slaves chose to resist by fleeing.
To learn more about these actions, see Nanny
of the Maroons. Also, review pages 505-507 in Bulliet, et al.,
The Earth and Its Peoples (Second Edition). Who were the maroons,
and how did they manage to achieve their limited independence from colonial
powers? Other slaves managed to obtain their freedom through different
means. For example, see Olaudah
Equiano and Elizabeth
Keckley. What special skills enabled these two slaves to gain
their freedom? Still other slaves chose, or felt that their only
recourse was, to use collective violence. Go to Africans
in the Americas: Stono Rebellion and St.
John Revolt. Explain what caused these Africans to revolt and
how the local white population reacted to the uprisings. After examining
all of these sites, describe the variety of ways that Africans resisted
slavery. What impact do you believe these various forms of resistance
had on the institution of slavery?