World History 2 42 - 3.4 The Trans-Saharan Slave Trade

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the emergence of Kanem-Bornu as a major slave-trading society
  • Explain the effect of the arrival of Europeans on the trans-Saharan slave trade
  • Analyze how the slave trade affected the trans-Saharan trade network in West Africa

The sale of enslaved people had been a constant feature of African trade since its earliest days, and over time it became a key component in the continent-spanning network. For some kingdoms, economic well-being depended on the traffic in human cargo. But this trade also required a near-constant state of warfare and conflict, which had the effect of destabilizing certain regions, particularly around the Central Sudan. Then the advent of Europe’s age of discovery and exploration in the fifteenth century transformed the nature of the slave trade in Africa. The wealth of Portugal, Spain, England, France, and the Netherlands—along with their firearms and manufactured goods—appealed to many West African polities, particularly those that emerged along the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic coast following the decline of Songhai. These new states, such as Whydah and Dahomey, enriched themselves by providing the Europeans with captives, the vast majority of whom went to the Americas, in exchange for goods like guns. These developments altered the nature of society in Africa, militarizing states and reorienting African trade.

This lesson has no exercises.

The content of this course has been taken from the free World History, Volume 2: from 1400 textbook by Openstax