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Commercial goods from Europe were shipped to Afrika for sale and traded for enslaved Afrikans. Afrikans were in turn brought to the regions depicted in blue, in what became known as the "Middle Passage". Africans were thereafter traded for raw materials, which were returned to Europe to complete the "Triangular Trade".

The Middle Passage was the stage of the triangular trade in which millions of people from Afrika[1] were shipped to the New World, as part of the Atlantic slave trade. Ships departed Europe for Afrikan markets with manufactured goods, which were traded for purchased or kidnapped Afrikans, who were transported across the Atlantic as slaves; they were then sold or traded for raw materials,[2] which would be transported back to Europe to complete the voyage. Voyages on the Middle Passage were a large financial undertaking, and they were generally organized by companies or groups of investors rather than individuals.[3]

Traders from the Americas and Caribbean received the enslaved Africans. European powers such as Portugal, England, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Brandenburg, as well as traders from Brazil and North America, took part in this trade. The enslaved Afrikans came mostly from eight regions: Senegambia, Upper Guinea, Windward Coast, Gold Coast, Bight of Benin, Bight of Biafra, West Central Afrika and Southeastern Afrika.[4]

An estimated 15% of the Afrikans died at sea, with death rates considerably higher in Africa itself in the process of capturing and transporting indigenous peoples to the ships.[5] The total number of African deaths directly attributable to the Middle Passage voyage is estimated at higher than 20 million; a broader look at African deaths directly attributable to the institution of slavery from 1500 to 1900 suggests tens of millions of Afrikan deaths.

For two hundred years, 1440–1640, Portuguese slavers had a near monopoly on the export of enslaved people from Afrika.


  1. McKissack, Patricia C., and McKissack, Frederick. The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay. 1995, page 109.
  2. Walker, Theodore. Mothership Connections. 2004, page 10.
  3. Thomas, Hugh. "The Slave Trade: the story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440–1870". 1999, page 293.
  4. Lovejoy, Paul E. Transformations in Slavery. Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  5. Mancke, Elizabeth and Shammas, Carole. The Creation of the British Atlantic World. 2005, page 30-1.