The Tragedy Of Sub-Saharan Africa Analysis

J.R. Early’s “The Tragedy of sub-Saharan Africa” lays context for a discussion about how outside contact, primarily European, adversely affected Africa after 1500. Early argues that this perceived lack of agency and African subordination to European forces is the “tragedy of sub-Saharan Africa’s history”. However, the real tragedy here is the ignorant omission of centuries of rich culture and history while patting ourselves on the back for recognizing the “tragedy” that befell the “ever-so-helpless” Africans. To really understand what happened in sub-Saharan Africa from 1500 on, we have to probe much deeper than Early, and look at internal factors, such as slave trade within Africa, the true level of African autonomy over transactions …show more content…
However, Early treats the Atlantic slave trade as if it were a unique and independent institution unto itself. “this [lack of African agency] is clearly illustrated by events like the Atlantic slave trade: here, expansive European states, driven by demands of consumers in Europe, established plantations in the Americas and so came to Africa and stole labour in order to meet those demands” (Early). In the case of this direct quote, the problem isn’t so much what Early does say as what he fails to emphasize. Completely absent from this quote, which represents the entirety of Early’s discussion of the institution of African slavery, is any recognition of the nuance of internal African slave trade. Early’s interpretation of the slave trade characterizes it as a European impact on Africa. This exclusive focus on the Atlantic slave trade, with no discussion whatsoever of the slave trade within Africa is flawed not only in that it does not reflect reality but also in that it objectifies …show more content…
If we were to only focus on the Atlantic slave trade, we would resign ourselves to understanding a small segment of the broad issue of African slavery. In every economic transaction, there exists supply and demand of some good. In the case of the Atlantic slave trade, Early only notes the demand by mentioning the plantations on which these slaves worked. In an academic economic study, it would be unacceptable to only understand factors of demand and not supply. Concurrently, it is not acceptable in an academic understanding of history to only understand one side of an observable

Related Documents