Skip to main content

What Effect Did Slavery Had on Atlantic Civilization?

Nyamweya is a Kenyan scholar who has done many years of research on a diversity of topics


The term Atlantic Civilization has its roots in the 18th century during the American revolutions. The fundamental idea behind this concept was to amalgamate the values advocated in the American and French revolutions. This concept was perceived to be a crucial pillar of a single though divided approach to social and economic modernization. It basically entails interrelationships between the Old World Homelands and the Western World gradually to produce a new civilization. The effects of slave trade and slavery in general in fuelling Atlantic Civilization were profound and long term. A part from playing a crucial role in economic development of the new world in providing labor services, slavery also led to development of new human identities due to amalgamation of different races and culture. Therefore, there is no doubt that the implication of slavery is notable.


Christophe Columbus, the first voyager of the world who stumbled upon the Americas and whose explorations marked the commencement of years of transatlantic colonization. Upon discovering this region, of which he mistakenly believed to be Asia, he noted numerous people already living there. Detailing his experience in the journal he wrote, Columbus describes the hosts of this land as ignorant people. This is despite the fact that they were friendly towards the visitors and that they had many things to trade for. However, Colombus notes that the although the land was fertile and the inhabitants had a lot of resources which they willingly traded with the visitors, the people did not know many things including arms among others. Due to this ignorance, some natives could take the sword from the visitor, take its edge and cut themselves unknowingly (Columbus 1).

Nonetheless, Columbus saw a potential in these native people which he believed could make good servants if captured and taken to his homeland, Spain.

“The natives were much willing to bring us spears, balls of cotton and parrots as well as other things which we exchanged with hawks bells and beads. Apart from being handsome being, these natives had good and healthy bodies; features which could make them good servants” (Columbus 1).

The general description about the people in this land of America by Colombus is that they were generally backward, both sexes walking naked with some women covering their private parts with leaves, cotton veils or branches. Furthermore, they were not aware of iron nor its role while they are afraid of using arms. In addition to these is that the people were timid and fearful.

It can thus be said that the idea of slavery and colonization originated from Christopher Columbus. In addition, this discovery by Christopher Columbus on the nature of the American people later helped in shaping their identities, both socially and economically. It needs to be considered that while returning back home, Christopher Columbus took by force some Indians from the native America to Europe. The purpose was to make them work for the King and Queen as well as to learn some “civility”. This encounter surely helped in transforming the social sphere, lifestyle and economic prospect of the American people.

In his first voyage, Vasco da Gama, another European explorer helped find sea routes, and new lands across the world that was beneficial to the Portuguese in terms of finding new conquests and slaves. In his first voyage, da Gama discovered the Contra Costa, which is the east coast of Africa. This region later became crucial for Portuguese interests such as serving as a garage for their ships when the weather was unconducive or when they needed repairs, fresh water provisions and even a market place for slaves. This also resulted into colonization of Mozambique by the Portuguese. The Portuguese perceived the natives in Mozambique to be uncivilized and so inculcated their culture, lifestyle and believes in them. In addition, colonial policies forced the natives into forces labor. Vasco da Gamas exploration also led him to the discovery Eastern Cape of South Africa, Mombasa, Malindi, and India. This later became major routes for the Europeans as they traversed through their journeys. Gradually, in their Mozambique colony, Africans were forced to comply with the Portuguese standards and lifestyle including going to school so as to get jobs. However, the Africans were also subjected to racial discrimination and jealousies. Consequently, due to the interaction of the Portuguese and their policies on Africans, a high number of the natives in this country began losing ties with their rural ties, their culture, and traditions. Instead, they began adopting European customs, were active in the urban economy while many also settled in the suburbs. This is certainly a pointer on the implications of European encounter with forced labor and eventual adoption of the Western lifestyle by the Africans. In other words, while slavery worked in building the European colonies economically, most of them who were basically the subjects of these colonies were required to comply with the policies of their masters including changing their lifestyle, social conditions and culture. In this regard, most of them found themselves within the whims of these European cultures while gradually abandoning theirs. This therefore, played a huge role in Atlantic Civilization which tilted towards adoption of Western culture, subsequently leading to globalization (Vasco Da Gama 1).

Scroll to Continue

In essence, the Europeans take the minds of their subjects’ captive to the point they no longer value their own or consider themselves important. In his letter of on “the Freedom of a Christian” Martin Luther saw the weight of this matter; whereby; some people including the Christians were discarding other peoples culture and beliefs yet according to him, some of them were equally important. For instance, he noted that some doctrines which were presumed to be perfect by some religious groupings were impious, yet the subjects were being forced to embrace them. On the similar note, this author is implying that note all morals, lifestyle, beliefs or culture could be considered positive for some people to embrace them. Instead, the author is advocating for people including Christians to be allowed the freedom to chose on what to belief, their lifestyle, and even how to conduct themselves. According to Martin Luther’s views, it was wrong to consider ones culture, or beliefs as being good while those of others are wrong. Instead, a consideration should be made of ensuring that the good part in a given culture, tradition or people are maintained while the bad parts are eliminated (Luther1). In his Institute of Christian Religion, John Calvins also observes that, even today have been brainwashed into believing that a certain doctrine, religion or culture is better off than others and therefore should be embraced. This may obviously work to explain why today’s culture in many parts of the world is mostly oriented towards the Western considering that most countries had colonized Africa. This is the same case with religion where, countries where missionaries from specific religions frequented are dominated by the particular religions and doctrines (Calvins1). What Martin Luther and John Calvins are lamenting on is the erosion of positive morals which is being replaced by false doctrines and immoral culture in the post-modern Atlantic Civilization.

In his poem, “The ship of Fools”, Alexander Barclay admonishes the explorers for forcing people to adopt their believes just to appease their authority. According to this author, every region, culture, and people are unique in their own way and instead of eroding this uniqueness, they should instead be embraced. He argues that the explores and even those who were forcing their will on the subjects were doing a disservice to them since they ended up dismantling their culture and lifestyle unjustly (Barclay 2). The implication is that no culture is perfect but each is unique in its own way. Therefore, today erosion of some cultures and traditions at the expense of the western ones is unwarranted.


From this discussion, it is evident that indeed, slavery played a key role in transatlantic civilization. Basically, European explores in the likes of Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama made way for other Europeans to reach various parts of the world. This subsequently led to discovery of routes, sources and markets for slave trade or colonization of these regions by the discoverers. Those slaves either captured by force or colonized were forced to work for the colonizer’s economy, as well as in adopting their culture. Therefore, a part from being used to improve the economy of Europeans and in industrial perspective, they also had to embrace a new culture, whether they liked it or not. However, on the negative side, many people have come to embrace the western culture while abandoning their traditions ones. While some parts of this culture are positive, others are negative, subsequently leading to moral erosion in the society. Particularly, instead of maintained the good part in their culture, many people have copied what the Westerners do, with negative repercussions in terms of morality.

Works Cited

Christopher Columbus Letter from the First Voyage (1493 Available at

Journal of the First Voyage of Vasco da Gama (1497-1499)

Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian on a Marriage

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1534)

Related Articles