Slavery and the Slave Trade in the Context of West African History

There have been at least three widely held and influential views about slavery and the slave trade in West Africa, and also about their relation to its society in respect both of their origins and their effects on it: 1. Slavery was natural and endemic in West African society, so that the coming of foreign traders with a demand for labour led swiftly and automatically to the development by West Africans of an organized trade in slaves for export – 2. It was rather external demands for labour which led to a great growth of both slavery and slave-trading in West Africa, and so corrupted its indigenous society – 3. The external demand for West African labour, especially in the period ca. 1650 to ca. 1850, was so great that the export of slaves to meet it had a disastrous effect on the peoples of West Africa, disrupting not only their natural demographic development but their social and moral development as well. This paper examines and reassesses these views and offers an interpretation of the roles of slavery and the slave trade in the history of West Africa which may be more in accord with its economic and social realities. Ref.

Title: Slavery and the Slave Trade in the Context of West African History
Author: Fage, John D.
Year: 1969
Periodical: The Journal of African History
Volume: 10
Issue: 3
Pages: 393-404
Language: English
Geographic term: West Africa
External link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/179673
Abstract: There have been at least three widely held and influential views about slavery and the slave trade in West Africa, and also about their relation to its society in respect both of their origins and their effects on it: 1. Slavery was natural and endemic in West African society, so that the coming of foreign traders with a demand for labour led swiftly and automatically to the development by West Africans of an organized trade in slaves for export – 2. It was rather external demands for labour which led to a great growth of both slavery and slave-trading in West Africa, and so corrupted its indigenous society – 3. The external demand for West African labour, especially in the period ca. 1650 to ca. 1850, was so great that the export of slaves to meet it had a disastrous effect on the peoples of West Africa, disrupting not only their natural demographic development but their social and moral development as well. This paper examines and reassesses these views and offers an interpretation of the roles of slavery and the slave trade in the history of West Africa which may be more in accord with its economic and social realities. Ref.