Atlantic Slave Trade

Last Updated: 26 Jan 2021
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The Atlantic trade, popularly known as the triangular or transatlantic trade, began in the 15th century. It became more popular when a peculiar but well paying commodity replaced gold.

This was slave trade and its popularity increased in the 17th and 18th century. The explosive slave trade emanated from an insatiable need for a work force in European empires. The names triangular and transatlantic trades come from the shape it made on the map (Evans, 2010).

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In the European perspective, slavery was the best business they ever did around the 17th and 18th century. Many ships docked at her harbors loaded with slaves who were the most profitable commodity. They boosted her economy to great heights.

The slave trade formed a trade route that was most profitable; the Atlantic slave trade. The trade's organization was a triangle where the following took place; Ships left Europe for Africa with trade goods, which were exchanged with slaves. The ships would then head to America with the slaves and sell them there. The ships would then return to Europe with agricultural products such as rum, sugar, cotton, and tobacco (See attached image) (Mbamara, 2006).

Africans were the best workforce since they were immune to many tropical diseases. They were also experienced in the jobs the Europeans had for them. These involved cattle keeping, and agriculture. They were also accustomed to hard labor.

This made the trade grow, as the Europeans required them in large numbers. The transatlantic trade was most important to the Europeans since every stop translated into huge profits. Slave trade was clearly immoral but the profits it came with subdued these concerns. Some of the activities the slaves carried out included sugar production, mining, as well as the harvesting of tobacco, cotton, and coffee. (Mbamara, 2006).

Africans on the other hand were into this thriving trade whereby they sold their own. They however made it hard for the Europeans to penetrate their land as they had erected a military power. The Europeans on the other hand feared penetrating Africa as they feared the tropical diseases. There existed African merchants who were contracted by the Europeans to get them slaves from the interior.

The coast had few slaves and Europeans had to spend months trying to get enough slaves for their shiploads (Klein, 2010). The Africans put barriers and this left the Europeans with no choice but peaceful trade. The Africans went ahead to hike their demands on the Europeans. They introduced local taxes for anyone who wished to purchase slaves. This way, they were in full control of their market.

This forced the Europeans to cough up to £375 per ship and only then would they be permitted to trade. This amount covered a royal tax, pay for royal officials and interpreters. They then had to pay an exportation tax. These taxes were subject to fluctuations in demand and supply. Africans capitalized on this trade by selling water and other supplies to the Europeans who would spend months at the coast negotiating for the slaves. The largest numbers of slaves were provided by the Whydah and the Dahomey (Klein, 2010).

In 1807, a law to abolish slave trade in Britain and other powers involved in the trade was passed. By 1833, all slaves had been emancipated and sent back to their homelands. In 1815, France withdrew from slave trade and other powers followed suit. Around the 19th century, the Atlantic slave trade had diminished.

Historians speculate that the economic factors that led to the decline of the slave trade are that the plantations they worked in had become unproductive economically. They also feel that may be Britain had made enough money and was thus becoming independent. This may have made slave trade less appealing to the home economy (Hardy, 2005).


The transatlantic slave trade was beneficial to both the Europeans and the Africans chiefs and kings. The Europeans got a work force for their plantations and mines. They also benefited from agricultural products from America. The African royalties got revenue out of the slaves they sold. The decline of the transatlantic trade is partially attributed to abolishment of slave trade and economic incentives. However, the slave trade was demeaning to the human race and it is a great thing to scrap it off regardless of the reasons behind it.

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Atlantic Slave Trade. (2016, Jun 05). Retrieved from

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