Slavery: Atlantic Trade And Arab Slavery

Slavery: Atlantic Trade And Arab Slavery
  • PublishedOctober 1, 2012

It is estimated that about 14m Africans were enslaved by Arabs over a period of 1,300 years.  It is time to note what they did.

It is important to differentiate between the trade in enslaved Africans and slavery. The abolition of the Atlantic trade by British traders was certainly agreed by both Houses of Parliament. Just why this was has been a subject of considerable debate among historians.

To stop the trade and to prevent it simply passing into other traders’ hands, Britain had to obtain agreement to the cessation from other European and American traders. This was obtained, often by the payment of a “fee” to the governments concerned. Compensation, if you like. However, as far as it has been possible to discover, no compensation was offered to the British traders.  

Or could one argue that no compensation was needed as little was done to stop the “nefarious trade” for a number of years?

A couple of totally unsuitable vessels were sent out to Sierra Leone to intercept slaving vessels, but they hardly stopped any. Nothing else was put in place – not even when Parliament was informed of slavers leaving from the River Thames, under their very noses!

And even when some more effective attempts were made, the illegal trade continued. As had trade between the islands and from the islands to the mainland.

The Anti-Slavery Society and others alerted Parliament to the many ways the law was being transgressed. Parliament responded by passing amendments to the Act. It passed so many that they had to be consolidated twice, in 1822 and 1828.

But the trade continued unchecked until the 1840s when a more appropriate Royal Naval Squadron was sent to West Africa and seizures increased. However, the captured slaving vessels were then often sold to slavers!

But the Atlantic trade continued until slavery was outlawed in Cuba and Brazil in the 1880s. Around 80% of Brazil’s population has some African ancestry.

We shall never know the total numbers enslaved – that is, how many died in the process of enslavement, on the march to the coast, while awaiting shipment and then on the slave ships.  

The most recent work by David Eltis on actual voyage records (and not all exist) is that around 9.5 million enslaved were “embarked” between 1501 and 1811, and 3 million between 1811 and 1866.

The compensation that was offered by the British government was to slave-owners, not traders. It obtained the £20m it dispensed (over £1bn today), as a loan from the Rothschild banking family.

The 1833 Emancipation Act applied to only four parts of the British empire: the Caribbean, Cape Town, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Canada. Other colonies, or British trading posts which eventually became colonies – for example, in West and East Africa – were not mentioned in the Act. India was specifically excluded. The freed men, women and children received  no compensation.

How was it that Liverpool continued to flourish even when the city’s two MPs, Gascoyne and Tarleton, advised Parliament that the city would die if the trade was stopped? Precisely because it was not stopped and Liverpool traders and merchants (for example, in guns and gunpowder and trading goods), bankers and shipbuilders continued to participate in the illegal trade.

Liverpool supported the Confederate rebel states in the American Civil War: despite neutrality being the official British government policy, the city built and supplied vessels, ammunition and funds to the slave-holding Southern states. (See my book, After Abolition, London: I. B. Tauris 2007.)

The main reason for this support by Liverpool was the importance of the trade in slave-grown cotton from the Southern Confederate states. Liverpool was the main port supplying the Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire cotton mills: by the 1830s it handled 90% of the cotton imported, and 61% of raw cotton and cotton textile exports.

In the 1850s such textiles comprised around 12% of Britain’s total exports. Liverpool also handled about 22% of the slave-grown tobacco imported. The profits and excise duties from these contributed considerably to Britain’s national income and offered employment to hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, often in appalling conditions.

It is also important, I think, to note the trade in slaves by Arabs across the Sahara desert, the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. It has been estimated that about 14m  Africans were enslaved by and for Muslims in both North Africa and the Middle East over 1,300 years.

The conditions of the enslaved under Islam, according to Ronald Segal (Islam’s Black Slaves, Atlantic Books 2003) were very different from the conditions imposed by Europeans: the fundamental difference being that under Islam the enslaved were still human beings with some rights.

In British colonies in Africa, it was not till 1874 that slave dealing was abolished in the Gold Coast; slavery was abolished in Egypt in 1895, in Nigeria in 1901, and in Sierra Leone in 1928.  

There is an even more painful issue to consider. The Europeans did not wage wars to capture and enslave Africans. They bought them from Africans, who sold prisoners-of-war to them. Yes, the Europeans encouraged wars – to ensure that they obtained the number of enslaved they wanted.

Clearly, some Africans, and not only coastal peoples, were willing to participate. An example of the latter were the kings of Asante, who conquered peoples to their north for export to the European slave “forts” along the coast.

Thus their already immense wealth from trade in gold and kola nuts was vastly increased. And it was these wealthy merchants who first sent their children to Europe to acquire western education, and thus became the “natural” native leaders and “professionals” within the colonies – and eventually the first members of Legislative Assemblies, etc.

So are those claiming reparations going to make a claim from these Africans also?

And what form should the reparations take? As a survivor of the Nazi pogroms against Hungarian Jews, as a teenager then living in Australia, I accepted the reparations offered.

It wasn’t much, but when you’re a hard-working immigrant you’re glad of free pocket-money.

But within a few years, I tried to pay it back – I had begun to feel that I had been bought. Would people of African descent feel this? And what about those of African descent in the Americas and in Europe? Can reparations take the form of monitored laws regarding equality issues?  

Written By
New African

11 Commentaires

  • The Arab slave trade enslaved far more and continued far longer than the Atlantic slave trade. However, it gets extremely benign treatment in this article which stresses how “well” the slaves were treated!. No mention of the rape of women and castration of men that was habitually practiced by the Arabs – Why?
    The Arab slave trade typically dealt in the sale of castrated male slaves. Black boys between the age of 8 and 12 had their scrotums and penises completely amputated to prevent them from reproducing. About six of every 10 boys bled to death during the procedure, according to some sources, but the high price brought by eunuchs on the market made the practice profitable.
    Some men were castrated to be eunuchs in domestic service and the practice of neutering male slaves was not limited to only Black males. “The calipha in Baghdad at the beginning of the 10th Century had 7,000 black eunuchs and 4,000 white eunuchs in his palace,” writes author Ronald Segal in his 2002 book, Islam’s Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora.

    • Actually, the so-called “Arab” slave trade, did not draw more people than the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, was nowhere near as violent, and was a normal practice in Africa before Arab civilisation spread. Anyone with a slightlly skeptical mind will find glaring exaggerations and baseless extrapolations in Western academics who sensationalise the history.

  • European slave trade was institutional slavery but the Arab slave trade was not. European slavery was much worse. You dont see the KKK in Arab history. Eurpeans dont know history and they try and downplay European slavey. The so called castration of black men is a myth invented by racist Europeans.

    • I hate to break it too, the hate in the Middle East is just (maybe worse, since slavery of black people is still active) as bad as in the west. You just don’t speak the langue, know the it’s ingrained culturally or live there. Speak from experience, part Lebanese.

    • Actually the Arab Slave Trade Ushered in The European Slave Trade

      The Arab slave trade in the 19th century was economically tied to the European trade of Africans. New opportunities of exploitation were provided by the transatlantic slave trade and this sent Arab slavers into overdrive.

      The Portuguese (on the Swahili coast) profited directly and were responsible for a boom in the Arab trade. Meanwhile on the West African coast, the Portuguese found Muslim merchants entrenched along the African coast as far as the Bight of Benin. These European enslavers found they could make considerable amounts of gold transporting enslaved Africans from one trading post to another, along the Atlantic coast.

      Arab Slave Trade Inspired Arab Racism Toward Blacks.

      Its important to note that Arab is not a racial classification;  an Arab is almost like an American in that people classified as Arab today could be Caucasian (white people), Asiatic or even Arabized Africans. In the beginning there was some level of mutual respect between the Blacks and the more lighter skinned Arabs. However,  as Islam and the demand for enslaved Blacks grew, so did racism toward Africans.

      As casual association with Black skin and slave began to be established, racist attitudes towards Blacks began to manifest in Arabic language and literature. The word for slave – Abid – became a colloquialism for African. Other words such as Haratin express social inferiority of Africans.


    • Muhammadan Islam institutionalized slavery. Muhammad began to take many more slaves after he moved to Medina, and began what can only be described as the 1story Organized Crime Syndicate in history whose base and centre of operations was the Medina. Slaves were usually taken in raids on from the Quraysh tribe, other Jewish & Christian Arabs and any Arab tribe that he chose as a victim of his plunder. Muhammad was a thief, rapist, and murderer, after being reasonably denounced as a prophet. Before anybody reads the Quran or Hadith, they should read Ibn Ishaq’s biography of Muhammad the Sira. This is history and it also helps to know history in general. A good history student or anybody who has a degree in history knows 1st and foremost Islam is in no way shape or form is Islam a religion of peace, it’s not even a religion to those who understand the common definition. Islam has no Golden Rule.

      In fact, the Quran allows the taking of slaves as ‘booty’, or ‘reward’ for wars of aggression against any and all UNBELIEVERS (most of the human population). This has led to an enormous number of so called ‘Holy Wars’ called ‘Jihad’. There is and was absolutely nothing ‘holy’ about these wars which are primarily to plunder, slaughter, rape, subjugate and rob other human beings of their wealth and produce.

      Muhammadan Muslim states and tribes attack other non-Muslim groups to achieve these objectives. Islamic jurisprudence laid down regulations for the proper treatment of slaves. However, incredible and heinous abuses have occurred throughout the history of Islam.

      • Actually, “Muhammadan Islam” did not institutionalise slavery. Slavery was common practice back then and plenty of Biblical rules expose this. Secondly, it did not usher in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Colonialism ushered that in. The same people who committed genocides in North/South America and Australia, developed the social hierarchy of race. You call them Arab slave traders in Swahili, but they’re actually Africans, with their own language and culture. The Indian Ocean trade route was well developed long before the Portuguese set sail. And Africans were trading freely outside of a racist colonial order.

    • Actually “castration” was a practice. But I agree with you. And its unfortunate but Arabs have adopted some of the mentality of White enslavers. And there are plenty of “liberal” activists in the West who are happy to feed the lies too.

  • This is one of those fallacies being pushed to promote conflict between Arab speaking Africans and non-Arabs, and between Muslims and Christians. Its a ridiculous lie that 14 million people were enslaved by Arabs. And a cursory look at the research, produced by Islamophobes, makes extreme interpolations to reach that number. Even the grand exaggeration of “white gold” and the 1 million “White” slaves can be easily debunked by the absolute lack of serious consistent evidence to support this.

    And yes, Africans did enslave each other. But none could imagine the cruelty of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, where a 3rd of the passengers were simply disposed of in the ocean. The academics who push this narrative of African/Arab complicity have to break the boundaries of logic and sense to reach the conclusions that they have. And they are doing it to simply conceal the violence of the Colonial project. We should not support this.

    • I been sent this very link every time a Muslim wants to undermine this research done by researchers, and professors, and religious scholars, theologians, writers, and I witness accounts, boat logs, navigation charts, and contemporary works of that time. I know the Islamic world doesn’t teach logic, reasoning, and critical thought but for those of us in the Western world we can come to logical and reasonable conclusions by witnessing the fruits of Islam everyday and come to a reasonable and rational conclusions that in Islam’s birthplace and in the surrounding Islamic countries, Islamic men are the most brutal, barbaric, insecure, woman-hating, pedophiles the world has ever witnessed. Not just the Bacha Bazi boys, but throughout Islamic World men in authority rape little boys because they are promised that in Paradise, then blame the boy because they are cowardly hypocrites, raised to hate women whom they are separated from starting in childhood which completely perverts their view of the opposite sex.

      The greatest theologians, philosophers, historians, and authors from Islam’s inception came to the same conclusions about the ideology that masked itself with religion. Adams nails it:

      John Quincy Adams[edit ]

      John Quincy Adams (1767 – 1848) was the sixth President of the United States. He was also an American diplomat and served in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
      …he [Muhammad] declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind…The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. [67] In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab of the lineage of Hagar [i.e., Muhammad], the Egyptian, combining the powers of transcendent genius, with the preternatural energy of a fanatic, and the fraudulent spirit of an impostor, proclaimed himself as a messenger from Heaven, and spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth. Adopting from the sublime conception of the Mosaic law, the doctrine of one omnipotent God; he connected indissolubly with it, the audacious falsehood, that he was himself his prophet and apostle. Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he humbled it to the dust by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion. He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. THE ESSENCE OF HIS DOCTRINE WAS VIOLENCE AND LUST: TO EXALT THE BRUTAL OVER THE SPIRITUAL PART OF HUMAN NATURE [Adam’s capital letters]….Between these two religions, thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. The war is yet flagrant…While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men.[68] As the essential principle of his faith is the subjugation of others by the sword; it is only by force, that his false doctrines can be dispelled, and his power annihilated. They [The Russians] have been from time immemorial, in a state of almost perpetual war with the Tatars, and with their successors, the Ottoman conquerors of Constantinople. It were an idle waste of time to trace the causes of each renewal of hostilities, during a succession of several centuries. The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force. Of Mahometan good faith, we have had memorable examples ourselves. When our gallant [Stephen] Decatur ref had chastised the pirate of Algiers, till he was ready to renounce his claim of tribute from the United States, he signed a treaty to that effect: but the treaty was drawn up in the Arabic language, as well as in our own; and our negotiators, unacquainted with the language of the Koran, signed the copies of the treaty, in both languages, not imagining that there was any difference between them. Within a year the Dey demands, under penalty of the renewal of the war, an indemnity in money for the frigate taken by Decatur; our Consul demands the foundation of this pretension; and the Arabic copy of the treaty, signed by himself is produced, with an article stipulating the indemnity, foisted into it, in direct opposition to the treaty as it had been concluded. The arrival of Chauncey, with a squadron before Algiers, silenced the fraudulent claim of the Dey, and he signed a new treaty in which it was abandoned; but he disdained to conceal his intentions; my power, said he, has been wrested from my hands; draw ye the treaty at your pleasure, and I will sign it; but beware of the moment, when I shall recover my power, for with that moment, your treaty shall be waste paper. He avowed what they always practised, and would without scruple have practised himself. Such is the spirit, which governs the hearts of men, to whom treachery and violence are taught as principles of religion.[69] Had it been possible for a sincere and honest peace to be maintained between the Osmanli and his christian neighbors, then would have been the time to establish it in good faith. But the treaty was no sooner made than broken. It never was carried into effect by the Turkish government.[70] [From the Ottoman Reis Effendi, to his Russian counterparts] ‘The present friendly letter has been composed and sent, to acquaint your excel­lency. with the circumstance; when you shall learn, on receipt of it, that the Sublime Porte has at all times; no other desire or wish than to preserve peace, and good understanding ; and that the event in question has been brought about, entirely by the act of the said minister, we hope that you will endeavor, do every occasion, to fulfil the duties of friendship.’ But precisely at the time when this mild, and candid, and gently expostulary epistle was despatched for St. Petersburg, another state paper was issued, addressed by the Sultan to his own subjects-this was the Hatti Sheriff of the 20th of December, sent to the Pashas of all the provinces, calling on all the faithful Mussulmen of the empire to come forth and ‘fight for their religion, and their country, against the infidel despisers of the Prophet. The comparison of these two documents with each other, will afford the most perfect illustration of the Ottoman faith, as well as of their temper towards Russia.

      The Hatti Sheriff commenced with the following admirable com­mentary upon the friendly profession, which introduced the letter to count Nesselrode. ‘It is well known (said the Sultan) to almost every person, that if the Mussulmen naturally hate the infidels, the infidels, on then part, are the enemies of the Mussulmen : that Russia, more espe­cially, bears a particular hatred to Islamism, and that she is the principal enemy of the Sublime Porte.’
      This appeal to the natural hatred of the Mussulmen towards the infidels, is in just accordance with the precepts of the Koran. The document does not attempt to disguise it, nor even pretend that the enmity of those whom it styles the infidels, is any other than the ne­cessary consequence of the hatred borne by the Mussulmen to them—the paragraph itself, is a forcible example of the contrasted character of the two religions. The funda­mental doctrine of the christian religion, is the extirpation of hatred from the human heart. It forbids the exercise of it, even towards enemies. There is no denomina­tion of christians, which denies or misunderstands this doctrine. All understand it alike—all acknow­ledge its obligations ; and however imperfectly, in the purposes of Divine Providence, its efficacy has been shown in the practice of christians, it has not been wholly inoperative upon them. Its effect has been upon the manners of nations. It has mitigated the horrors of war – it has softened the features of slavery – it has humanized the intercourse of social life. The unqualified acknowledgement of a duty does not, indeed, suffice to insure its performance. Hatred is yet a passion, but too powerful upon the hearts of christians. Yet they cannot indulge it, except by the sacrifice of their principles, and the conscious violation of their duties. No state paper from a Christian hand, could, without trampling the precepts of its Lord and Master, have commenced by an open proclamation of hatred to any portion of the human race. The Ottoman lays it down as the foundation of his discourse.[71] If ever insurrection was holy in the eyes of God, such was that of the Greeks against their Mahometan oppressors. Yet for six long years, they were suffered to be overwhelmed by the whole mass of the Ottoman power; cheered only by the sympathies of all the civilized world, but without a finger raised to sustain or relieve them by the Christian governments of Europe; while the sword of extermination, instinct with the spirit of the Koran, was passing in merciless horror over the classical regions of Greece, the birth-place of philosophy, of poetry, of eloquence, of all the arts that embellish, and all the sciences that dignify the human character. The monarchs of Austria, of France, and England, inflexibly persisted in seeing in the Greeks, only revolted subjects against a lawful sovereign. The ferocious Turk eagerly seized upon this absurd concession, and while sweeping with his besom of destruction over the Grecian provinces, answered every insinuation of interest in behalf of that suffering people, by assertions of the unqualified rights of sovereignty, and by triumphantly retorting upon the legitimates of Europe, the consequences naturally flowing from their own perverted maxims.”[72] This pretended discovery of a plot between Russia and the Greeks, is introduced, to preface an exulting reference to the unhallowed butchery of the Greek Patriarch and Priests, on Easter day of 1822, at Constantinople, and to the merciless desolation of Greece, which it calls ‘doing justice by the sword’ to a great number of rebels of the Morea, of Negropont, of Acarnania, Missolonghi, Athens, and other parts of the continent.The document acknowledges, that although during several years, considerable forces, both naval and military, had been sent against the Greeks, they had not succeeded in suppressing the insurrection.[7 Abu Bakr Muhammad al-Razi

      Muhammad ibn Zakariyā Rāzī (865 – 925 AD) was a Persian physician, alchemist, chemist, philosopher, and scholar.
      If the people of this religion Islam are asked about the proof for the soundness of their religion, they flare up, get angry and spill the blood of whoever confronts them with this question. They forbid rational speculation, and strive to kill their adversaries. This is why truth became thoroughly silenced and concealed.
      You claim that the evidentiary miracle is present and available, namely, the Koran. You say: “Whoever denies it, let him produce a similar one.” Indeed, we shall produce a thousand similar, from the works of rhetoricians, eloquent speakers and valiant poets, which are more appropriately phrased and state the issues more succinctly. They convey the meaning better and their rhymed prose is in better meter. … By God what you say astonishes us! You are talking about a work which recounts ancient myths, and which at the same time is full of contradictions and does not contain any useful information or explanation. Then you say: “Produce something like it”?
      Alexis de Tocqueville

      Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (1805 – 1859) was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution.
      I studied the Quran a great deal. I came away from that study with the conviction that by and large there have been few religions in the world as DEADLY to men as that of Muhammad. As far as I can see, it is the principal cause of the decadence so VISIBLE TODAY IN THE MUSLIM WORLD and, though less absurd than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are in my opinion more to be feared, and I therefore regard it as a form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism itself.[8] Muhammad professed to derive from Heaven, and he has inserted in the Koran, not only a body of religious doctrines, but political maxims, civil and criminal laws, and theories of science. The gospel, on the contrary, only speaks of the general relations of men to God and to each other – beyond which it inculcates and imposes no point of faith. This alone, besides a thousand other reasons, would suffice to prGreat ove that the former of these religions will never long predominate in a cultivated and democratic age, whilst the latter is destined to retain its sway at these as at all other periods.[9] Anthony Flew[edit ]

      Antony Garrard Newton Flew (1923 – 2010) was a British philosopher. He was also known for the development of the no true Scotsman fallacy.
      I would never regard Islam with anything but horror and fear because it is fundamentally committed to conquering the world for Islam… it is, I think, best described in a Marxian way as the uniting and justifying ideology of Arab imperialism. Between the New Testament and the Qur’an there is (as it is customary to say when making such comparisons) no comparison. Whereas markets can be found for books on reading the Bible as literature, to read the Qur’an is a penance rather than a pleasure. There is no order or development in its subject matter…. The Prophet, though gifted in the arts of persuasion and clearly a considerable military leader, was both doubtfully literate and certainly ill-informed about the contents of the Old Testament and about several matters of which God, if not even the least informed of the Prophet’s contemporaries, must have been cognizant… one thing I’ll say in this comparison is that, for goodness sake, Jesus is an enormously attractive charismatic figure, which the Prophet of Islam most emphatically is not.[12] The Koran calls for belief and consequent obedience. It is, surely, calculated to inspire fear, indeed abject terror, rather than love.

      Arthur Schopenhauer[edit ]

      Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) was an influential German philosopher, known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity.
      Temples and churches, pagodas and mosques, in all countries and ages, in their splendor and spaciousness, testify to man’s need for metaphysics, a need strong and ineradicable, which follows close on the physical. … Sometimes it lets itself be satisfied with clumsy fables and fairy-tales. If only they are imprinted early enough, they are for man adequate explanations of his existence and supports for his morality. Consider the Koran, for example; this wretched book was sufficient to start a world-religion, to satisfy the metaphysical need of countless millions for twelve hundred years, to become the basis of their morality and of a remarkable contempt for death, and also to inspire them to bloody wars and the most extensive conquests. In this book we find the saddest and poorest form of theism. Much may be lost in translation, but I have not been able to discover in it one single idea of value.

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