When we think about Africa today, we think of it as a poor third world continent, reliant on the charity of Western nations to survive. This has not always been the case.
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when Europeans first began exploring the world, Africa was a rich continent, eager to trade her gold, copper, ivory and leather goods for the white man’s pots, pans, alcohol and guns.
Under African law, slavery was a punishment for serious crimes, but most of these slaves were slaves of other black Africans. It was not usual for slaves to be traded at this time.
In 1492, Christopher Colombus discovered the Americas. Other Europeans followed and made slaves of the native peoples living there. However, the Europeans also took Western diseases to the Americas and their slaves began dying. Another source of slaves had to be found.
From trading with the Africans, Europeans knew that slavery was used as a punishment in Africa. They began to ask for slaves, rather than African goods, in exchange for the guns and alcohol that the African chiefs wanted.
The African chiefs agreed and so the Triangular Trade was developed.
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