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Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800… (1992)

by John Thornton

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277474,612 (4.05)2
This book explores Africa's involvement in the Atlantic world from the fifteenth century to the eighteenth century. It focuses especially on the causes and consequences of the slave trade, in Africa, in Europe, and in the New World. African institutions, political events, and economic structures shaped Africa's voluntary involvement in the Atlantic arena before 1680. Africa's economic and military strength gave African elites the capacity to determine how trade with Europe developed. Thornton examines the dynamics of colonization which made slaves so necessary to European colonizers, and he explains why African slaves were placed in roles of central significance. Estate structure and demography affected the capacity of slaves to form a self-sustaining society and behave as cultural actors, transferring and transforming African culture in the New World.… (more)
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This book explores Africa's involvement in the Atlantic world from the fifteenth century to the eighteenth century. It focuses especially on the causes and consequences of the slave trade, in Africa, in Europe, and in the New World. African institutions, political events, and economic structures shaped Africa's voluntary involvement in the Atlantic arena before 1680. Africa's economic and military strength gave African elites the capacity to determine how trade with Europe developed. Thornton examines the dynamics of colonization which made slaves so necessary to European colonizers, and he explains why African slaves were placed in roles of central significance. Estate structure and demography affected the capacity of slaves to form a self-sustaining society and behave as cultural actors, transferring and transforming African culture in the New World.
  soualibra | Jan 9, 2020 |
Thjis is a strong argument for the position that the Africans (or at least the various African states) were active players during the era of the slave trade,not passive pawns of the Europeans. In a way this is positive for the Africans --arguing for example that they produced their own iron and cloth, and had a free choice of importing European materials --foreign cloth was imported as a matter of style; foreign iron was inferior to African steel, but was used for expendable items like javelin heads. However, it also implies Africans feely chose to engage in slave trading. He argues most African wars were for political reasons,not just slave raiding, though slaves could be a salable byproduct of wars. Most of his arguments focus on the earlier period before 1700 and are based on good evidence chiefly from European clerics and traders in Africa, though some places (notably the Kingdom of Kongo) produced their own records. I think his arguments are weaker for the 18th century (which he added for this volume); it does appear that flintlock muskets led to larger wars and more slave trading. He follows up the African section with one on the Americas, primarily Latin America and the Caribbean, arguing most "maroon" runaway slave settlements were authoritarian and militaristic, not the idealized republics of earlier writers. He also argue that many slaves had the opportunity to live with other slaves from the same region and maintained broadly "national' cultures in the first generation, though he accepts that later generations accepted creolization. He argues African religions tended to be based on revelations by prophets whose status depended on the success of their prophecies, and this system coud be adapted to Christian (especially Catholic) saints and miracles. ( )
  antiquary | Jul 14, 2018 |
A very interesting and informative read, but quite dry. If you can make past the few few chapters, however, one might find that they are drawn in by all the data that conventional history texts seem to ignore. A must-read for anyone with an interest in colonial history! ( )
  oreo | Jun 27, 2008 |
Fine piece of research work. Thornton's thesis is that Africans were active and instrumental in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and were not simply passive victims. He points out (against Mintz, Price, et al) that Africans in the Americas retained enough of their culture to actively participate in the development of unique and hybridized forms of culture in this region. In the process of developing his thesis Thornton provides useful details and insights into many aspects of American and Caribbean slavery, e.g. the reason coerced African labour was preferred to white indentureship. An important read for anyone interested in Caribbean history up to the period of emancipation.
1 vote Mutesa | Dec 1, 2006 |
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This book explores Africa's involvement in the Atlantic world from the fifteenth century to the eighteenth century. It focuses especially on the causes and consequences of the slave trade, in Africa, in Europe, and in the New World. African institutions, political events, and economic structures shaped Africa's voluntary involvement in the Atlantic arena before 1680. Africa's economic and military strength gave African elites the capacity to determine how trade with Europe developed. Thornton examines the dynamics of colonization which made slaves so necessary to European colonizers, and he explains why African slaves were placed in roles of central significance. Estate structure and demography affected the capacity of slaves to form a self-sustaining society and behave as cultural actors, transferring and transforming African culture in the New World.

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