Ending The African Slave Trade: Campaigns


Figure 1.--The Spanish colonies of Cuba and Puerto Rico were two of the last places where slavery was ended as part of the campaign to end the cAtlantic slave trade. Here is a scene from Puerto Rico, but we do not know just when it was tken.

Ending the slave trade involved much more than religion and morality. Actualy religion and morality helped to perpetuate slavery. This was the case because slavery is legitimized in the Holy Koran itself. It was Christianity which led the fight against slavery. Only when the abolitionists in England had won thrir effort to convince the British Prliament to end the slave trade, werte campsigns against slavery possible. A complex web of economics, international affairs, diplmomacy, and European colonialism were involved in ending the slave trade which was conducted by both Europeans and Arabs. The British diplomatic effort was complicated by suspicions of other European countries concerning British motives. There were two major efforts to stop the slave trade. The first was the effort to end the European slave trade, primarily conducted in the Atantic Ocean.. The second was to end the Arab slave trade which was conducted in both the Indian Ocean and well as across the Sahara. This thus required not only a naval campaign, but terrestial efforts to end the trans-Saharan trade. Here there were both trans-Saharan caravans as well as ship traffic up the Nile. The primary agent for ending the slave trade was the British Royal Navy which mounted naval patrols in both the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. The Royal Navy received some support from America and other European countries in the Atlantic. They received no support from Muslim powers in the Indian Ocean effort some of which continued to permit slavery into the 20th century. Only the Arab trans-Saharan slave trade was imune from Royal Navy interdiction. The effort began during the Napoleonic Wars and was not finally ended until the European colonization of sub-Saharan Africa in the late-19th centuty.

Ending the Atlantic Slave Trade

The United States banned the importation of slaves (1808). There was, however, only minimal enforcement by the U.S. Navy. It was the Royal Navy that eventually ended the slave trade. The slave trade had been a lynch pin in thr triangular trade that has been a key element of the British economy and helped bring great wealth to Britain. It had in part helped to finance the growth of the Royal Navy. The expansion of the British merchant fleet under the protection of the Royal Navy resulted in Britain dominating the slave trade by the 18th century. British ships beginning about 1650 are believed to have transported as many as 4 million Africans to the New World and slavery. The British Parliament during the Napoleonic Wars banned the slave trade (1807). This was a decession made on moral grounds after a long campaign in Britain against slavery at considerable cost at a time of War. After Trafalgur (1805) the powerful British Royal Navy could intercept suspected slave ships under belligerent rights. After the cesation of hostilities this became more complicated. The only internationally recognized reason for boarding foreign ships was suspected piracy. Thus Britain had to persue a major diplomatic effort to convince other countries to sign anti-slavery treaties which permitted the Royal Navy to board their vessels if suspected of transporting slaves. Nearly 30 countries eventually signed these treaties. The anti-slavery effort required a substantial effort on the part of the Royal Navy. The major effort was carried out by the West Coast of Africa Station which the Admiralty referred to as the ‘preventive squadron’. The Royal Navy from this station for 50 years conducted operations to intercept slavers. At the peak of these operartions abour 25 ships and 2,000 officers and men were deployed. There were about 1,000 Kroomen, African sailors, operating West African Station. The Royal Navy deployed smaller, shallow draft vessels so that slavers could be persued in shallow waters. Britain also targeted African leaders who engaged in the slave trade. A British forced in one operation deposed the King of Lagos (1851). The climate and exposure to filthy diseased laden slave ships made the West African station dangerous. The officers and men were rewarded with Prize money for both freeing slaves and capturing the ships. The Royal Navy's task in East Africa and the Indian Ocean was even more difficult. This was in part because of the support for slavery among Islamic powers (both Arabian and Persian). The slave trade persisted into the 1860s, in part because of the continued existence of slavery in the United states. Eventhough thecslave trade was outlawed in America, the American Navy was not used to aggresively inters=dict the slave trade. This did not change until President Lincoln signed the Right of Search Treaty in 1862, a year before the Emancipation Proclamation. Spain abolished slavery in Cuba (1886). Brazil abolished slavery (1888).


Figure 2.--This painting depicts an Arab slave market. We have not yet been able to identify where this market was located, but it looks like part of the Trans-Saharan route. Nor do we know the artist and whether he actually whitnesed the scene depicted here.

Ending the Arab Slave Trade

The second was to end the Arab slave trade which was conducted in both the Indian Ocean and well as across the Sahara. This thus required not only a naval campaign, but terrestial efforts to end the trans-Saharan trade. Here there were both trans-Saharan caravans as well as ship traffic up the Nile. The Royal Navy received some support from America and other European countries in the Atlantic. They received no support from Muslim powers in the Indian Ocean effort some of which continued to permit slavery into the 20th century. Only the Arab trans-Saharan slave trade was imune from Royal Navy interdiction. The effort began during the Napoleonic Wars and was not finally ended until the European colonization of sub-Saharan Africa in the late-19th centuty.

Ending Domesric African Slavery

Slavery in Africa was jot just an outside matter fostered by the Arabs and Europeans. There was also domestic slavery which was important in many countries. For the most part slavery was ended with the 9th century European scrabble for African and colonization of most of the continnt. Here the Christian abolitionist movements plyed a mjor role. There were some exceptions. One was Ethiopia which maintained its indepencence until invaded by Fascist Italy during the early agressions preceeding World war II. Slavery was not ended in Ethiopia until after it was linerated by the Allies (1942). For most of the continent, slavery had been eliminatged by the time that the de-coloinization process began after World War II. The exception was the largely Mudlim countries, especially the Sudan. Not only did slavery persist in the Sudan, but the Government used it as part of the pricess to subdue the African tribes in the south. We also not slavery continued to be practiced in the Sahel and saharan regions, espcially where the Taureg were an important tribal group. This was less trie in the North african countries. They were Muslim countries, but the European colonial experience seems to have extinguihed the acceptance of slavery despite the Koranic acceptance of the practice.







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Created: 3:07 AM 8/23/2011
Last updated: 3:07 AM 8/23/2011