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In Nzinga Mbemba’s (Afonso I) letters to the King of Portugal, Afonso I provides
In Nzinga Mbemba’s (Afonso I) letters to the King of Portugal, Afonso I provides insight into his relationship with the King of Portugal and with Portuguese merchants and traders operating within the kingdom of Kongo. Afonso I laments to the King of Portugal the many detrimental impacts that have resulted from “the excessive freedom given by your [Portuguese Crown] agents and officials to the men and merchants who are allowed to come to this [Kongo] Kingdom to set up shops with goods and many things which have been prohibited by us, and which they spread throughout our Kingdoms and Domains…” (83). Besides providing an interesting account of how the promotion of Portuguese tastes and goods helped to pave the way for the trading of enslaved people, Afonso I’s description of the Portuguese in Kongo reveals a great deal about Afonso I’s views, concerns, and motivations, as well as about those of Portuguese merchants (at least in Afonso I’s eyes). Olaudah Equiano’s narrative sheds further light on the on-the-ground experiences and perspectives of those involved in the trade of enslaved people, as he describes his capture, transport, and experiences with various traders and masters. Between them, these two texts provide a great deal of anecdotal evidence concerning the mindsets, actions, and behavior of those involved with the Atlantic slave trade. Based on specific information and examples in these texts, what motivations do you believe to have fueled the actions and behavior of those involved in enslavement and slavery in the Atlantic world? As you consider this question, you might think not only about the various parties involved in capturing, trading, and owning enslaved people, but also about bystanders (ie. parties not directly involved in the enslavement of others) and about enslaved people themselves. More broadly, also consider the implications of your answer to the question above for whether or not you believe that World Systems Theory is correct.

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