How significant was the slave trade in the growth of the British empire in the years 1680 1763?

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Selina Ly

How significant was the slave trade in the growth of the British Empire in the years 1680 – 1763?

The slave trade was extremely significant in the growth of the British Empire in the years 1680 – 1763 as it lead to the importance of West Africa as a commercial centre for the Atlantic slave trade and increased the British economy through its mass trade of slaves to plantations all across it’s colonies in the West Indies and America. However other factors like commerce also played a vital role in the growth of the British Empire. The slave trade was set up in a triangle shape; Britain traded goods such as copper pots and guns to Africa for slaves, who were then taken to the West Indies and America to be sold to work on plantations and in return Britain received money and goods such as sugar and tobacco. “There were profits for England at every point in the triangle”[1] this suggests that Britain was dominant in the slave trade showing that their empire was powerful and the biggest shareholder to this trade.

One way slavery was significant in the growth of the British Empire was the control exerted in West Africa. Slaves were brought to the coast and transported through the middle passage, this was the most difficult part of the journey as they could easily be attacked and many slaves died on this long journey as it took up to 6-8 weeks to get to the West Indies. Therefore it was seen as an area to protect from European powers, like the Dutch or Portuguese. Forts were built up and down the coast of Africa “Forts were both a display of strength and an unmistakable white frailty”[2] this increased the growth of the Empire as the forts were used to spy on traders which gave the British a foothold in the continent. This could then be further exploited for expansion into the continent. Rival tribes would go against each other to capture slaves to sell to the British; this shows how much influence Britain had over the Africans.

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Another factor that made the slave trade significant to the growth of the British Empire was the amount of trade it produced. It became the most important part of Britain’s overseas trade; due to the high demand for sugar, tobacco and other commodities made by the American plantations. The establishment of the Royal African Company in 1672 formalised the slave trade under the royal charter and gave a monopoly to the port of London. During 1672-1689 the RAC transported 90,000-100,000 enslaved Africans to work at plantations in North America. The RAC was extremely successful “It had built forts, dispatched ...

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