The triangular trade was a system of trade named from the triangular shape of the trade route the ships took in their journeys to Africa, America, and back to Britain. When drawn on a map, it formed a rough triangle with each part feeding into the nest side.
Supplies were taken from Britain to Africa where slaves were purchased with them. The new ‘products’ were then taken to the American colonies where the slaves were deposited to work the land. The ships then went back to Britain with the products the slaves helped to produce in the colonies such as sugar cane or molasses. The ships would then begin their journey once again with basic trading material the African tribes involved in slavery would desire as well as items needed by the Europeans who resided in the area promoting the slave trade. And then back to American and Britain to start all over again.
It was this route that helped make the British stronger against the other European nations looking to get a foothold in the New World. The triangular trade was a key in the success of Britain in colonization of America.
Vital Piece of Economy
As the triangular trade route was developed the “volume of trade increased substantially”, creating economic dependence on the African continent by the European nations. (1) Europe and America were tied to more than the African coast. Because the demand of slaves was so high, the coastal slave traders had their own economic trade route that reached “further and further inland as the trade grew.” (2) It exploded the dependency each area had on one another.
The economy of Britain and America would have suffered greatly the longer the triangular trade route was used and depended on. The backs of Africans sold into slavery not only kept the colonies producing. They kept Europe growing in material possession, power, and presence. An economic explosion was bound to happen as Britain and America grew at amazing rates.
The unique trade route was not without risk as it “as one of the riskiest of eighteenth century commercial activities…subject to losses as well as gains.” (3) Britain took a chance to make the colonies permanent. Everything was a gamble in venturing into the unknown and trying to make something long lasting out of it. Yet Britain was willing to do it as it would benefit them greatly in the short term.
Britain took a bigger chance in supplying that investment with the resources it needed. If it failed, the country would have lost a lot in money and resources. It was a high risk, but most high risks have amazing payouts when it all goes right. Britain couldn’t guarantee what would happen and how every decision would turn out.
The result was a route that would change the Western world as the Americas grew and the face of Africa would change forever from the deepening presence of Europeans. Because of this route, America would be able to ‘civilize’ the land and create an economy that would eventually help it stand on its own feet after it declared independence from Britain. The slaves helped to build the country which in turn helped to finance Britain. Economically it was a win situation all the way around as African tribes used the slave system to enrich their own pockets and eliminate competing tribes. The British made money. America grew. Sadly, it was only the slaves who found the negative impact on the process.
It is also important to note that the system itself led to a very unique economy in the colonies, a divergence that would eventually lead to poor understanding between the colonies and their mother country. This, in part, would drive the dissatisfaction that led the colonies to rebel. It was this same trade route that lined Britain’s pockets and increased its power that led to its loss of the major settlements across the ocean.
Good and Bad Together
This is a very interesting and controversial time in history. It was through the purchase of human flesh that empires grew and expanded. Human bodies as well as sugar cane, and rum were intricately tied together in a flow that was historical. We can’t change the history of it. We can’t change the benefits and repercussions of the acts, but we can study the impact it made both short and long term.