Interesting enough, West Africa was at first a bit of a disappointment to Henri. Little gold to be found then, and mostly worthless trade. So he pushed as fast as he could to find a way to India, where things would be a lot more interesting. By the way, Henri's mother was English - Philippa, daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster - which may explain his capacity to focus on something as enormous as finding the maritime way to India, without ever leaving the shores of Portugal (except as a young man, in the conquest of Ceuta). This English/Portuguese combination has often been a very interesting one. The association of our imagination with the English pragmatism can have very interesting possibilities...neverfail wrote: ↑Wed Feb 14, 2018 4:03 amYes, I know that this seaborne slave running was carried out on an industrial scale. reading your post helped me to realise why.
Before Europeans reached the coast of west Africa and got into the game, Muslim (Arab, Berber and Tuareg) traders had been marching strings of black slaves across the Sahara sands to slave markets in the Middle East for centuries. The difference was that the need to feed and water the slaves as they spent weeks crossing the desert must have severely limited the number that could be taken from west Africa by this method. The number would have depended on the amount of provisions the camels that accompanied the march could have carried. But ships were more efficient in moving large numbers of people long distances.
The trade could be carried on in such a massive scale because ships were involved. That made the difference.
By the way (historical note) Portugal's celebrated ship designer Prince Henry the navigator was moved to the ambition to design and build better ships by the contents of Arabic accounts ledgers captured after the seaborne army he led stormed Ceuta. This north African port had been a hub of the trans-Sahara salt trade. The ledgers opened up his eyes to the potential wealth of gold, ivory and slaves that could be gained from that region. Europeans had until then taken no interest in sub-Sahara Africa simply because it had been unreachable to them. Whilst Prince Henry's work eventually allowed Portuguese vessels to reach the fabled east Indies, initially Portuguese ambitions were apparently focused on west Africa.
That explains why it took so bloody long for them to finally round the southern tip of Africa into the Indian Ocean. Diverted by the more immediate profits that west Africa could yield the bold and the brave?
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That surprises me Sertorio. You see, during the reign of the early Stuarts, English seafaring merchants were obtaining so much gold trading along the Guinea coast of Africa that in commemoration the king of England ordered the mint to strike a small gold coin worth 21 silver shillings known as a guinea. The coin was so popular that as late as the 1950's, though the coin had long gone out of circulation, specialist doctors in England still defined their fees payable by their patients in guineas.
A lot of the gold apparently originated from the kingdom of Mali further inland and was traded down to the coast via the tribes in the intervening territory - where English merchants then picked up a fair share of it. I thought it would have been the same when the first Portuguese merchants arrived there a couple of centuries earlier but apparently not.
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