Portuguese Exploration of the West Coast of Africa

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West Africa is from modern-day Mauritiana until the Republic of Congo. It was an area with rainforests around the equator, also there are savannas on both sides of the forest, there sadly is a lot of dry, dead land to the north. This all changed on 600 CE, the majority of the Africans that lived near this area, which were hunter-gatherers. In the places, where land was very dry farmers had sheep, goats, camels and cattle. Near the equator, there is an area with a lot of nature in it, in which the farmers cultivated yams, palm trees and plantains. Near the savannas, they grew crops that involved rice, millet and sorghum.

There were very big trading centres, near the rivers (Senegal, Niger, Volta, Gambia and Congo), the majority of the Africans lived in little villages, they identified themselves by families not by nationality. Normally men had more than 1 wives. In harsh times West Africans expected their near or far family members to help them. Nowadays in Nigeria, around 500 different languages are spoken.

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Before the Atlantic slave trade began, Western Africans practised a lot human sacrifice. When they feared a tribe, they were able to force another tribe to offer themselves as slaves, exchanging for help. For example, in the European system the ones who seek protection or escape from hunger, they would convert them to servants for the ones that promote relief.

All the men, in different African society that were used during wars, often became slaves. Normally these men became part of an extended tribal family. There is evidence that they used them as slaves because people were mistreated because they used them as if they were theirs, when they weren’t, this all happened in the Nile River.

The European slave trade began when they started with Portugal’s exploration of the west coast of Africa, in this exploration they were looking for an alternative route, through sea, heading towards the East. The East had a lot of riches like silk and spices, and the Portuguese were very desperate to take advantage of their riches regardless how hard it was going to be to get from Europe to Asia.

Portuguese traders decided to build the ‘Elmina Castle’, which nowadays is Ghana, this was on 1482. This castle was meant to be for a secure trading place, this castle even had canyons in direction of the sea. The Portuguese feared even more a gladiatorial attack from other Europeans than an attack on land by the Africans.

The Portuguese used this castle for trading gold but as time went by, near the 16th century, they had changed their focus to enslaved people now that slavery had become popular in the New World. Portuguese people slept, prayed and ate on the superior floors, while the slaves were kept in a dungeon for weeks or months, suffering, until some ships arrived that took them either to Europe or the Americas.

Near 1444, Africans were bought by the Portuguese either to Europe or the Americas. They worked on sugar plantations in Madeira islands, in Portugal. Slave trade became more popular and started spreading all across the Atlantic because every time Europeans demanded that they needed more and more workers on intensive care crops like crops of sugar, cotton and tobacco.

As time went by, the Dutch, Spanish and English followed Portuguese steps by transporting enslaved around the Atlantic, there is an estimate that around 12.5 million slaves crossed the Atlantic, to work on the New World. A lot of slaves died in the way crossing the Atlantic.

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Portuguese Exploration of the West Coast of Africa. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 17, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/portuguese-exploration-of-the-west-coast-of-africa/
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