Triangular Trade

Triangular trade is trade between three different locations. This entry is going to be about is the trade in the Atlantic between, approximately, 1500 and 1800. The triangular trade is also closely linked to slave trade and, consequently, we are still affected by it today.

The triangular trade would bechance the following way:

Traders from Europe would freight a ship with copper, guns and ammunition, silks and glassware for example. Then they would travel to the “slave coast” of Africa (today Togo, Benin and Nigeria). Here they would trade their goods with either colonies/forts of the Europeans or Arabs. They would trade the goods for slaves which any of the other two trading partners had captured. These slaves were treated like cattle. They were kept in the kind of fencings which were normally used for livestock, with the exception that they were improved to prevent escape, until they were sold. Once sold, they were freighted onto the ship and herded under deck. Here they stayed the entire journey to America. This posed a problem, as there were many slaves and little room. Thus many diseases spread and many slaves died before even reaching America.  But who cares as long as you go profit, right!? Because this is what the slave traders did. If 2/3 of the cargo was still alive upon arrival, then you were a rich man. Once in America the slaves were immediately sold to plantation owners. Under their command they worked until death came upon them, either by exhaustion or under the whip of the overseer. The merchant, who now had sold his cargo, would buy what the plantations produced (cotton, sugar, tobacco and coffee amongst others) and transport his new cargo back to Europe again, where it was sold and refined.

This was a very lucrative business, especially for the merchants and plantation owners. But also for the people in Europe because they received raw materials which had been produced at extremely low cost (the overseers demand a wage. The slaves, however, do not.) Now, you could afford to refine raw materials in large quantities and still give the workers a decent wage. This translated into economical possibilities, which, in turn, translated into the industrial revolution, “The Great Acceleration of Europe”. This is the acceleration whose head start Europe and America is still profiting from today (even though many East Asian nations have industrialized their societies at hyperspeed).


Now, does anybody see the moral issue that suddenly arose?


A major contributor to our prosperity is the fact that our ancestors we eager slave-traders and oppressive plantation owners. Without them we would probably not have gotten as far as we are today. The industrialization would still have happened, sure. But maybe hundred years later, leaving much less time to achieve the things we have achieved today. Also, we have stunted the growth of probably the whole continent of Africa (although we are trying, at least partially, to compensate this by now).


So, what do you think? Are we heirs to thievery? And how much, and what, effect has slave trade had on our modern society?  Tell me what you think.



“A short history of the world” by J.M. Roberts

//Baloo Peinkofer

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