ERIC WILLIAMS THESIS ON CAPITALISM AND SLAVERY AND ARGUMENTS MADE FOR AND AGAINST THE THESIS. Many historians justify that the evolving of the industrial revolution was based on slavery and mainly the triangular trade. The triangular trade was the route taken by Europeans to transport goods to Africa in exchange for slaves to be taken to the Americans. The triangular trade was seen as the first system of global commerce which linked Britain, Africa and the Americans. The most important colonies for the sugar growth were West Indies islands. During the 17th and the 18th century Dutch settlers in Brazil had perfected their sugar cultivation at the same time the triangular trade was taking place between America, Britain and Africa. As the 19th century approached, Dutch sugar techniques spread to the English and French colonies . The first British sugar isle was in the Barbados. Then between1640-1660 the sugar revolution happened in the British West Indies. It brought about a major problem which was lack of labour this then offset African slavery .
Williams first and main argument was that profits gained from slavery were fundamental to Britain thus leading to the industrial revolution. He also argued on the concept innovations in agriculture and technological change. In Britain the years of trade were known to be the 17 and 18th centuries while the 19th century was well known as a production year . At this point in time the triangular trade was the major trading system for Britain. As British merchants brought Negroes to the new colonies they were forced to work n the plantations. The maintenance of the Negroes then created another market for the British industry . In these plantations they had to produce sugar, cotton, indigo, molasses and other tropical products. By the mid 1750s demand on commodities rose and at this stage there was no companies that was not in some way connected with the triangular trade or direct colonial trade . In 1755 professor pitman had estimated that British West Indian plantations represented a valuation of fifty million sterling pounds and in 1788 sugar planters estimated it to be seventy million. At this point in time the economist Adam smith wrote that profits gained from sugar in the West Indies were greater than any cultivation known in Europe and America. Agriculture had now been the main profit provider for England. According to Davenant, Britain's total trade at the end of the seventeenth century brought in a profit of £2,000,000. The plantation trade accounted for £600,000; re-export of plantation goods £ 120,000; European, African and Levant trade £ 600,000; East India trade £500,000; re-export of East India goods £180, 000 . As Britain’s economy boomed and profits increased it then put more pressure on practicing the mercantile economic system. This was an economic system to increase the nation’s wealth by government regulations of all the nations’ commercial interests. Thus the triangular trade and the British colonies became more valuable than its mines of tin and coal . With the growth of the sugar plantations more ships are then built to help meet the demands. Special ships were then built particularly for the slave trade; they combined capacity and speed in order to reduce mortality. With the increase in ships more seamen were required to sail to Africa and the colonies. This then created employment mainly for Liverpool. It was then estimated is slavery was abolished at that time 22 masters of slave ships, 370 seamen and 47 mates would be left unemployed together with their families . With the increase in ships the London port could not cater for the capacity thus other seaports and trading centres were created in Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow. In the 18th century Bristol became England’s second city due to trades in slavery and imports from the sugar colonies . Liverpool then over took Bristol in the race for trade. In 1790 an estimate was taken and it was found that for...
Bibliography: Darity, William, "Profitability of the British Trade in Slaves Once Again", Explorations in Economic History 36 (1989), 380-384.
Darity, William, "The Numbers Game and the Profitability of the British Trade in Slave" Journal of Economic History, Vol. XLV, No. 3 (Sept. 1985).
David Eltis and Stanley L. Engerman, "The Importance of Slavery and the Slave Trade to industralizing Britain", Journal of Economic History 60, 1 (March 2000), pp. 123-144.
Engerman , Stanley L., "The Slave Trade and British Capital Formation in 18th Century", Business History Review vol. 46, no. 4 (1972).
Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, New York, Putnam, 1944, pp. 51-84.
Joseph Inikori, "Slavery and the Development of Industrial Capitalism in England" , Journal of Interdisciplinary History XVII, 4 (1987), 771-793.
Joseph Inikori, "Market Structure and the Profits of the british African Trade in the Late Eighteenth Century" Journal of Economic History XLI, No. 4 (December 1981), pp. 745-
Patrick O 'Brien, "European Economic Development: The Contribution of the Periphery", The Economic History Review 2nd Series, vol 35, No 1 (Feb 1982), 1- 18.
Richardson, David, "The Slave Trade , Sugar, and British Economic Growth, 1747-1776", Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 17, 4 (1987), 739-769.
Solow, Barbara L., "Caribbean Slavery and British Growth: The Eric Williams Hypothesis", Journal of Development Economics, 117 (1985), 99- 115.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document