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Slave trade: research uncovers details of first journeys

REVELATION: Some of the earliest voyages took place in the year following the royal sanction issued by Spanish King Charles I

NEW RESEARCH has revealed previously unknown details about the initial voyages of the transatlantic slave trade.

The revelations coincide with the 500th anniversary of the start of the transatlantic slave trade this August.

According to academics, some of the first journeys made by transatlantic slave ships took place in 1519, 1520, and 1521, The Independent’s archeology correspondent David Keys had reported.

The discovery of a voyage in 1519, shows that the start of the slave trade began in the year after such journeys were granted royal sanction by a charter issued by the King of Spain at the time, Charles I.

These initial voyages took place from Arguim, a small island that served as a Portuguese trading location and concluded in Puerto Rico.

At least 60, 54 and 79 slaves were on board the ships of the first four journeys, academics and Keys have said.

By 1522, the numbers of slaves forced to voyage on the ships had risen dramatically into the hundreds.

Between 1518 and 1530, there were at least six slave ship journeys from the Cape Verde Islands to the Caribbean. These ships were filled with black Africans, many of whom had been captured by African rulers and traders in the countries we now call Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone, Keys has reported.

Other horrific discoveries
In addition to the uncovering of new information in relation to the first voyages of the slave trade, recent archeology research has also revealed the shocking scale of the violence that was hugely significant in prompting Europeans to look to Africa for slaves to ship to islands in the Caribbean.

Keys’ report states that early Spanish colonisation in the Caribbean had resulted in the deaths of up to three million Caribbean Indians living in the region. It is understood that a large number of these casualties had been earmarked by the Spanish to be their slaves.

The anniversary of the start of the transatlantic slave trade has not received the level of attention it should, Keys argues.

He said: “The year the direct Africa to Americas slave trade was initiated by royal charter, 1518 is one of the most significant dates in the whole of human history. But, apart from this article, the anniversary has been largely forgotten.

“The relative lack of academic attention partly explains the silence.
“But an even more significant factor is the way in which Spain and Portugal have had relatively little interest in their respective yet crucial roles in the history of the transatlantic slave trade.”

Keys believes that this tendency to ignore how the slave trade began means a valuable opportunity to learn from history lessons is missed.

For the full details on the recent unpublished discoveries on the first voyages of the transatlantic slave trade, read Keys’ feature here.

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