THE TRIANGLE TRADE (Illustration) Civil Rights Famous Historical Events Film Geography Law and Politics Social Studies World History Ethics Slaves and Slave Owners

This map, from Britain's National Archives, depicts the "triangle trade" between the UK, Africa and the Americas. Curators at the Archives provide this description: "This map shows the main commodities traded between Africa, Britain, the Caribbean and North America at the height of the slave trade. As well as enslaved people, British traders took other products, including gold, ivory and spices, from Africa."


As Britain began to dominate the slave-trading business, its ships sailed between ports on three continents. A triangular trading system developed, combining European capital (in the first leg) with African labor (in the second) and British-colony resources (in the third):

  • On the first leg of the triangular journey, ships left Britain - principally from Liverpool and Bristol - loaded with manufactured goods: copper, textiles, silks imported from Asia, glassware, ammunition, guns, knives and other finished products. 
  • Arriving in Africa, sailors offloaded those goods and filled the cargo holds with indigo and captured people: men, women and children. The "middle passage" brought the branded, newly enslaved Africans to the Americas or to Caribbean islands. It is estimated that at least ten percent of the captives died en route due to unbelievably bad conditions. When the ships encountered fierce weather, casualties were higher. 
  • Ships, loaded with slave-produced raw materials, returned to Britain during the final leg of the triangular trading cycle. Sugar, coffee, tobacco and - especially - cotton were processed in British factories. Those materials provided workers with jobs and business owners with profits.

At the end of the process, European markets were well supplied with whatever goods they needed. And ... while Europeans were running the slave trade on the west side of Africa ... Arab traders were doing the same thing (this is a BBC audio clip) on the east side.

Let's take a closer look at the second leg of the triangular journey - the infamous "middle passage" - during which Africans were shipped, to the "New World," as slave-labor.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jan 01, 2007

Updated Last Revision: May 16, 2016

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"THE TRIANGLE TRADE" AwesomeStories.com. Jan 01, 2007. Jan 20, 2020.
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