THE TRANS-ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE
Leo Africanus described the West African world of trade around the year 1515. His account is almost fully descriptive rather than normative. He describes four kingdoms, those of: Ghinea, Melli, Tombuto, and Gago. Concerning the first these, Africanus remarks on the relevant terrain and geographical markers, the commodities and currencies of certain times and locations, and how dwellings were constructed. On the Melli kingdom, Africanus mostly describes the terrain and the people, noting that they seem to have an abundance of corn, cotton, and flesh. He remarks that the people of this kingdom are superior to other Africans in wit, industry, and civility. Africanus says of the Tombuto kingdom that its people seem relatively wealthy, have many shops and merchants, but lack one crucial item: salt. This kingdom appears to have been quite advanced, with doctors and judges, in addition to priests and other educated peoples. Finally, concerning the kingdom of Gago, Africanus is not particularly kind. He calls the kingdom’s inhabitants ignorant and rude. Apart from this, he notes that slaves are available for purchase or sale, and that concubines and slaves are watched over by eunuchs.
Three key points are made by James Walvin concerning the early African slave trade. First, he stresses the various means by which knowledge concerning how to navigate the waters around the West Coast of Africa was acquired, in part by accumulative…
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