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I know that some African nations participated in the slave trade by providing captured enemies as slaves to Europeans, but what are some of the reasons they did? Was it simply a new economic opportunity that they took advantage of and sought to use to gain advantage against their rivals?

I'm looking for a nice synthesis of the issue and some decent sourcing to other materials, or book recommendations.

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2 Answers 2

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As I've understood it, selling entire tribes or large parts of it was already an ancient use. This was useful to the victors for money, as well as power and the guarantee that the particular tribe wouldn't attack them in the near future.

Furthermore, slave trade deep into Africa was also in use by the Arabs, who, like the Europeans did at first, bought the slaves from local leaders. The Europeans were just a new customer in their early periods there, in that sense.

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I'm more so curious as to what factors (political, economic, social) contributed to those African nations being willing to engage in the trade. For example, was there frequent war between people in Africa prior to the arrival of the Europeans looking for slaves? That sort of thing. –  ihtkwot Feb 24 '12 at 20:58
    
As I've understood there was. From early European descriptions of their journeys to Africa we know that they already did such things. I don't believe they were biased as slavery wasn't really in use yet in the first place. Furthermore, Arabs had the use of buying slaves aswel, which began far before the time that Europeans came. –  Meike Feb 24 '12 at 22:17
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@ihtkwot: Basically all nations at that time were frequently involved into one war or the other. –  sbi Feb 27 '12 at 15:46
    
@Meike: That started long before the Arab slave traders bought slaves in Africa. As mgb said, this is at least as old a custom as ancient Egypt. –  sbi Feb 27 '12 at 15:47

Read the journals of David Livingstone, Henry Stanley, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Olaudah Equiano, Quobna Ottobah, Ignatius Sancho.... You will learn more about slavery and what the world was like a few hundred years ago from these journals than from second hand historical accounts. Slavery has no color or nation. From early times, small tribes beat up their neighbors. The tribes stole their neighbors' women and sheep and killed their men and boys-- or sold them. Everyone did it. Tribes attacked their enemies and sold them, which was more profitable than killing them. Everyone was guilty. People lived in a world where they were starving; they ate cakes made of mashed bugs. The rules were different, and destitute Africans sold other Africans in a huge slave market, which was run by Arabs and Portuguese for hundreds of years. These Portuguese and Arabian sultans were rich from the ivory trade. The Africans made money selling ivory, and slaves to carry the ivory. The slaves, if they survived hauling the heavy ivory through central Africa, were sold to the ivory buyers, which were the Arabs and Portuguese. They then made a profit selling the ivory and the people who hauled it. There was only one way to enter the interior of Africa and carry ivory; no pack animal could do it-- they all died. Only Africans, walking, could do the job. Native Americans stole people from neighboring tribes as well. This shame has no color; all people of every color and nation have oppressed their neighbors until a greater oppressor comes along and oppresses them. Europe was terrorized by Napoleon; The Sioux terrorized the less powerful tribes in North America; the Zulu did the same in Africa.... Some people act like greedy bullies regardless of where they are and what color they are. Some people are good, some are bad. Their races and nationality don't make a difference. Their reasons are all the same: power and greed.

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