The Spanish started using African slaves in the 16th century.
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The Spanish started using African slaves in the 16th century as a means to fill the labor shortage caused by the decline of indigenous peoples due to disease and overwork in their colonies in the Americas. According to historian James Sweet, “The initial use of African slaves was not predicated on notions of racial difference or superiority, but rather was a pragmatic solution to a labor shortage.”
Some interesting facts about the use of African slaves by the Spanish include:
- The transatlantic slave trade brought approximately 12.5 million enslaved Africans to the Americas between the 16th and 19th centuries, with Spain being one of the largest importers.
- The Spanish initially used indigenous peoples as forced labor in their colonies, but their numbers declined rapidly due to disease and the harsh conditions they were subjected to. The Spanish then turned to African slaves as a replacement.
- The Spanish established slave ports along the west coast of Africa, from where they would purchase enslaved Africans who were then transported to the Americas on the infamous Middle Passage.
- The use of African slaves by the Spanish was not limited to their colonies in the Americas – they also used slaves in the Philippines and in their colonies in Africa.
- The Spanish Crown officially abolished slavery in 1811, but it continued illegally in some parts of the empire until the mid-19th century.
Here is a table summarizing the number of enslaved Africans brought to the Americas by various European powers during the transatlantic slave trade:
|European Power||Number of Enslaved Africans Brought to the Americas|
Overall, the use of African slaves by the Spanish played a significant role in their colonial empire and the transatlantic slave trade. Today, the legacy of slavery is still felt in many parts of the Americas, and efforts to address its impact on societies and people continue.
Response video to “When did the Spanish start using African slaves?”
The YouTube video “Labor, Slavery, and Caste in the Spanish Colonial System” discusses how the Spanish relied on the Incumienda system to enslave Native Americans and African people. The caste system carefully defined the status of the diverse population of Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans in the empire. This hierarchy remained even after the end of the Spanish Colonial System.
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15th centurySpain began to trade slaves in the 15th century and this trade reached its peak in the 16th century. The history of Spanish enslavement of Africans began with Portuguese captains Antão Gonçalves and Nuno Tristão in 1441.
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AD 1493: Spanish settlers enslave the Taíno of Hispaniola
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