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In the early 21st century, several governments issued apologies for the transatlantic slave trade.The Atlantic slave trade developed after trade contacts were established between the "Old World" (Afro-Eurasia) and the "New World" (the Americas).Slaves were kept in a factory while awaiting shipment.Current estimates are that about 12 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic, Near the beginning of the 19th century, various governments acted to ban the trade, although illegal smuggling still occurred.Across the Sahara, through the Red Sea, from the Indian Ocean ports and across the Atlantic.At least ten centuries of slavery for the benefit of the Muslim countries (from the ninth to the nineteenth)....For centuries, tidal currents had made ocean travel particularly difficult and risky for the ships that were then available, and as such there had been very little, if any, maritime contact between the peoples living in these continents.
This diversity led Thornton to describe the initial "exploration of the Atlantic" as "a truly international exercise, even if many of the dramatic discoveries were made under the sponsorship of the Iberian monarchs".
He identified these as being the drive to find new and profitable commercial opportunities outside Europe as well as the desire to create an alternative trade network to that controlled by the Muslim Empire of the Middle East, which was viewed as a commercial, political and religious threat to European Christendom.
In particular, European traders wanted to trade for gold, which could be found in western Africa, and also to find a maritime route to "the Indies" (India), where they could trade for luxury goods such as spices without having to obtain these items from Middle Eastern Islamic traders.
As property, the people were considered merchandise or units of labour, and were sold at markets with other goods and services.
The major Atlantic slave trading nations, ordered by trade volume, were: the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Spanish, and the Dutch Empires.
Upon discovering new lands through their naval explorations, European colonisers soon began to migrate to and settle in lands outside their native continent.