Slavery was a widespread phenomenon in Europe during the Atlantic slave trade of the 1500s to the 1800s, particularly around port cities and in their hinterlands. The slaves held around the Mediterranean and more widely around Europe included both “Atlantic” slaves and slaves of other geographical origins, primarily the Ottoman Empire, Indian Ocean colonies, and sub-Saharan Africa. Others came from the Black Sea and Eastern Europe. Sub-Saharan Africans arrived in Europe via the Barbary Regency ports and Egypt. Slaves’ personal histories were often complex and surprising because of the intricacies of global slave mobility and continuous changes of ownership. There is a general theoretical distinction between captives from the Ottoman Empire and its satellite states, defined as temporary slaves, and slaves from the Atlantic or sub-Saharan Africa, even if they sometimes lived the same experience in Europe. Ransom demands and payments were a significant form of commerce in the Mediterranean basin until the middle of the 19th century and slavery persisted in Europe throughout the 1800s. The process of slaves’ assimilation into the European system ran parallel with learning a new language and becoming Christian. Starting work for a new owner, governmental or private, involved the imposition of a new social and cultural identity. Many enslaved often sought out pathways to emancipation. This article presents more detailed analyses on the Italian and German territories, Austria, France, Britain, and Portugal.
Burkina Faso has a remarkable history owing to repeated dissolution and reunification of its territory. Following the French colonial conquest in 1896, a military territory was established over a large part of what would become Upper Volta. In 1905, the military territory was integrated in the civilian colony of Upper Senegal and Niger with headquarters in Bamako. Following a major anticolonial war in 1915–16, the colony of Upper Volta with Ouagadougou as its capital was created in 1919, for security reasons and as a labor reservoir for neighboring colonies. Dismantled in 1932, Upper Volta was partitioned among neighboring colonies. It was recreated after World War II as an Overseas Territory (Territoire d’Outre-mer) within the newly created French Union (Union française). In 1960, Upper Volta gained its independence, but the nation experienced a new beginning in 1983 when it was renamed Burkina Faso by the revolutionary government of Thomas Sankara. The policies and debates that shaped the colonial history of Burkina Faso, while important in themselves, are a reflection of the larger West African history and French colonial policy.
In the Middle Ages and the early modern period, slavery was a widespread institution in the Christian-western Mediterranean. Its development was closely related to the systemic changes that took place in the region: the arrival of Islam in the 8th century, the Latin expansion of the 12th and 13th centuries, and the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade (c. 1450). After the arrival of Islam on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, and then the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century, a type of slavery concentrated mainly in the cities began to take shape in western Europe. During the Latin economic and commercial expansion of the 12th and 13th centuries, European merchants expanded their networks to the Black Sea, the Balkans, and the coast of Libya around Barqa, an area that concentrated part of the trans-Saharan slave trade routes. These three regions became the main centers for the exportation of enslaved men and women for the Christian-western Mediterranean. Finally, after the Ottoman expansion in the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea (c. 1370–1480), and the onset of the Atlantic slave trade (c. 1450–1480), Black African slaves became more numerous than those from anywhere else. Medieval Mediterranean societies made intensive and extensive use of slave labor. The slaves’ living conditions were related to the type of jobs they were forced to do, whether exploited directly by their owners or hired by others. After the exponential increase of sub-Saharan slaves, the first Black brotherhoods in the northern Mediterranean appeared, a testimony to the importance that Black slavery had attained by the end of the 15th century.
Southern Nigeria is rich in copper alloy cast works, such as those of the 9th-century burial goods of Igbo-Ukwu, the busts from 13th-century Ife, and the heads and plaques from the early 16th century from Benin City. Much scholarship has been devoted to these centers and yet there are other, perhaps even more historically important, works which have barely been acknowledged. The label “Lower Niger Bronzes” was proposed in the 1960s by William Fagg to account for those few pieces which did not fit with the three well-known centers’ works. On closer examination, these bronzes are far more numerous and of greater antiquity than previously realized. The quality and composition of these works indicate that most were likely cast prior to the European coastal trade in Nigeria which dates from the late 15th century. Leopard skull replicas, humanoid bell heads, small hippos, scepter heads, and masks make up only a portion of the works now under study. Without their original cultural contexts, these artifacts are somewhat mysterious, yet with careful study of their compositions and forms, much is revealed of a period of southern Nigerian history which predates the current arrangement of ethnic groups.
The peoples of early-21st-century Mozambique underwent different historical experiences which, to a certain extent, were homogenized when Portuguese colonialism encompassed the entire territory from the late 19th century onward. However, all of them had common origins, rooted in successive Bantu migrations. These peoples were organized into small chiefdoms based on lineages, but those located in the central region of Mozambique were integrated into states with some level of centralization, created by the Karanga south of the Zambezi and by the Maravi to the north. The interior regions were articulated into mercantile networks with the Indian Ocean through Swahili coastal entrepôts, exporting gold and ivory. From 1505 onward, the Portuguese sought to control this commerce from some settlements along the coast, particularly Mozambique Island, their capital. During the last decades of the 16th century, projects emerged for territorial appropriation in the Zambezi Valley, where a Luso-Afro-Indian Creole society developed. From the mid-18th century onward the slave trade to the Indian and Atlantic Oceans became increasingly important, with different impacts in the respective regions. Modern Portuguese colonialism was established by means of military campaigns: having limited capital, Portugal granted concessions for part of the territory to companies. When these concessions ended in 1942, the colonial state developed a direct administration throughout the territory, headquartered in Lourenço Marques (Maputo). Nationalist ideals developed during the 1950s among various movements, of which three organizations united to form the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) in 1962. From 1964 onward, FRELIMO unleashed an anticolonial war in northern and central Mozambique. After the 1974 revolution in Portugal, negotiations resulted in the recognition of Mozambique’s independence on June 25, 1975, and a FRELIMO government. Armed opposition to the Marxist-Leninist government and the civil war continued until 1992. During the 1990s, Mozambique adopted a multiparty system and liberalized its economy.
The idea of race shaped the encounter between Africa and Europe from the “age of discovery,” through the height of colonial rule in the 20th century, and on into the age of independence, decolonization and the birth of the postcolonial nation. Race, understood today as a social construct rather than a biological fact, emerged as an ideological framework in Western thought to rationalize difference. In the 16th and 17th centuries, religion and color stood as markers of difference. The Atlantic slave trade furthered the notion of African inferiority by defining African people as “heathen” and therefore suitable for enslavement. By the 19th century, scientific racism advanced the idea of blackness as biologically and culturally inferior to whiteness, which in turn served to justify colonial conquest under the guise of “civilizing dark Africa.” Colonial rule, moreover, relied on ethnicity as a means of categorizing African peoples. Using the idea of “tribe” to characterize and govern African peoples furthered the objectives of European imperialism by taking a complex landscape of social, cultural, political, and linguistic identity and establishing a rigid and fixed system of classification. African women stood at the intersection of racialist thinking about Africa and the construction of a colonial social order that used race and ethnicity as means of defining and controlling African populations. Women like Sara Baartman became the symbolic projection of racial and ethnic difference for Europe; at the same time, customary marriages between African women and European men in Atlantic Africa defined cross-cultural trade and gave rise to multiracial communities. As European imperialism gave way to colonial bureaucracy, the fluidity of interracial unions gave way to policies that sought to police the boundaries between black and white in the colony; children of mixed racial ancestry did not fit neatly into the ethnic or racial categories erected by colonial regimes. Far from being passive receptacles of racial and ethnic thinking, African men and women used these categories of European knowledge as tools for their own purposes. African women, in particular, developed their own strategies for engaging with European merchants and officials in the age of encounter, and for navigating the evolving landscape of colonial rule, whether defying colonial boundaries by entering into intimate partnerships with European men, or rejecting European suitors.