Atlantic Slavery Reflects the Complexities of the Concept of Modernity

‘Atlantic slavery reflects the complexities of the concept of modernity.’ Discuss. (1806 words)

Between 1510 and 1867 CE a huge historic event took place, whereby, millions of enslaved African men, women and children were subjected to the most cruel and inhuman treatment imaginable, transported against their will, in the largest forced migration in history, across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas. The survivors were then auctioned to the highest bidder, becoming the personal ‘property’ of white tobacco, coffee, rice, cocoa, indigo but mainly, sugar and raw cotton producers, who operated lucrative forced labour plantations for profit. Between 1761 and 1808 alone, British traders transported 1,428,000 slaves across the Atlantic, gleaning £60 million, an estimated £8 billion today, for auction. Those directly involved in the Atlantic slave trade purchased black Africans, in the belief that they were more resilient to tropical climates than white people and partly because they had been dispossessed of all liberties (Blackburn. R, 2011). This long-term economic exploitation of black Africans had longstanding intercontinental significance for all parties concerned. This essay will focus on the slave trade, in particular its involvement with the concept of modernity, a multi faceted umbrella term that encompasses the development of the thoughts and beliefs that shaped our intellectual, political, economic and social world, the development of the Enlightenment movement, a post slave trade perspective from a Caribbean historian and its connections with Britain’s industrial revolution.

Generally associated with the scientific, industrial and political revolutions of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, historian Eric Hobsbawm defines modernity as:

‘A period of considerable upheaval and turmoil, political and social, that some historians have termed, ‘the age of revolutions’
                                  (Hobsbawm, 1993 [1962]).

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