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By James Russell Lowell

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Operating out of these bases, traders would buy slaves from the local rulers, who usually acquired them by waging war. During the long history of the Atlantic slave trade, nearly every African shipped overseas had first been enslaved by other Africans. Slavery had long existed in Africa, but in a form less brutal than what the Europeans would impose. In Africa, slaves were not forced to toil endlessly to produce staple crops, and their descendants often became fully assimilated into the captors’ society.

By 1550, the empire had fallen apart. The Portuguese also founded offshore colonies along the way. They began to settle the uninhabited Madeira Islands in 1418, took possession of the Azores between 1427 and 1450, occupied the Cape Verde group in the 1450s, and took over São Tomé in 1470. Like exploration, colonization also turned a profit. Beginning in the 1440s, Portuguese planters on the islands produced sugar or wine, increasingly with slave labor imported from nearby Africa. At first the Portuguese acquired their slaves by landing on the African coast, attacking villages, and carrying off everyone they could catch.

C. D. 400 Adena-Hopewell mound builders emerge in Ohio River valley 900–1250 Cahokia becomes largest city of Mississippian mound builders 1001–1004 Norse found Vinland on Newfoundland 1448 Portuguese build first slave-trading factory at Arguin Island off West African coast 1492 Columbus sails to the Caribbean 1497–1499 da Gama rounds Cape of Good Hope and reaches India 1519–1522 Magellan’s fleet circumnavigates the globe; Cortés conquers Aztec empire 1531–1532 Pizarro conquers Inca empire 1573 Philip II issues Royal Order for New Discoveries 1580 Philip II unites Spanish and Portuguese empires Peoples in Motion Long before Europeans discovered and explored the wide world around them, many different peoples had migrated thousands of miles across oceans and continents.

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