Slave ships were large cargo ships that were specially made in the 17th to 19th centuries to transport slaves for trade. These ships are also known as Guineamen because the trade involved the trafficking of human beings to and from the Guinean coast in West Africa.

Slave trade in the Atlantic

By the early 1600s, more than a century after the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, the demand for unpaid labor at plantation work made slave trading a profitable enterprise. The peak period of slave ships to the Atlantic crossing was between the 18th and 19th centuries when large plantations developed in the southern colonies of North America. Ship owners divided their hulls into holds with little headroom to ensure profitability. The main objective was to be able to transport as many slaves as possible. As a result, slaves suffered from dehydration, dysentery and scrutiny, which caused an increase in the mortality rate for slaves.

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Africans transported

As the name suggests, they were doing what Americans say

Water and alcohol cargo

Generally, the cargo includes about 450 barrels of water, it is useful for all people for a trip at least 2 months of sea between stops.

Food provisioning

we will load more than 18 sea cookies, that is to say 160 quintals, 20 barrels of flour that we must embark. In addition to that, we will load 10 barrels of beef per sailor and per day.

Trade cargo or gifts

It is necessary to seduce the African chiefs and the intermediaries in the purchase of slaves, hence the idea of carrying gifts such as glassware, manufactured metal objects, canes with knobs, etc

Cargo of all goods

The cargo of goods was the second task for the slaves. They loaded human goods or ebony on its second journey from Africa to the Americas, and colonial goods like tobacco and cotton on the third journey.

Conditions on the slave ships

Given the number of slaves, the food was not sufficient, and did not respect the sanitary standard, not very diversified and not very vitaminized.

So many slaves suffered because they were scantily clad or even almost naked and chained at the ankles in a warehouse with almost no light. Men, women and children are not in the same place.

Conditions on the slave ships

The crew hired by the captain is up to two or three times more numerous than that of a normal commercial ship. This is one of the reasons for the very high cost of preparing a slave ship. The captain also had to think about not being short of men during the voyages despite diseases and epidemics. The mortality rate of the crew was between 10 and 15% on these slave trade ships. This rate is higher than that of the captives.

In addition, the crew was sometimes cosmopolitan, with Scandinavian sailors rubbing shoulders with their Spanish, Portuguese and Genoese colleagues.