Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
The triangular trade was named based on the triangular shape the ships took in their journeys to Africa, America, and back to Britain. Supplies were taken from Britain to Africa where slaves were purchased and 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. The ships would then begin their journey again. It was this route that helped to make the British stronger against the other European nations looking to get a foothold in the New World. The triangular trade was key in the success of Britain in colonization of America.
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) 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.
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; the nation took a bigger in chance in supplying that investment with the resources it needed. 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.
1. Toyin Falola, Key Events in African History: A Reference Guide, (Greenwood Press: Westport, 2002), 111.
2. Ibid, 112.
3. Kenneth Morgan, Slavery and the British Empire: From Africa to America, (Oxford University Press: New York, 2007), 66.