Information on how many slaves were shipped from Africa across the Atlantic to the Americas during the sixteenth century can only be estimated as very few records exist for this period. But from the seventeenth century onwards, increasingly accurate records, such as ship manifests, are available.
Where did the first Trans-Atlantic slaves come from?
At the beginning of the 1600s, slaves for the Trans-Atlantic slave trade were sourced in Senegambia and the Windward Coast.
This region had had a long history of providing slaves for the Islamic trans-Saharan trade. Around 1650 the Kingdom of the Kongo, which the Portuguese had ties with, started exporting slaves. The focus of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade moved to here and neighbouring northern Angola (grouped together on this table). Kongo and Angola would continue to be substantial exporters of slaves until the nineteenth century. Senegambia would provide a steady trickle of slaves through the centuries, but never on the same scale as the other regions of Africa.
From the 1670s the Slave Coast (Bight of Benin) underwent a rapid expansion of trade in slaves which continued until the end of the slave trade in the nineteenth century. Gold Coast slave exports rose sharply in eighteenth century, but dropped markedly when Britain abolished slavery in 1808 and commenced anti-slavery patrols along the coast.
The Bight of Biafra, centred on the Niger Delta and the Cross River, became a significant exporter of slaves from the 1740s and, along with its neighbour the Bight of Benin, dominated the Trans-Atlantic slave trade until its effective end in the mid-nineteenth century. These two regions alone account for two-thirds of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in the first half of the 1800s.
The scale of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade declined during the Napoleonic wars in Europe (1799--1815), but quickly rebounded once peace returned. Britain abolished slavery in 1808 and British patrols effectively ended trade in slaves along the Gold Coast and up to Senegambia. When the