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The Abolition of Slavery

The slave trade began in the 17th century. The Caribbean colonies like Martinique, Guadeloupe and San Domingo were the suppliers of tobacco, indigo, sugar and coffee. The Europeans were not too willing to go to an unfamiliar land that was so far away from their home. This resulted in the shortage of workers in the plantations. This problem was solved by a triangular slave trade between Europe, Africa and America. From Bordeaux or Nantes the French merchants went to Africa, bought slaves from the local chieftains and sent them to the Caribbean, across the Atlantic, to be sold to the plantation owners. This helped them to meet the demand for sugar, coffee and tobacco in Europe. This flourishing slave trade resulted in the economic prosperity of the port cities like Bordeaux and Nantes.

Though the National Assembly held debates and discussions on the abolition of slavery, it did not make any law fearing opposition from the businessmen, whose income depended on slave trade. It was in 1794 that the Convention passed a law to free all slaves in French overseas possessions. But this lasted only for 10 years because when Napoleon Bonaparte became the emperor of France in 1804, he reintroduced slavery. In 1848, Slavery was finally abolished in French colonies.

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