Abstract and Keywords
The transatlantic slave trade peaked in the third quarter of the eighteenth century, when more than 80,000 slaves annually were being shipped from Africa for the Americas. This overshadowed the older-established trade in slaves northwards from West Africa across the Sahara Desert to the Muslim world, which was probably under 10,000 annually. Despite the long history of commerce, direct European involvement in Africa remained limited. In contrast to the Americas, European colonial occupation of African territory was minimal before the later nineteenth century. Some African states maintained diplomatic relations with their trading partners across the Atlantic. The operation of the Atlantic trade had the effect of linking up different parts of Africa with each other, as well as with Europe and the Americas. The autonomous (or northern-oriented) character of the West African historical process might seem to be self-evidently illustrated by one of the major developments of this period, a series of jihads, or ‘Islamic Revolutions’, in which Muslim clerics seized power from existing ruling groups.
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