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The South Atlantic Slave Trade System: a Success Or Failure

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The South Atlantic trade system experienced both challenges and benefits which eventually determine the success or failure of the trading system. In particular, the South Atlantic trade led to the forceful migration of many Africans to the New World over a period stretching to approximately four hundred years. As such, the trade is seen as a major historical occurrence bearing both long-term and universal consequences. Therefore, this paper reveals the different impacts that were brought about by the South Atlantic trade with an aim of understanding whether the trade was a success or failure.

Firstly, the Atlantic slave trade played a pivotal role in shaping the development of the Atlantic sphere between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries (Miller 2018). The trade opened up new trading routes, a new source of earnings, and also led to the establishment of new colonies, societies, political entities, and interest groups across the four continents in which the trade was conducted. As a result, the link between these continents contributed largely to the formation of industrial capitalism and a world economy (Rice).

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Furthermore, the global economy was developing quickly during the South Atlantic trade. More commodities were being produced and traded than ever before. Resultantly, the trade that was developed became enormous with about £275m in present-day prices worth of British exports being transported to the slave trade colonies yearly and around £315m in current prices of goods being imported back into Britain (Rice).Conversely, relatively few Europeans had voyaged to the New World until the late 18th century, providing limited personnel for the growth of new industries. As such, slavery rapidly proved to be essential to this growth since slaves were largely seen as the ‘human lubricant’ of the entire system (Rice). The Caribbean and South Atlantic economies especially were heavily reliant on the supply of secure labor for the production of commodity crops such as sugar, tobacco, rice, and cotton which would then be sold in European markets.

In the same way, investors made a great fortune out of importing raw materials without openly admitting that slavery was a crucial part of the process. Thus, the Atlantic trade greatly benefited Europeans as it allowed them to accumulate the raw materials needed for the industrial revolution. This was essential to western European countries which were competing to form empires abroad. However, this was to the disadvantage of African civilizations whose ability to alter their modes of production into a sustainable innovative economy was severely terminated (Miller 2018).

Additionally, even those who may not have directly been involved in slave trade or plantation economies such as banks realized great profits. As trade profits increased, so did the revenue collected by banks and other financial institutions. For instance, the provision of loans, insurance, and other sophisticated trading instruments created a lot of new business opportunities. All this facilitated the formation of modern capitalism (Miller 2018). Certainly, it is one of the biggest ironies of history that an exploitative labor system such as slavery was at the core of the advancement of the modern global economy.

Overall, the South Atlantic trade worked, it provided manual labor at a cost-effective rate that both the Europeans and the Americans could manage to pay for and in quantities that they needed. All this ensured gainful economic use. The impacts of the slave trade vary widely, some see the trade as central to the difficulties that devastated Africa both then and later, whereas others see it as merely a border line influence in Africa’s historical development. Nonetheless, the trade quickly reduced African slaves from humans to inanimate items of trade and economic control.

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