Triangular trade or triangle trade is regarded as the historical term that indicates trade among the three ports or regions. This system was important during 16th century between Europe, Africa and Americas. Triangular trade generally involves when the region has the export commodities which is not needed in those regions from where its major imports comes. Triangular trades provide the measure for identifying and correcting the imbalances in trade among the aforementioned regions.
Historically, particular routes were also shaped by the most powerful influences of the winds and currents all through the age of sail. For instance, originating from the central trading nations of Western Europe, it was very much easy to sail in the direction of west after first going to 30 N latitude and reaching the so-called “trade winds”, therefore arriving at the Caribbean instead of going straight in the direction of west to the North American mainland. While on returning back from North America, it becomes easy to follow the Gulf Stream in the north-eastern direction by using the westerlies. An identical triangle to this is known as “Volta Do Mar” was previously being used by the Portuguese prior to the voyage of Christopher Columbus to sail into the canary island and the Azores. In simple words, Columbus expanded the triangle in the outwards direction and his route became the main way for the Europeans to reach and return from the Americas.
One of the best-known triangular trading system is regarded as the transatlantic slave trade which operated from the late 16th century to the early 19th centuries and carried slaves, cash crops and manufactured goods between West Africa, Caribbean or American groups and the European colonial powers, with the help of norther colonies of British North America, particularly New England at times taking over the role of Europe. The use of African slaves was considered fundamental in the growth of colonial cash crops that was exported to the Europe.
The European goods were used to purchase the African slaves that were brought on the sea lane west from the Africa to Americas to the so-called Middle Passage. In spite being driven mainly by the economic needs, the Europeans at times has the religious justifications for their actions. One of the classic example is the colonial molasses trade. Merchants purchased the raw sugar from the plantation in the Caribbean and shipped the same to the New England and Europe where the same was sold to the distillery companies which produced rum. The profits that were made from the sale of sugar was used in purchasing the rum, lumbers and rum in New England that merchants shipped to Europe. With profits originating from the European sales merchants purchased from the Europe’s manufactured goods, that included the tools and weapons. Then the merchants shipped the manufactured goods, together with the American sugar and rum to West Africa where they were exchanged for slaves. The slaves were then bought back to Caribbean for selling it to sugar planters. The profits derived from the sale of slaves in Brazil, Caribbean Island and the American South were later use to purchase most of the sugar, restarting the cycle.
Accordingly, it is not possible to think regarding the production of sugar in the West Indies without thinking regarding the slavery. The labour enslaved the Africans was regarded integral in the farming of cane and production of sugar. Slaves toiled hard in the fields and boiling houses, supplying high amounts of labour that required cultivation and production of sugar. Averagely, four million slaves were brought to Caribbean and nearly all ended up plantation of sugar. Conditions were considered harsh and mortality rates were considered extremely higher all through the stages of slaves lives.
Trading of slaves was regarded as one of the profitable triangle which crossed the Atlantic. Goods that were manufactured were traded to West African coast for slaves that were shipped to sugar colonies and sugar, molasses and rum were shipped from the island to England. The first leg of the trade triangle ranged from European port to the African port in which the ships that carried supplies for sale and trade such as copper, cloth, trinkets, slave beads, guns and ammunition. When the ship arrived its cargo was either sold or bartered for slave. In the second leg, the ships made the journey of the middle passage from Africa to New World. Several slaves died out of disease in the crowded hold of ships.
Once the ship reached the New World, the enslaved survivors were eventually sold to the American colonies. The ships were later prepared to get them thoroughly cleaned, drained and loaded with exported goods for the return voyage. While the third leg was destined for home port, from West Indies the main export cargos included the sugar, rum and molasses, from Virginia, tobacco and hemp. The ship later returned to Europe for completing the triangle.
The trade in sugar was imported to Britain’s development as the trading nation as the empire. All through the eighteenth century, the most important import of England was the sugar from the colonies. It was regarded as the driving force in the network of trade which spanned the Atlantic, touching three continents. Historians have debated whether and the capital accumulation that enabled sugar industry in financing the industrial revolution.
The slave trade in the Atlantic formed the part of system that was better known as Triangular Trade. It was estimated around 10-12 million Africans survived the horrible journey of slavery in America. There were several that perished during the horrible journey of the Middle Passage while others died much earlier during their hard trip from interiors of Africa to slave ships on the coast. In other words, a new sugar triangle was formed during the 1820s and 1830 where American ships took the local produce to Cuba and brought the sugar on coffee from Cuba to the Baltic Coast later bar iron and hemp back to New England.
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