In early American settlement, goods came from two main sources: This came to be known as Triangular Trade. Click on map to see a large version in a new window.
A typical shipment of goods from Great Britain would consist of any or all of beads, cloth, hardware, rum, salt, or weapons.
The shipment would go to Africa, where the goods would be traded for people who were enslaved. A ship leaving Africa for America would contain hundreds of enslaved people, tightly packed in horrific conditions for the journey to their new "home. Once in America, the ship would unload the slaves and take on any or all of molasses, rum, sugar, or tobacco and then head to Great Britain, completing the Triangle.
It should be said here that not all ships made this giant triangular trip.
Many ships did no more than sail back and forth from America to Africa and vice versa or from England to Afria and vice versa. The description of the Triangluar Trade deals more with the goods as a whole.
Some of the ships coming to America sailed straight to ports along the Eastern Seaboard, although some stopped in the Caribbean or Brazil, where large slave plantations were. The number of Africans shipped as slaves to America has been conservatively estimated at 10 million. That number doesn't include the thousands who died along the way.
Explanation of the triangular trade system
Some estimates have concluded that 15 to 25 of every Africans died on those voyages. The practice of slavery had a history of hundreds of years.
The Triangular Trade: The Abolition of Slavery Project
It was made illegal in America in , although it continued in small part for many years after that. Graphics courtesy of ClipArt.
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