One of the major debates in the study of the transatlantic slave trade concerns the role that African rulers played in facilitating the trade. As Lindsay shows, European slaves sought to fulfill the demand for slave labor by establishing trade relations with African states. In the forest kingdoms of West and West Central Africa, ruling elites sought to monopolize Atlantic commerce in order to expand their economic and political power and to maintain control over the lesser nobility and the people of the countryside. In Atlantic commerce, middlemen emerged on the coast to negotiate the sale of slaves to European ship captains on behalf of the elites in the interior and to acquire enslaved people from the markets of the interior. Important primary sources (accounts that capture the time period of the event) on the era of the Atlantic slave trade show the dynamic between African rulers and European merchants and how this relationship changed over time.
For this discussion, consider the excerpts of primary sources on p. 78-83 of Lisa Lindsay’s Captives as Commodities. What do you learn from Alfonso I of Kongo’s 1526 letter to King Joao III of Portugal and slaver John Hawkins 1568 account of travel to the Guinea Coast (Cape Verde Islands, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone) about African resistance and cooperation? What about King Agaja of the Dahomey kingdom’s 1726 letter to King George I of England and the Portuguese doctor Luiz Antonio de Oliveira Mendes’ 1763 account of the slave trade in Angola? How do these documents help you to better understand the motivations of African rulers? How does it complicate the simplified notion that “Africans” participated in the slave trade out of greed or just to “sell other Africans.” Choose two documents to comment on for this discussion. Include two questions in your 250 word post