As societies began to shift from agricultural to industrialized ways of life, the shift prompted the need for many new and innovative ideas. With the Industrial Revolution on the rise in the United Kingdom, mass production as well as mass consumption of goods was in high demand. This meant more employment and population growth and an increase in urbanization. While this was a positive step forward economically, we sometimes fail to remember the catastrophic effects it has had on human life, especially African slaves, to achieve that level of economic stability.
During the Industrial Revolution, mass production was in full swing. Products that were normally made by hand were beginning to be produces by machinery powered by water or steam. This meant more products could be produced at a faster rate. But who harvested and supplied all of these raw materials, materials that had been pouring in from all over the new world, especially from the Americas? The answer was slaves. Slaves were used for the production and collection of sugar in the Caribbean, cocoa beans and timber in Brazil, and Silver and other products in New Spain. Though there were many slaves of different origins, the most prominent were African slaves. This was the first leg of the Triangle Trade Route. European traders would sail down the coast of Africa trade goods and weaponry for slave labor. With the influx of weapons arriving on African soil. Colonies could use them to attack weaker tribes and capture their own slaves to use as trade with the Europeans.
Roughly 12.5 million slaves were shipped from Africa to the Americas between early 16th century and late 19th century. Their mission was to collect and produce raw materials to feed the machine we know as the Industrial Revolution. Two million would never see the new world and perished on their journey across the ocean. Native people of the Americas were used as slave labor as well but were quickly proven to be unfit. Mostly due to the diseases the Europeans carried over to the new world.
“There was then no sickness; they had no aching bones; they had then no high fevers: they had then no smallpox…At that time, the course of humanity was orderly. The foreigners made it otherwise when they arrived here”. – Unknown Yucatan Indian
In the new world everyone was impacted by diseases. Diseases like influenza, typhus, measles, chickenpox, diphtheria, scarlet fever, typhoid, whooping cough, bubonic plague, and most deadly was smallpox. But the civilizations that suffered the most were native to the land. APA (American Psychological Assoc.) Walvin, J. (1996). Questioning Slavery. London: Routledge.
With mass production in the United Kingdom there came mass consumption. As the Industrial Revolution skyrocketed, it provided more jobs for the working class. Giving more opportunities for individuals to provide for their families. This also contributed to an increase in populations and a rise in urbanization. With more work to be done, this meant more jobs. It also increased economic flow, allowing the industry to thrive. But where were all these manufactured goods going? Besides back into consumer’s hands, goods were loaded onto ships and taken south to Africa to use as trade. Again and Again Tools, weapons as well as foods and alcohol were just some of the bargaining products used to trade for slave laborers. As the Industrial Revolution flourished, there was no shortage of goods being produced, which meant there was never a shortage of the need for slave labor.
The Industrial Revolution was an amazing achievement attained through slave labor. Throughout history and ancient times, slaves have always been used in dreadful ways. Though it may not compare in numbers, no civilization has ever transported and utilized slaves in such a manner. Africa and many locations along the coast were altered dramatically, for instance the unbalanced gender relationship disrupted communities, families, labor and governance. This resulted in tribes and communities driven to flee into hiding in order to guard their people against being ripped from their homes. This also resulted in a halt in economic growth and hindering progressing within the colonies. With all this chaos, European traders took advantage of these unstable times and were able to maximize the slave trade industry. This manipulative market influenced the African political and religious upper classes, the warrior classes and the biracial elite, who made very little compared to what the Europeans would get out of the deal. They were able amass an endless supply of slaves to contribute to the production and collection of raw materials that fed the Industrial Revolution. To this day, Africa still bears the affects of what took place hundreds of years ago. You can see this through out the continent where many states have failed to modernize and build a stable economy.
Through out history slavery has been the backbone to advancement in civilizations. But the cost was heavy. The Europeans knew this during the Industrial Revolution and took full advantage of the colonies in West Africa. Since that time, we have grown out of these old ways. We understand and are discovering new ways to Mass produce. As well as manage and keep up with mass consumption that continues to thrive in this industrialized world we live in today.