One major theme in world history between
1400 and 1800 was the growth of an Atlantic trading network that connected
Europe, Africa, and the Americas through a vast system of exchanges. Africa's
largest contributions to these exchanges were human slaves sold to plantations
in the Americas. The emergence of the Atlantic slave trade had huge implications
for all the civilizations and cultures involved. In Africa, these exchanges
affected the growth of states, the spread of religious movements, and internal
trading patterns. The following Internet activities will explore both these
developments - the growth of the slave trade and its impact on both sides
of the Atlantic, and internal developments within Africa during this period.
- You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore
different sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and
questions detailed in each activity.
- On many web sites you can increase the size of the images
by clicking on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine
fine details in photographs.
- On the West African coast, in an area commonly known
as the Slave Coast, the kingdom of Benin emerged between 1400 and 1800.
Much of what we know about this kingdom comes from its impressive world
of art. Go to Benin
Chronology. Read the text and click on the images to learn details about
their composition and meaning. (Make sure to click on "Brass"
to learn about how Benin sculptors created brass objects. How were Benin
royal heads used? How accurate are they as portraits? How did contact with
other cultures influence the development of Benin royal art?
- At the same time the kingdom of Benin flourished on the
western coast of Africa, a chain of powerful empires arose in the western
Sudan. Important states in this region included Mali,
and the Hausa
city states. While examining these sites (be sure to focus on developments
between 1400 and 1800), keep in mind the following question: What advantages
did the geography of this region give these states in their relations with
the rest of the world? For further information on this region, go to Islam in
West Africa. What was the role of Islam in these states? Analyze the
relationship between the spread of Islam and the politics of the western
- Another important kingdom of this era, the Kongo, lay
further south from Benin and the western Sudan. To learn more about this
state, read the overview provided in The
Kingdom of Kongo. Because of the large number of people from this region
who were sold into the Atlantic slave trade, the Kongo religion spread throughout
the Atlantic world. Go to Religion of
the Kongo and Kongo
Religion. What are the main characteristics of the Kongo religion? How
has this religion shaped the history of Africans living outside Africa?
Summarize your answers to this questions in a few paragraphs.
- Great controversy surrounds the Atlantic slave trade.
One of the greatest debates concerns its demographics. Contemporary scholars
do not agree on the number of people involved in the slave trade, nor on
the methodology used to calculate this number. Many activists today, particularly
in the United States, argue that because of the misery and dislocation suffered
by Africans and peoples of African descent, compensation is necessary. Go
Reparations Movement and read "The Legal Basis of the Claim for
Reparations" and "Reparations and A New Global Order: A Comparative
Overview." What are the demands of people advocating compensation for
the descendants of slaves? Why are reparations for the slave trade more
difficult to obtain than those of other reparations movements? How does
the slave trade affect contemporary race relations and world politics? Summarize
your reflections in a brief essay (4-6 paragraphs).
- The slave trade had great effects on both sides of the
Atlantic, generating major changes in demography, economics, society, and
religion. In short, every aspect of life was affected for native inhabitants
in the Americas as well as for voluntary and involuntary immigrants. One
important development was the growth of large communities of peoples of
African descent throughout North and South America and the Caribbean islands.
These communities remain very important and influential today. For more
insight on Africans in the Americas, go to Slaves and
Slave Systems and African
Diaspora. Define diaspora. According to these sites, what parts
of the Western Hemisphere are commonly considered to be part of the African
diaspora? What African cultural continuities can we identify within Diaspora
communities in the Americas today?
- Few countries in the Americas did not experience slave
revolts. The most widespread and successful, however, was the Haitian
Revolution. What was the role of France in the Revolution? What role
did race play in creating alliances and counteralliances among groups? In
what ways did Africans resist slavery? Was resistance successful or unsuccessful
in affecting the future of slavery? Write an essay that explores these last
two questions. Provide evidence of your conclusions from the above documents.