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The Atlantic Slave Trade Essay

The Atlantic Slave Trade had a both positive and negative impact on those involved in it to an extent. Britain’s economy benefited greatly from the slave trade as many industries flourished. This was an immense opportunity for those who were unemployed as it provided thousands of jobs. People were employed in industries like the building and repair of slave ships, selling the goods produced by slaves such as sugar and cotton, and banking. This resulted in the slave trade becoming the financial base of development of Britain. However, not everyone benefited from this trade as it had an enormous negative impact on Africa’s society and economy. The 37 years of slave capturing and exporting resulted in wars between tribes and drained Africa’s population of 12 million of its strongest youth. This resulted in Africa’s economic development in being hindered. For Africans the physical experience of slavery was painful, traumatic and long-lasting.

Britain benefited from the slave trade in many ways including the economy, as slavery became part of the financial base of development in Britain. Many economic factors contributed to slavery including the demands of plantation farming, servant slaves and the growth of the slave trade as its own industry. Plantation farming emerged as a way to earn a profitable crop and dominated the southern colonies. In plantations African slaves worked in hundreds from dawn until dusk producing goods that supplied Britain. These goods consisted of sugar, cotton, tobacco and rum. All these crops were very labour intensive requiring hundreds of workers to preserve them. The British became the largest and most efficient carriers of slaves to the new world. Therefore huge profits were made by the labour of unpaid slaves. Liverpool and Bristol were the main trading ports in Britain, Liverpool alone made £300,000 per year from the slave trade.

Scotland was also heavily involved in the slave trade, Scots went out to colonies and generated great wealth for Scotland based on slave labour. Glasgow’s “Tobacco Lords” profited from the slave trade, as did the merchants of London, Liverpool and Bristol. The city of London catered the economic services that were necessary for the slave trade, this included insurance and loans for slave traders. F.G Kay wrote about the social changes that happened in Britain following the growth of the slave trade, in a book named “The Shameful Trade” published in 1967. He states “the slave trade created a new class of wealthy colonial families”. Bristol merchants who were great dealers increased their trade with the islands of the Caribbean. They also became specialists in trading with West Africa and retailing captured slaves. The trade also created, sustained and relied on a large support of shipping services, ports and finance companies employing thousands of ordinary people. Many slave ships were need and thousands of jobs were created through this. Jobs in making slave ships, repairing, financing and insuring all flourished. By 1780 Liverpool had become the largest slave-ship building site in Britain.

This also provided thousands of sailors with work. . Insurance was one of the biggest industries during the slave trade, insurance and long term loans created new opportunities for making more money. Slave merchants and sugar plantation owners needed to borrow money to keep their businesses going. Merchants involved in the triangular trade found that insurance was vital because if their ship hit a storm during the voyage its cargo could be lost, and if that ship is not insured then they could lose everything. There were huge profits in selling the goods produced by slaves such as cotton, sugar and tobacco. Thousands of people were employed in factories to make exportable goods that were traded in for slaves in Africa these were guns, textiles and pottery. People were also employed in making brass and copper in Yorkshire, weavers in Birmingham, chain makers and sugar refiners in Greenock. The slave trade made Britain the world’s leading sea power and it helped finance the industrial revolution. The British government made a fortune from the taxes related to the slave trade.

Nonetheless not everyone profited from the slave trade, The Atlantic Slave Trade had enormous negative effects on the continent of Africa. Many parts of Africa suffered from an increase in violence, drain of people and an economy increasingly reliant on slavery. As a result of this Africa fell behind the rest of the world. Having fewer young healthy people to produce food would make famine more likely and the rates of death worse. Slavery led to the movement of thousands of people across Africa, allowing disease to spread between different parts of Africa. A lot of good land was left uncultivated and not looked after because there were not enough young people left to farm it. African slaves took with them their religion, traditions, cooking, clothes, music and dance. These had a negative impact on Americans as it led to voodoo in the West Indies. The slave trade encouraged conflicts between African tribes, raids and kidnapping.

The demand for more slaves led to increased hatred and violence between communities in Africa. There was also the spread of racist ideology to justify the enslavement of Africans. It is estimated that up to 12 million Africans were snatched from their homeland shipped to the Caribbean to work on plantations. Thousands of African villages were ruined as they were raided for slaves. The farming in Africa changed to grow crops which were brought to supply slave ships. African chiefs and kings stopped ruling by law as they became greedy cunning tradesmen. The 37 years of slave capturing and exporting drained Africa of millions of its strongest youth.

As a result of this the population became unbalanced and the adult male population was reduced to 20%. Overall Africa was the only continent to be affected in this way, and because of the loss in population it became a major factor leading to its economic hardship. John Newton was a British slave trader in West Africa. In a small extract from his journal he comments on the immoral methods used between Africans and Europeans, he states “Europeans try to cheat Africans at every turn. Any article of trade that can be cheapened is so. Spirits are diluted with water, kegs of gunpowder have false bottoms and pieces are cut out of rolls of cloth”.

In conclusion it is clear that Britain benefited from the Atlantic Slave Trade. We know this because of how it boosted the British economy as many industries grew, created thousands of jobs and supplied Britain with essential everyday life goods. We also know that colonies were established on the backs of hard-working African slaves. However not everyone benefited from the slave trade as it made Africa suffer greatly. Up to 12 million young strong Africans were forced out of their homelands and brought to the Caribbean to work without pay. Families separated and sold to go and work on plantations from dawn until dusk. Thousands of villages were wrecked because of the raiding for slaves. African leaders became dishonest, deceptive greedy tradesmen which resulted in Africa becoming corrupt.

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