AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE The term "African slave trade" is often used synonymously with the term "Atlantic slave trade." Although there is a certain validity in using the two expressions interchangeably, most authorities prefer to distinguish between "Africa" and "Atlantic." Whereas the "Atlantic slave trade" refers to the passage of black slaves from Africa to the western hemisphere, the "African slave trade" is usually used to describe the passage of slaves from Africa to Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and, occasionally, to slave-trading activities within Africa.
Predating the "Atlantic slave trade" by nearly a century, the "African slave trade" (i.e., the passage of slaves from Africa to Europe) had its inception during the mid-1400's. Owing to the fact that Europe lacked a plantation-type economy and also because Europe was not suffering from a chronic labor shortage during those years, the "African slave trade" was relatively short-lived and certainly not comparable to the extent and duration of the transatlantic traffic. Between 1460 and 1500, for example, the average annual number of African slaves transported to Europe was about a thousand, a figure which was dwarfed by the annual number of slaves shipped to the New World during the following four-hundred years.