Intro to Modern World History

4 Atlantic Slave Trade

Shelley Rose


The world between 1600 and 1750 became increasingly entangled after European expansion into the Americas and economic contact in the Indian Ocean and Africa. One of the driving forces behind European expansion was the understanding that the world’s wealth was fixed. This theory-known as mercantilism- is one of the key concepts during this period. In addition, historians study the largest forced human migration in world history: the Atlantic Slave Trade. In a world dominated by the pursuit and transfer of wealth, it is all too easy to get lost in the statistics and lose track of the human element involved in this tremendous case of mass migration. In this chapter, we will focus on multiple perspectives on the Atlantic Slave Trade and consider the widespread impact of this global process.


After completing Chapter 4, you will be able to:

  1. Identify and explain the typical journey of an African slave.
  2. Identify and explain the characteristics of a plantation complex in the Americas.
  3. Consider African and European perspectives on this forced migration.
  4. Define mercantilism and understand its role in the 18th century global economy.

Reading & Historical Thinking

  1. Read political theorist Christopher Berry, “Trading and Spending” in Adam Smith: A Very Short Introduction. (CSU students will be prompted for their library credentials). Concentrate on the sections “The critique of mercantilist politics” and “Free trade.”
  2. Look over this guide on typical slave journey and the plantation complex.


  1. African leaders and societies who encountered European traders adapted in different ways to this contact. Read these essays on Queen Nzinga and Dona Beatriz, to deepen your understanding of these complex relationships.
  2. In the app of your (or your instructor’s) choice, create a first-person account (as if you were Nzinga or Beatriz) of how ONE of these women reacted to European contact and how she cultivated European ideas or political relationships in ways that were distinct to her local context.
  3. Post the link to the Sway on our course discussion board.

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