You are not currently logged in. Please create an account or log in to view the full course.

The Transatlantic Slave Trade, c.1480-1850

1. West African Societies Before European Contact

This is the course trailer. Please create an account or log in to view this lecture.

  • Description
  • Cite
  • Image Credits

About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the nature of precolonial West African societies, focusing in particular on their global connections, religious pluralism and their predominant orientation, culturally and economically, across the Sahara desert.


In this course, Dr Toby Green (King’s College, London) explores the history of the transatlantic slave trade, from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century. We begin by thinking about some of the main characteristics of West African societies prior to European contact, before moving on in the second module to the question why Europeans began a slave trade from Africa instead of a different part of the world. After that, we think about why and how the English became involved in the transatlantic slave trade, focusing particularly on reasons related to their colonial projects in the New World. In the fourth module, we consider the reactions the slave trade provoked within West African societies and how these differed depending on factors such as ethnicity, class and political and cultural practices. Finally, we think about recent changes in the historiography of the transatlantic slave trade. We explore how historians have traditionally studied this topic and how critical approaches to the history of the slave trade have changed over the past three decades.


Toby Green is Senior Lecturer in Lusophone African History and Culture at King's College, London. After studying Philosophy, Toby worked as a writer and editor, publishing various books that have been translated into 12 languages. He then studied for his PhD at the Centre of West African Studies at Birmingham University, working with the Brazilian specialist on Timbuktu and Songhay Paulo de Moraes Farias and completing in 2007, before coming to King's in 2010.

After holding fellowships from the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust, in 2015 he was recipient of a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award, for which he organised an interdisciplinary workshop with the musicologist Lucy Duran of SOAS, bringing musicians and historians from West Africa into dialogue.

His recent publications include Brokers of Change: Atlantic Commerce and Cultures in Pre-Colonial Western Africa (2012), The Rise of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Western Africa, 1300-1589 (2012), and Guinea-Bissau: From Micro State to ‘Narco State’ (2016),

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Green, T. (2018, December 11). The Transatlantic Slave Trade, c.1480-1850 - West African Societies Before European Contact [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Green, T. "The Transatlantic Slave Trade, c.1480-1850 – West African Societies Before European Contact." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 11 Dec 2018,