Topic 1 - Buying people with metal, guns and beads
European slave traders did not themselves capture Africans to sell as slaves. Instead they bought prisoners and war captives from African kings and chiefs who wanted to trade with them. They paid for these captives with trade goods, which included metal wares, guns, alcohol, textiles and beads.
In the resources are some objects (1A), which are also contained in the handling box, and two documents (1B and 1C) that illustrate the trade goods British merchants used to buy Africans as slaves.
If you are using the handling box, match up the objects with their labels in Resource 1A. Otherwise, study the object images and their labels in Resource 1A.
Print out and read the two documents (1B and 1C). Underline any words in the documents that you do not understand and look up their meaning in a dictionary.
Using both the objects and the documents, write a list of the trade goods British merchants used to buy slaves.
Compare your list with those written by the rest of your group. Has everyone listed the same trade goods? Add to your list any trade goods that others have mentioned and you have missed.
Now study your list and mark on it which type of trade good you think is the most valuable. Mark which one you think is the least valuable.
Discuss with the others how you have rated the value of the trade goods. Do you all agree on which sort of trade good is most valuable and which is least valuable?
Think about the goods that you feel are the least valuable. Why do you think African slaving chiefs would accept these goods in payment for slaves? What made them valuable to the slaving chiefs?
Look at your list of trade goods again. Put a tick against those goods which you think were made in Britain. Put a cross against those goods which you think came from outside Britain. How many ticks and crosses have you got? What does this suggest about the economic importance of the slave trade? How far did its influence reach?
Read Richard Oswald’s letter again (1B). How many weapons was he planning to send to Sierra Leone? What do you think the guns were going to be used for in Africa after they were sold?
Read James Low’s letter again (1C). He suggests that Europeans bought other things as well as slaves from their African trading partners. List these other things.