Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, the Asian markets for enslaved and scorned African laborers were connected more closely with and even propelled city-states such as Zanzibar and Pemba into the slaving world of East Africa and Asia. Certainly, the Swahili city-states were well integrated in the trade network and politics of the Indian Ocean world and their markets. These markets drew slavers from Brazil, French merchants from Mauritius, Arab merchants from Oman and Hadramawt, Indian merchants from the Kathiawar peninsula and the Konkan coastal region, and Swahili merchants into a consortium that exploited gold, ivory, and human captives.
The modern world owes its origin to transatlantic slaving, otherwise known as the transatlantic slave trade. If this seems surprising, it is because the overall significance of transatlantic slaving in the creation of the Americas and the modern world more broadly is not a celebratory history. It is a history of greed, immeasurable misery, and more importantly denial. To say slavery created the modern world is to say the historical obvious. But to accept this statement is to confront its denied cruciality, to bypass the idyllic scenes of picking cotton, and to come to terms with the barbarity and systemic humiliation of millions, the societies ruined, their lost possibilities, and the psychological if not financial debt owed to the collective skilled labor force that produced the opulence “modern” people enjoy or envy.