Sunday, 15 November 2009

The truth about the Slave Trade

When, a couple of years ago, I exploded in indignation at the folly and ignorance of dunderhead political figures who apologised 'to Africa' for the Slave Trade the reaction from certain quarters was as though I'd denied the holocaust.

The truth is that if the West was a willing buyer of slaves, Africa was a willing seller. Of the 11m - 15m African slaves transported across the Atlantic between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, all but a few thousands had been captured and enslaved by fellow Africans in a cultural practice that pre-dated by centuries the first sight of a European on those shores. Their pre-European market had been the Gulf and the Arab states. Right up until abolition, Europe hardly had a foot ashore in Africa; the vast continent was only colonised post-abolition, when Quinine prophylaxis, the breech-loading rifle and steam gunboats made it possible.

Yet a distorted teaching of history in our schools has left a generation with the impression that it was chaps in Pith helmets and khaki drill who rounded up the natives and packed them off to Virginian tobacco plantations. And dunderhead politicos breathe it all in and apologise 'to Africa'.

And of course apologising for the behaviour of our ancestors prior to the effects of the Second Enlightenment makes about as much sense as apologising to elephants for our ancestors having hunted their tusked woolly cousins.

And although there is now an interesting suggestion from Nigeria that Africans ought to apologise to the Afro-Americans and our Afro-Carib population for the Trade, the idea of a Nigerian village girl apologising to Shirley Bassey or Michele Obama for having brought them to their present state seems a little incongruous.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know when the Muslim world - and especially the Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians and Libyans - are going to apologise for their enslavement of white Europeans.

Being a generous sort, I won't ask them to apologise for slavery all the way back to the seventh century. I'll be happy if they just apologise for their behaviour from the 1400s until the 1800s.

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting to see what Al BeeB do with this - bury it as deep as they can I suspect... Some of the loopier righteous will have attacks of the vapours no doubt :-)

As far as the Muslim world is concerned - those paradigms of Islamic virtue the Saudis still have an appetite / taste for slavery in the traditional sense.

I've often wondered how the manifold strictures on the treatment of slaves outlined in the Quran square up with the "Religion of Peace"

Anonymous said...

those paradigms of Islamic virtue the Saudis still have an appetite / taste for slavery in the traditional sense.

So do most Muslim countries. And even where they nominally reject de jure slavery, they have de facto slavery in pretty much every aspect of their poisonous societies.

Anonymous said...

I have yet to hear those who condemn English (not British, or European) activity in the slave trade, say anything about its continued existance in Africa.

In Niger and several other countries slave owning is still common and the world looks the other way - fingers in ears - la la lala la