Slave Trade a Turning Point in the History of Business
History of business
What are the major points in history which changed the world of business to that which we see today? There are so many which I could have used but I am going to focus on the world events and how they effected business on a global scale. If you disagree or just want to add one which is worthy of adding then just leave a comment and we can discuss it and decide whether adding it would be appropriate.
This History of business is a complex one full of possible changes, I could have written about
- 1650 Expansion of the slave trade
- 1776/1789: US and French Revolutions
- 1929 The great depression
- Chandler and his effect on modern business
and many others, however I have decided to focus upon the slave trade and its affects on the global economy.
Slave Triangle trade route
The Slavery Triangle: Changing the global Economy
The triangle was started as early as 1440 when African kings and merchants started trading enslaved people for goods imported from Europe. As time went on the numbers grew exponentially especially once manufactured goods started to be traded such as guns and ammunitions.
The slaves would then be transported on the second leg of the journey and would be exported on ships across the Atlantic to the Americas and the Caribbean. The final leg was the return of goods from the Americas and the Caribbean to Europe. The main goods included cototn, sugar, tobacco, rum and molasses.
Just as an aside Brazil, who were the main importer of slaves manufactured these goods in South America and traded directly with the African Kings and merchants so they were not part of the slave triangle trade.
Expansion of the Slave trade
The slave trade started around 1500, however it was from 1650 the slave trade really picked up and throughout the 17th Century it expanded very rapidly. It was one of the main factors which supported the growth of the Atlantic Economy both in the Americas and Europe. The map below shows the percentage of captives carried off by ports.The number of documented captives was 8,973,701, however it is expected that there were many more than that which remained undocumented.
Vessels which left from the 7 major ports London, Nantes, Bristol, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Liverpool and Pernambuco carried off nearly three quarters of the just over 8 million slaves transported across the Atlantic. Over the course of the history it shifted from the Liberian peninsular moving northwards through Europe, then back south again. A similar thing happened in America from south to north then south again although this was much less pronounced.
But how did this effect global economy and business, well the slaves were utilised in a many ways which include but was not limited to: cheap labour soldiers and even teachers.
Using South America's plantation agriculture as an example. Trying to cultivate such labour intensive crops, such as tobacco, sugar and cotton, with your averagely paid workforce would have put these farms out of business. Slavery meant that the worlds demand for such luxury products was able to be met by slave drive supply.
Slaves in Society
Cotton: Driver of Slaves
Moving on through history the cotton trade had a massive impact on the economy and this was directly linked to slavery.
Cotton use to be produced in very limited amounts mainly due to the difficult and time intensive job of separating the seeds from the cotton fibres of the main plant variety which grew across the south/ However in 1794 Eli Whitney patented a machine called the Cotton Gin which meant the 23kg of cotton could be processed per machine per day. This had the effect of making the cotton industry extremely profitable.
Whitney died in 1825 and would never have guessed that this was one of the biggest reasons for such a massive increase in Slavery in the 19th Century America, by 1860 one in three southerners was a slave.
The expense of keeping a slave, clothed, housed and fed is estimated to be about half that which they produced and those who were 'prime field hands' being healthy and in there teens and early twenties were paid a lot more for but would produce 3 times the amount they cost, providing their masters with a great return on Investment. During the first half of the 19th century the cash crop prices rose and the cost of keeping the slaves remained constant. providing more and more incentive to get slave to work the fields. So much so that in some parts of the US slave population exceeded the american population by 70% see map below:
Slaves as a percentage of total population
This massive influx of cotton from 750,000 bales in 1830 to 2.85 million bales in 1850 meant that the demand for textiles went through the roof, this forced development of textile machinery and better machine designs, which ultimately led to many of the nineteenth century machines. The cotton gin is also often cited as one of the main factors for starting the American Civil war, which also had a marked effect on the global economy and business.
- How Slavery Helped Build a World Economy
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- U.S. History I: Slavery, the Economy, and Society
At the time of the American revolution, slavery was a national institution; although the number of slaves was small, they lived and worked in every colony. Even before
- Africa Economic Analysis - Slave trade: a root of contemporary African Crisis
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Effects of the slave trade on the African Economy
Firstly let me say there are many contrasting opinions on this and I am presenting the side which I think is most likely to be correct. The other side claim that the slave trade did not operate for a significant portion of Africa's history to have a marked effect on it's current economy. From the research I have done and reading some of the evidence available I believe it to have had a massive effect on the African economy.
Sadly for the African countries it could have been part of the cause of the lack of economic development, due to many factors including depopulation it is predicted that the population of Africa could be more than double it's current numbers due to the main export of slaves were males in the prime reproductive age. This would mean that the growth of the population would be slowed tremendously. We will never know how many were actually taken and there have been figures thrown around but it appears that minimum of 13 million would have been transported out of Africa.
Secondly most of the slaves were sold by African Kings and Merchants, who instead of demanding money often demanded goods, alcohol, weapons and ammunitions, this meant that instead of using the investment to build an economic country they lived a luxury lifestyle whilst the majority of the country were either traded as slaves to the Europeans, or to other Africans or they lived a very poverty ridden lifestyle.
This changed business by building world economy and trade routes, establishing a clear supply of luxury goods into Europe and America's and starting business owners (who were mainly land and mill owners at the time) to concentrate on finding cheap labour. It helped with the industrial revolution, by increasing demand and therefore the requirement for new machines, technology and manufacturing processes. It allowed Europe and America to invest heavily into building a large scale economic machine and aided in the advancement of these societies.
Below is a good three part video talking about the history of the slave trade.