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The Triangular Slave Trade and its Effects

Although the triangular trade transported slaves throughout countless lands, it reached massive proportions and changed society. The earliest European slave traders were Portuguese explorers who reconnoitred the West African coast in the mid-fifteenth century. In Europe, African slaves usually worked as miners, porters, or domestic servants, since free peasants and serfs cultivated the land. However, sugar planters on the island of Sao Tom�, in particular, called for slaves in increasing quantities, they relied on slave labor, and production soared along with the demand for sugar in Europe.

By the 1520s, some two thousand slaves per year went to Sao Tom�. Soon after that Portuguese entrepreneurs extended the use of slave labor to South America. In 1530 Portuguese planters imported slaves directly from Kongo and Angola to Brazil, which eventually became the wealthiest of the sugar-producing lands of the western hemisphere. While slavery was cruel and exploitative, for the Europeans were profitable, they obtained money for the slave trade and built stronger empires. The demand for labor in the western hemisphere stimulated profitable commerce known as the triangular trade. The first leg carried European manufactured goods- mostly cloth and metal wares, especially firearms-that they exchanged in Africa for slaves.

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The second leg took enslaved Africans to the Caribbean and American destinations. Upon arrival, merchants sold their human cargoes to plantation owners two to three times what they had cost on the African coast. Sometimes they changed slaves for cash, but in sugar-producing regions, they bartered slaves for sugar or molasses. Then they filled their vessels’ hulls with American products before embarking on their voyage back to Europe. In the Americas, social transformations were huge. Spanish explorers and conquerors also sought laborers to work lands in the Caribbean and the Americas.

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As imported diseases ravaged indigenous populations in the western hemisphere, the conquerors found themselves in possession of vast stretches of the land but few laborers to work it. During the 1520s, Spanish authorities introduced slaves to Mexico, Peru, and Central America, where they worked as cultivators and miners. However, Africa suffered serious losses from the slave trade. The Atlantic slave trade alone deprived African societies of about sixteen million individuals, in addition to another several million consumed by the continuing change Islamic slave trade during the early modern era, the slave trade also distorted African sex ratios; slavers preferred young men between fourteen and thirty-five years of age, this sexual imbalance encouraged Angolans to practice polygamy and brought turmoil and wars in African societies.

Despite the massive change, some aspects of life stayed the same. Slavery was common throughout Africa after the Bantu migrations spread agriculture to all parts of the continent. As in other societies, most slaves in Africa came from the ranks of war captives, although criminals and individuals expelled from their clans also frequently fell into slavery. Owners could order slaves to perform any work, punish them at will, and sell them as chattel. African slaves usually worked as administrators, soldiers, or even highly placed advisors.

In conclusion, the Triangular Trade helped increase population growth and decrease population because diseases were transported. It was also lucrative for the development of food crops, arms, and silver in countless nations. Also, new social classes were created, such as the criollos, mestizos, mulattoes and zambos. The triangular trade was a profitable technique to obtain significant resources with Europe, Asia, and other lands.

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The Triangular Slave Trade and its Effects. (2021, Sep 25). Retrieved June 26, 2022, from