Royal African Company



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Chapter 18 The Atlantic System and Africa, 1550-1800



Key Terms


  • Royal African Company- in 1660, the English government chartered a company called the "Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa." At first the company was mismanaged, but in 1663 it was reorganized. A new objective clearly stated that the company would engage in the slave trade. To the great dissatisfaction of England's merchants, only the Company of Royal Adventurers could now engage in the trade.
    The Company did not fare well, due mainly to the war with Holland, and in 1667, it collapsed. But out of its ashes emerged a new company: The Royal African Company. Founded in 1672, the Royal African Company was granted a similar monopoly in the slave trade. Between 1680 and 1686, the Company transported an average of 5,000 slaves a year. Between 1680 and 1688, it sponsored 249 voyages to Africa. ( http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p269.html)

  • Atlantic System- The Atlantic slave trade, also known as the transatlantic slave trade, and the Atlantic System was the trade of primarily African people supplied to the colonies of the New World that occurred in and around the Atlantic Ocean. It lasted from the 16th century to the 19th century. Most slaves were shipped from West Africa and Central Africa and taken to the New World. Generally slaves were obtained through coastal trading with Africans, though some were captured by European slave traders through raids and kidnapping.

  • Chartered company- A chartered company is an association formed by investors or shareholders for the purpose of trade, exploration and colonization. The nations gave investors monopolies over trade to their West Indies colonies in exchange for annual fees. (Bulliet 460)

  • Dutch West India Company- In 1621, the Estates-General of the Netherlands founded the Dutch West India Company; its purpose was to open trade in North and South America and compete with Spain for resources in these areas. After 1624, it established forts at Manhattan Island, Fort Orange (Albany), and Fort Nassau on the Delaware River. In 1621, the Estates-General of the Netherlands founded the Dutch West India Company; its purpose was to open trade in North and South America and compete with Spain for resources in these areas. After 1624, it established forts at Manhattan Island, Fort Orange (Albany), and Fort Nassau on the Delaware River.(http://www.njcu.edu/Programs/jchistory/Pages/D_Pages/Dutch_West_India_Company.htm)

  • Plantocracy- A ruling class formed of plantation owners. A number of early European colonies in the New World were largely plantocracies, usually consisting of a small European settler population relying on a predominantly West African chattel slave population (as well as smaller numbers of indentured slaves, both European and non-European in origin)( http://www.thefreedictionary.com/plantocracy)

  • Driver- was a privileged slave that headed a slave gang. Their purpose was to ensure the gang completed its work. (Bulliet 465)

  • Seasoning- Seasoning was torture inflicted during the Atlantic slave trade for the purpose of "breaking" slaves. The abuse conditioned the African captives for their new lot in life. Estimated mortality rates for this process vary from 7% to 50% with duration between one and four years. Most slaves destined for island or South American plantations were likely to be put through this ordeal, though slaves shipped directly to North America bypassed this process.

  • Manumission- The act of manumitting, or of liberating a slave from bondage.( http://www.answers.com/topic/manumission)

  • Maroon- was a term used to refer to a runaway slave in the West Indies, Central America, South America, and North America. Descendants of Maroon populations are found in Jamaica, Colombia, the Amazon River Basin and the American states of Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

  • Capitalism- Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned. Under capitalism the state is separated from economics (production and trade), just like the state is separated from religion. Capitalism is the system of of laissez faire. It is the system of political freedom.( http://www.capitalism.org/faq/capitalism.htm)

  • Mercantilism- Mercantilism is economic nationalism for the purpose of building a wealthy and powerful state. Adam Smith coined the term “mercantile system” to describe the system of political economy that sought to enrich the country by restraining imports and encouraging exports. This system dominated Western European economic thought and policies from the sixteenth to the late eighteenth centuries. The goal of these policies was, supposedly, to achieve a “favorable” balance of trade that would bring gold and silver into the country and also to maintain domestic employment. In contrast to the agricultural system of the physiocrats or the laissez-faire of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the mercantile system served the interests of merchants and producers such as the British East India Company, whose activities were protected or encouraged by the state.( http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Mercantilism.html)

  • Atlantic circuit- The Atlantic Circuit was a clockwise network of trade routes going from Europe to Africa, from Africa to the plantation colonies of the Americas (the Middle Passage), and then from the colonies to Europe. If all went well, a ship would make a profit on each leg of the circuit. The Atlantic Circuit was supplemented by a number of other trade routes: Europe to the Indian Ocean, Europe to the West Indies, New England to the West Indies, and the “Triangular Trade” between New England, Africa, and the West Indies.

  • Middle passage- The Atlantic Circuit was a clockwise network of trade routes going from Europe to Africa, from Africa to the plantation colonies of the Americas (the Middle Passage)

  • Songhai- In the 1580s Morocco attacked the sub-Saharan Muslim kingdom of Songhai, occupying the area for the next two centuries and causing the bulk of the trans-Saharan trade in gold, textiles, leather goods, and kola nuts to shift from the western Sudan to the central Sudan.

  • Hausa- The Hausa Culture is located mostly in northwestern Nigeria and parts of southwestern Niger they call Hausaland. There are several large cities around Hausaland. The population is the largest in West Africa consisting of over 20 million because of their intermarriages and constant interaction with different peoples. While most of the Hausa live in Hausaland, some of the people are found scattered from West Africa all the way to the Congo Republic settled temporarily as traders or sometimes even permanently.

  • Bornu- historical kingdom and emirate in northeastern Nigeria. Bornu was originally the southernmost province of the Kanem empire, an ancient kingdom that reached its peak in the 12th and 13th centuries. Toward the end of the 14th century the power of Kanem waned, and the empire shrank until little was left of it except Bornu. Succeeding centuries saw the final dissolution of the Kanem kingdom by its hostile neighbours (c. 1380) and the rise of Bornu. In the early 16th century, Bornu managed to recapture Kanem and made it a protectorate. The kingdom of Kanem-Bornu probably reached its height in the reign of Mai Idris Alawma (reigned c. 1571–c. 1603).

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