Africa's west coast was known as the "white man's grave," and for good reason. The slave traders who worked along the coast lived in an inhospitable land. Exposure to the hot, damp climate and to diseases that their bodies had little resistance to resulted in short life expectancies. There was a reason to be there, though, and that reason was money. Every slave trader had the hope of making a quick fortune, and although many would become successful, there were many more -- such as Nicolas Owen -- who wouldn't.
An entry in the journal of Nicolas Owen reads as follows: "I have found no place where I can enlarge my fortune so soon as where I now live, wherefore I entend to stay in order to enlarge my fortune by honest mains." Owen was sincere when he stated that the slave trade was a way to prosper "by honest means" -- nowhere in his journal, which he kept for five years, does he show any compassion for slaves or the least bit of remorse for being involved in the slave trade.
Owen had sailed to Africa with his brother. Once there, they were captured and imprisoned. A slave dealer named Richard Hall rescued the two and offered them jobs as his agents. With no money to return home, the two brothers accepted the offer. Like all traders at the time, Owen did not capture slaves himself.
it was Africans who acquired slaves and traded the captives for various European goods. Sometimes the captives would be prisoners of war. Other times, groups would venture deep into Africa's interior for the sole purpose of capturing slaves.
passages illustrate the inherent dangers of being a slave trader. In one account, Owen tells of how some Africans had seized an Englishman who was walking at night on a trail. "As soon as their prize is secure they devour him without mercey along with their ascociates in the bushes, who has prapared a fire for that purpose.