Around the end of the sixteenth century, circa 1583, the Mbundu leader Ngola Kilombo, ruler of the kingdom of Ndongo in modern day Angola, begot Nzinga Mbande with one of his many slave concubines. Nzinga would go on to rule all of her father’s kingdoms of Ndongo and Matamba despite Mbundu traditions of patrilineage, and would unfortunately gain rule during the beginning of the mass Portugese slave trade in her queendoms. This slave trade, which was a political weaponization of commerce by the Portugese monarchy, is the first instance of modern Western capitalism.

There is an interesting connection to be made involving the initial traces of the Portuguese slave trade among Bantu peoples on the West Coast of Africa, such as Matamba, Ndongo, and Kongo. One may posit that these advances and the rapid, exponential growth of the slave trade here was the world’s induction into modern capitalism. Prior to 1571, the year of Portugal’s incursion on the Kingdom of Kongo, both Portugual and the Bantu kingdoms of modern day had both the following economic properties:

The Portuguese slave trade essentially disrupted both of these. The slave trade, because it involved the forceful kidnapping of various Bantu peoples, including the Mbundu of Nzinga’s land, violated the latter rule, and in turn destroyed Ndongo’s industries due to a lack of people and work force. This clearly caused a mass rift in the economic benefits of European states versus African ones, as the purpose of the slave trade was too. The Portuguese-Mbundu slave trade was one of the first commodifications of living people as goods, and it initiated a massive industry which would continue thenceforth for over two centuries. Particularly of interest, if the above is to be believed, it began by fueling Portugal’s capitalism and stunting Ndongo’s, it subsequently founded New World (viz. American) capitalism, and its illegalization only came about due to a new invention in free labor: the industrial automaton, and the industrial revolution.

Capitalism is the basic mode of human economy. Across all cultures, some form of trade regularly takes place. At the beginning of trade in a culture, there exists no governing body to sanction certain tradings and condemn others communistically; communism requires intense organization. Thus, all basic human economies at least begin capitalist, and those economies of Portugal and kingdoms such as Kongo and Matamba stayed that way well after their first interactions.

While both these cultures where capitalist, neither of them exhibited the mass exploitation found in the Portuguese slave trade. Bantu kingdoms like Ndongo did have slaves (Miller, 1975), but they were often criminals or war prisoners, and slavery did not last remotely close to a lifetime. Despite heavy patrilinear traditions and values in Ndongo (ibid.), there was no such custom by which generations of a family would be enslaved simply due to their bloodline. This slavery of the consanguineous only arose in the West once African slavery had been magnified by the Portuguese, and later the Spanish and the English.

The aforementioned corruption of many Bantu economic system(s) in order to fuel another which would because so large and expansively transnational as the Transatlantic slave trade has proven devestating for Africa thither to now, even after five centuries. The innate cruelty of the industry enabled slave traders to have complete control over the trade; enslaving others is easier when they cannot understand you or your intentions. This cruelty would, of course, require justification on the slave traders’ ends, which led to the invention of race as a social construct. Slave traders would use the skin tones and other non-European features of their kidnapees as evidence of biological inferiority. This obsession with race can be seen in the Iberian colonialist casta systems, in which generations’ races were kept track of in order to keep in order a cast system whose complexity rivaled that of India.

The paradox of capitalism bringing about both the birth and the cessation of the Transatlantic slave trade is explained when one views Western capitalism as a churning, industrial machine not unlike the industrial machinery it would bring about near the end of Western slavery. The mass exploitation of Bantu peoples, and soon almost all the people of coastal and semi-coastal Africa, was in service of feeding an evergrowing system which grows from all forms of exploitation. Once the system had progressed to the point of industrialization, slavery began to slowly fade from the West, not out of morality and care for one’s fellow human, but because there was now a faster way to make money.