The Atlantic slave trade or transatlantic slave trade took place across the Atlantic Ocean from the 15th through the 19th centuries. This was crucial to those western European countries which, in the late 17th and 18th centuries, were vying with each other to create overseas empires, the Portuguese were the first to engage in the New World slave trade in the 16th century. In 1526, the Portuguese completed the first transatlantic voyage from Africa to the Americas. The first Africans imported to the English colonies were classified as indentured servants, like coming from England. By the middle of the 17th century, slavery had hardened as a caste, they and their offspring were legally the property of their owners. As property, the people were considered merchandise or units of labour, the major Atlantic slave trading nations, ordered by trade volume, were, the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Spanish, and the Dutch Empire. Several had established outposts on the African coast where they purchased slaves from local African leaders and these slaves were managed by a factor who was established on or near the coast to expedite the shipping of slaves to the New World. Slaves were kept in a factory while awaiting shipment, current estimates are that about 12 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic, although the number purchased by the traders is considerably higher, as the passage had a high death rate. Near the beginning of the century, various governments acted to ban the trade. In the early twenty-first century, several governments issued apologies for the slave trade. The Atlantic slave trade arose after trade contacts were first made between the continents of the Old World and those of the New World, between 1600 and 1800, approximately 300,000 sailors engaged in the slave trade visited West Africa. In doing so, they came into contact with societies living along the west African coast, historian John Thornton noted, A number of technical and geographical factors combined to make Europeans the most likely people to explore the Atlantic and develop its commerce. That leadership later gave rise to the myth that the Iberians were the leaders of the exploration. Slavery was practiced in parts of Africa, Europe, Asia. There is evidence that people from some African states were exported to other states in Africa, Europe. The African slave trade provided a number of slaves to Europeans. The Atlantic slave trade was not the slave trade from Africa, although it was the largest in volume. As Elikia M’bokolo wrote in Le Monde diplomatique, The African continent was bled of its resources via all possible routes
Map of the Atlantic, African slave labor source, and European colonization in the Americas
Group of men, children, and women being taken to a slave market
The Portuguese presenting themselves before the Manikongo. The Portuguese initially fostered a good relationship with the Kingdom of Kongo. Civil War within Kongo would lead to many of its subjects ending up as enslaved people in Portuguese and other European vessels.