The Translantic Slave Trade
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The best-known triangular trading method is the transatlantic slave trade, that operated from the late 1 6th to early 1 9th centuries, carrying slaves, cash crops, and manufactured goods between West Africa, Caribbean American colonies and Europe. The use of African slaves was key to growing colonial cash crops, which were exported to Europe. European goods, in turn, were used to purchase African slaves, which were then brought on the sea lane west from Africa to the Americas, the so called middle passage. A classic example would be the trade of sugar from the Caribbean to Europe where it as distilled into rum.
The profits from the sale of sugar were used to purchase manufactured goods, which were then shipped to West Africa, where they were traded for slaves. The slaves were then brought back to the Caribbean to be sold to sugar planters. The profits from the sale of the slaves were then used to buy more sugar, which was shipped to Europe, etc. The first leg of the triangle was from a European port to Africa, in which ships carried supplies for sale and trade, such as copper, cloth, slave beads, guns and ammunition. When the ship arrived, its cargo would be traded for slaves.
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On the second leg, ships made the journey of the Middle Passage from Africa to the New World. Many slaves died of disease in the crowded holds of the slave ships. Once the ship reached the New World, enslaved survivors were sold in the Caribbean or the American colonies. The ships were then prepared to get them thoroughly cleaned, drained, and loaded with export goods for a return voyage, the third leg, to their home port, from the West Indies the main export cargoes were sugar, rum, and molasses; from Virginia, tobacco and hemp. The ship then returned to Europe to complete the triangle.