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date: 29 September 2020

Premodern Africans in Chinalocked

  • Don J. Wyatt

Extract

The precise date for the appearance of the first Africans in China is likely to forever remain elusive but, whereas entry overland remains plausible, the footing is probably surer in electing to credit that occasion to the Indian Ocean slave trade. According to historian Gwyn Campbell (2008), this seaward trade in Africans as slaves stretched back some four millennia. Yet, before the seventh century of the Common Era, enslavement of Africans was an enterprise in which only the littoral countries of the western portion of the Indian Ocean had tended to engage, owing to their proximity to the lands along the East African coastline, which collectively served as the principal source of supply. Gradually, however, often through the process of transshipment and under a succession of Persian, Arab, and European enslavers, Africans were increasingly ferried to locales farther east and eventually on to China.

The earliest designation that ...

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