Would a Black Death-scale pandemic in the imperial era=mass importation of slaves to Europe?

IOTL, while there was significant importation of African slaves into Iberia(reaching ~10% of the population in Portugal), it was relatively marginal elsewhere, with England, France and the Netherlands banning the importation of slaves into the metropolitan territory. This makes a certain sense- Europe had a large population of poor whites willing(or coerced) to work for very little recompense, while the American colonies with their low population densities and suitability for the farming of cash crops were a far more profitable market for slave traders.

Let's say that wasn't the case- at some after the beginning of the Colombian Exchange, a deadly pandemic spreads through the world's trading networks leading to serious depopulation and upwards pressure on wages, much as the Black Death did. As a result of this the economic incentive to import slaves onto European territory will be far stronger, which in turn means that even countries which had banned the importation of slaves will face heavy lobbying from elites to reverse that ban.

A few problems with this notion that come to mind:
1)Even if slavery in Europe has become relatively more profitable, it might still be less profitable then slavery in the New World.
2)The pandemic will necessarily cull slaves on American plantations, thus increasing demand from the New World, as well as leading to depopulation in African regions exposed to trade with Europeans(thus reducing supply). Although, at the same time, depopulation in Europe and the relative leveling of wealth distribution should lead to a decline in demand for luxury imports from the American plantations.
 
The problem with importing slaves from Africa is they arrive basically unskilled and unable to speak the language. For slaves on plantations in the West Indies and America, given the type of labor this was not a severe problem. With time some slaves learned skills (blacksmithing etc). Depending on when this happens this sort of labor is not terribly useful. The empty jobs in Europe, especially from the 19th century onwards, are only a small percentage of jobs in Europe were appropriate for a strong back, illiteracy, and minimal language and other skills. "Raw" slaves (that was the term) are useless in running a railroad, working in an industry etc. On a farm, to some extent in a mine, but all the rest requires training which requires language...and more.
 
The problem with importing slaves from Africa is they arrive basically unskilled and unable to speak the language. For slaves on plantations in the West Indies and America, given the type of labor this was not a severe problem. With time some slaves learned skills (blacksmithing etc). Depending on when this happens this sort of labor is not terribly useful. The empty jobs in Europe, especially from the 19th century onwards, are only a small percentage of jobs in Europe were appropriate for a strong back, illiteracy, and minimal language and other skills. "Raw" slaves (that was the term) are useless in running a railroad, working in an industry etc. On a farm, to some extent in a mine, but all the rest requires training which requires language...and more.
Bare in mind we're talking a pandemic wiping out potentially half the population(that the highest estimate I've seen for the plague in Europe). The diseases imported to the Americas were even more devastating, so in theory a newly emergent disease might kill North of 50% in Europe.

So I do think there'd be plenty of positions for them to fill in pre-industrial Europe(especially since Portugal's slave population was ~10% even without an epidemic.
 
The profitability advantage would need to be quite high to prevent substitution of labour. I would guess that even if you half the population, the impact on wage increase will not be as high as productivity won't increase that greatly (maybe from less agriculture on marginal land) and it won't increase the market price as demand will fall from a lower population. As I recall, profitability in slave plantations was not hugely supranormal, certainly after initial stages after price competition had eaten away at lots of premium for the tropical goods, but certainly initially it was enough to start the process worthwhile, when there were no other options and competitive European labourers had a high mortality rate.

Also political factors that free workers will not necessarily like competing with slaves, and European agriculture (landowners) would need to be able to respond with connecting with merchant shipping to pull in large volumes of slaves *before* population bounces back, and there is a question of whether there is sheer capacity as well as profit.

I don't think it's implausible overall, but these would be factors I would think about.
 
Unless slaves are imported from N Africa, which would not go down well with the Ottomans, how is Europe going to get them?
 
My opinion is such a pandemic would become global thanks to increased sea travel and with the unrest created by the plague I don't think anyone would care to import slaves.
 
I think it's important to remember that conditions for slaves were not exactly up to what would be considered bare minimum for survival. If there was a massive disease spreading in Europe and elsewhere the people hardest hit are going to be people in the worst living conditions with the poorest diet. Any slaves brought in would likely die in weeks if not days making the whole process counter productive and expensive.

Important to is what this sort of pandemic would do to society in Europe. Massive death rates, a stalled economy, and a likely decimated class structure right around the dawn of Enlightenment thinking is going to have a radical effect on people. You couple that with a mass import of unskilled labor that is likely going to be just as prone to disease and who have absolutely no love for the upper classes bringing them into bondage you might see things like the French Revolution or even a proto-socialist revolution happening all over Europe.
 
Let's remember the big factor in the use of African slaves is that they were less likely to die of tropical diseases.
That wouldn't be a factor in Europe. That doesn't mean there wouldn't be slavery but that there might not be any black slavery. That in itself would be a great PoD
 
Can someone clarify what years the Imperial Era entail? Would like to participate in the discussion but wanted to know what era we were referring to.
 
Can someone clarify what years the Imperial Era entail? Would like to participate in the discussion but wanted to know what era we were referring to.
For the sake of discussion, let's say from 1500 to 1800. Don't feel bound by that though.
 
IOTL, while there was significant importation of African slaves into Iberia(reaching ~10% of the population in Portugal)
You sure it was not Lisbon? Portugal doesn't even have 10% North African ancestry according to genetic studies, let alone Sub Saharan African.
 

Brunaburh

Banned
You sure it was not Lisbon? Portugal doesn't even have 10% North African ancestry according to genetic studies, let alone Sub Saharan African.

It looks high to me too, but slaves have much lower birth and child survival rates. Y-chromasome slave lines would be expected to disappear completely, so you wouldn't necessarily expect high genetic contribution. Madeira seems to have a comparatively high African and Native American component though.
 
For the sake of discussion, let's say from 1500 to 1800. Don't feel bound by that though.

IF, and a big IF, this terrible plague occur early enough in this time frame,all the colonization and population structure in America Change completly.

Is possible that the Inca empire don´t fall, or, the most probable, that we see a even worse depopulation of the American Continent, as the Indians here were specially vulnerable to the European diseases, you could hit even a 99% of mortality rate in America, so you end with a even more Slaves imported To america, and less European coming here.
 
It looks high to me too, but slaves have much lower birth and child survival rates. Y-chromasome slave lines would be expected to disappear completely, so you wouldn't necessarily expect high genetic contribution. Madeira seems to have a comparatively high African and Native American component though.
Native Americans in Madeira? The uninhabited island off the coast of Europe and North Africa?
 
Well Brandenburg and Pomerania saw a 60% population loss in the 30YW, they saw a small influx of foreign European settlers.

Also while I could see southern Italy and Iberia seeing a influx of African slaves, I think the rest of Europe being too poor and the climate too cold and damp for such influx to be viable. Even if such a import was began, I think the massive death count after the first winter, would result in such import being seen as unviable.
 
Top