How significant was the Atlantic Slave Trade in stimulating economic growth in Britain?
The Atlantic slave trade, known as the ‘triangular trade’ was a voyage that European ships took to exchange manufactured goods for slaves In Africa and those slaves were then taken to the Americas and were traded for goods such as sugar, cotton, tobacco and other goods. Between 1660-1807 millions of Africans were brought to the Americas under Britain’s authority. The Atlantic Slave Trade significantly stimulated economic growth in Britain in many ways, one being that Britain was the foremost European country engaged in the slave trade. Sugar, tobacco and other goods were hot commodities and Britain was a supplier for this good in the West Indies. In order to supply others with this commodity, Britain needed more workers working on plantation, which is why Britain bought slaves from Africa. Countless people in Britain profited from the Atlantic slave trade making it possible for the city to flourish, building mansions, banks and industries. Historians argue over the specific effects that the Atlantic slave trade had on the economy but despite their opinions, it is clear that the slave trade played a major role in the economical development of Britain.
The Atlantic slave trade began with the exploration of the English to the New World in the 17th century. “ Textiles, beads, firearms and metal ware were shipped to West Africa and bartered or sold for Africans drawn from various tribes in the interior” (Morgan, 2000). Merchants would invest money in these items for a long voyage across the Atlantic in exchange for slaves. The slaves coming from Africa were placed on ships, often packed into the ships tightly, chained down and were exploited in human trafficking. Slaves were often at risks of catching many diseases and some of them died on the ships while sailing through the Atlantic. In Africa, people were taxed rather then land and as a result of this slavery and slave trading existed. Slavery is the holding of human beings as property. Europeans looked to those slaves in the West Africa because they were skilled from the Atlantic or Caribbean plantations as sugar masters, purgers, blacksmiths, kettle men, and sugar craters. (Calgary, 1997) Slave plantations began to succeed in Britain and they grew in size, number and significance. (Morgan, 2000) Slaves took over the labor force of sugar, coffee and cocoa plantations throughout the West Indies and Britain. It is said that these plantations could hold from 50-350 slaves at once, more often those of sugar plantations because they required a larger labor force. (Morgan, 2000) The sugar plantations were the most valuable plantations for Britain and over four million pounds of sugar came to Britain from its West Indian plantations. Imports increased significantly from the creation of sugar refineries in the British towns. Sugar became important to Liverpool and Bristol’s economy because it provided one of the means and motivations for European expansion. Sugar was sometimes referred to as “white gold” because owning it was like owning a gold mine. These slaves were over worked and as stated before, they often caught diseases and died, therefor plantation owners replaced slaves very often in order to keep their plantation running smoothly. Slaves aided with the flourishment of the British economy during this time period.
British involvements with the Atlantic Slave trade began with the Royal African Adventurers in 1672 and it was said that they were “the grandest and richest people in England were eager for a slice of slave pie. The Royal African Adventurers included the king and queen, then queen mother, a prince, 3 dukes, 7 earls, a countess, 6 lords, and 25 knights. Aristocracy and gentry held about a quarter of the stock; the rest was snapped up by merchants and city men” (Staying Power, Fryer). The Royal Company acted as a monopoly to the port of London. Their monopoly ended in...
Bibliography: Blackburn, R. (2011, February 17). Enslavement and Industrialisation. Retrieved December 1, 2012, from BBC History: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/abolition/industrialisation_article_01.shtml
Calgary, T. U. (1997). The European Voyage of Exploration. Retrieved December 1, 2012, from Ucalgary.ca: http://www.ucalgary.ca/applied_history/tutor/eurvoya/Trade.html
Morgan, K. (2000). Slavery, Atlantic Trade and the British Economy, 1600-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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