The European Slave Trade vs. Intra-African Slavery


The European slave trade was different from the Intra-African slavery, even though the two still had some similarities. In the European slave trade, it was the role of the ship owners to transport the slaves to American countries as quickly and cheaply as possible. Labor shortage on the plantations and in manufacturing industries was the impetus for the European slave trade. The slavery in Africa was different from that of the New World. The rest of the paper will thus analyze the similarities of the European and Intra-African slave trade as well as the contrasting aspects between the two.

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Cultural norms in manners of enslavement

In Intra-African slavery, the widely practiced methods of enslavement included kidnapping, being taken to war, pawning, being tricked or sold, or it happened through a judicial procedure. Kidnapping was the most prevalent among them (Princen 69). The individuals who got into slavery through judicial procedures had undergone conviction of adultery, murder, and theft. The slaves who became a part of the practice due to pawning were offered as security for money that had been borrowed. Pawning was not slavery per se; however, those who found themselves in slavery were those pawns that had not been redeemed. The European slavery was quite different because some people were enslaved through ransoms and conversions, while others were sold. Pirates raided ships to capture men who would become slaves.

The similarities between the Intra-African and European slavery in the context of the manner of enslavement comprise the fact that people who became slaves were either be kidnapped or sold (Nishida 113). In Africa, kidnapping was happening secretly, while in the European countries, traffickers were kidnapping and raiding ships to capture slaves.

Social standing and mobility

In Intra-African trade, the status of slave was not heritable. The children who were born of slaves would become free. The reason is that slavery that was taking place in Africa was not exercising any discrimination in regard to the religious or racial minorities. In the European countries, such status was heritable. The children of the European slaves would become slaves like their parents. Slavery in the European countries was thus serving the religious minorities. The similar aspect of slavery in the discussed context is that both Intra-African and European trade had an aspect of inheritance.

Working environment

In the Intra-African trade, the slavery was happening within the confinements, in very harsh conditions, and in obedience to a lot of rules and regulations. The only reward that the slaves would receive in return for their services was food and clothing. If they were under a bad master, they would face so much hostility that some died in the course of their slavery. Some masters even sacrificed slaves during rituals. However, in some parts of Africa such as Eritrea and the modern Ethiopia, slavery was only domestic. The duties of such slaves included only the chores around the house (Postma 113).

They were submissive to their masters and were thus treated as second-class family members. They had the right to move freely so long as they were obedient to their masters. In the European trade, the working environment of the enslaved individuals was better and different. Even though they were still chattels to their owners, they were taken a good care of and given the freedom to intermarry without the inquiring from their masters. The treatment that they were receiving shows that they were part of the family (Searing 89). A similarity between the two forms of slavery is that there was some remuneration in the end even if it would differ depending on the master. Another similarity is that, in both cases, the slaves were used to supplement the insufficient labor and were working on large plantations and in industries. The slaves were taken to aid in the production of commodities such as cotton, tobacco, and sugar that were highly profitable.

Effects on the economy

The effect that the European slave trade had on the economy was the Industrial Revolution. The proceeds that were coming from the agricultural sector were funding the economic growth and the technological advancement. The impact that the Intra-African trade had was development of new ways of mobilizing labor and thus obtaining economic advantages. The result was the depletion of the labor force and increase of the labor price in the home countries. Subsequently, the policy that came in handy to save the status quo was the deployment of African slave laborers at affordable prices that would make the plantations profitable (Nishida 87). The deployment took place between the western and southern Africa.

Diversification of the slavery

The Intra-African slave trade was taking place in the northern part of Africa and was practiced in the western parts of Sahara, the Sahara Desert region, Algeria, and Morocco. In the north-eastern part of Africa, slavery was exercised in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Somalia. In Central Africa, slavery was practiced among the African Bantus, the Bakongo, and the Lunda of Zaire. The southern part of Africa was exercising slavery in the Cokwe of Angola while the Buganda state was also practicing slavery as part of Eastern Africa. In most instances, the slave trade was taking place between the northern and western parts of Africa. By then, Ghana was known as the Gold Coast because of its abundance of gold. The slaves were, therefore, employed as labor force in the gold mines.

The country had also discovered the practice of exchanging gold for slaves (Searing 99). However, there were some slaves who were also employed for the provision of labor in the agricultural sector, administrative sectors of the state or the empire. The diversification of European slave trade was quite different because the trades were working for the manufacturing industries within Europe. Some people were sold to the Americans to provide labor in the agricultural sector (Stevenson 81). However, slavery was extensively practiced in the western and eastern parts of Europe, and the masters treated the slaves as mere chattels or commodities.


A similarity between the European and Intra-African trade is that the slaves involved had to act in a certain way. For instance, their slave status would not be forgotten despite their progress on the social ladder. In addition, they were expected to dress in a peculiar way so as to show their status as slaves. Their physical appearance would also be maintained as simple as possible. There was never to be a question of equality between the slaves and the free men and women.

European and Intra-African slaves and restrictive practices

In the European trade, slaves that were sold to the American countries were perceived as chattels or commodities. In this sense, they were owned and would be sold if whoever owned them decided to dispose of them. Moreover, any children that were born of the European slaves would automatically become slaves (Allain 84). However, in the African context and Intra-African trade, slaves were not treated as chattels or commodities and thus could not be sold as a means of disposition. They could only become a part of the trade through war and captivity. The slaves in Africa would lose their family protection and their positions in the society while their children would then become masters of the families and set them free. However, for chattel slavery, this was not the case because people were enslaved for life. The same applied to their children and grandchildren.

European slave trade, Intra-African slave trade and the relevance of skin color

Slavery cannot be said to be born of racism, but it is racism that came to be the repercussion of slavery. In addition, the black color of skin symbolized inferiority and thus made the Africans suitable for slavery. In this respect, slavery that was taking place in the Intra-African parts of the world did not consider skin color as a major determining factor. However, in the European slave trade, the skin color of the Africans was intriguing and repelling for the Europeans. With the expansion of the European slave trade, especially at the end of the seventeenth century, there appeared the abundance of theories regarding the black inferiority (Stevenson 76). There was a fixation on skin color of the Africans. The reason was that their skin tone was dark and different, and a lot of negative characteristics associated with the black. The effect that the European slavery had was the deepening of racism and discrimination of people with dark skin color.


There is nothing peculiar about slavery as it was there even before the dawn of human history. The European and Intra-African slavery was both different and similar to some degree. The slaves were taken to help produce commodities such as cotton, tobacco and sugar and thus make profit for beneficiaries. However, the manner in which they were treated depended on the master that owned them.

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