This essay discusses James Barbot’s piece, authored in 1699 and entitled “A Voyage to New Calabar”, provides the reader with an insightful view of the inner workings of the slave trade which helped to provide the backbone of European expansion and empire throughout the world…
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By the time in which the piece was written, the Spanish Empire had already begun to decline and there was a virtual land grab on the part of the British, Dutch, and Prussian empires throughout the globe. Focusing upon Africa and the way in which slave transit and economics facilitated the growth and expansion of the home country as well as the development of the New World, the author allows for a rare level of insight into the ways in which the European powers subjugated the native peoples of Africa and carried out active competition against one another. Concerning the way in which the author viewed the subject matter at hand, the following quote serves as a unique illustration for the disregard and unimportance that the native Africans held in the mind of the slave traders: “Thus, with much patience, all our matters were adjusted indifferently, after their way, who are not very scrupulous to find excuses or objections, for not keeping literally to any verbal contract; for they have not the art of reading and writing, and therefore we are forced to stand for their agreement, which often is no longer than they think fit to hold themselves”. (Barbot 47). ...
However, notwithstanding this fact, they nonetheless cooperated actively in seeking to subjugate the native populations and saw such an action as advantageous to their collective causes. Another telling aspect of the piece was the fact that slavery was not an institution which was formed based upon any other factor except economics. Seeing that the New World offered an undesirable level of wealth to those that could exploit it, slavery, and the triangular trade by extension, was merely a means to an end. The collection of profits that were derived from this trade, although highly lucrative to the individual traders themselves, was used to benefit the imperial aspirations of the respective powers that sponsored such actions. Furthermore, another key observation that this reader was able to make from the primary material researched is the fact that the slave trade in and of itself was not seen as a morally offensive action by the author of the piece. As one might expect, the moral approval society of that time was enough to persuade most of the individuals that participated in such actions that the Africans which were bought and sold for little or no material benefit on the part of the African royalty and chiefs were seen as merely property and racially inferior to the traders that handled such a transaction.
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