Assessing the Impacts of the Atlantic Slave Trade and American Crops on African Agriculture

Author(s): Amanda Logan

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Archaeological Approaches to Slavery and Unfree Labour in Africa" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Although the Columbian Exchange had a significant impact on local agroecologies, we still know very little about the African side of the exchange. This is particularly complex knot to unravel given that the Atlantic slave trade peaked during those same centuries. Both processes were to have major impacts on human-environment relations and food security in the centuries to follow, though archaeological data on these processes is still extremely limited. In this paper, I consider the relationship between slavery and American crops using archaeological and archaeobotanical data from Banda, Ghana that spans the last six centuries. I evaluate a hypothesis that has been remains remarkably tenacious in the historical literature: that there was a tradeoff between the introduction of American crops and the siphoning off of human lives and labor from the continent. I argue that this hypothesis is wrong, by outlining the conditions under which maize was adopted and its relationship to food security. Areas depopulated by slave raiding did not turn to maize as a solution. Maize did increase in some areas along the coast, because it was ideally suited to feeding captives, who had little choice over what they ate.

Cite this Record

Assessing the Impacts of the Atlantic Slave Trade and American Crops on African Agriculture. Amanda Logan. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 452433)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -16.743; min lat: 5.003 ; max long: -7.69; max lat: 15.961 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 24610