Atlantic Slave Trade: Capital That Underwrote The Industrial Revolution

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Evaluate the argument that the Atlantic slave trade generated the capital that underwrote the industrial revolution The Industrial Revolution began as early as 1760 and continued to circa 1820 and 1840. It was a transition to new manufacturing processes, it was a period which saw great movement from hand production methods to machines, more efficient power sources and the rise of the factory system. This period saw great improvements in English standard of living including exponential growth in average income and population. Britain had been reliant on cottage industries, with little labour surplus as most people worked the land. Prior to the Industrial Revolution England’s population was eleven million people of which 80% lived in rural…show more content…
The norther colonies were societies of people escaping religious persecution in Europe who aimed to establish independent settlement. Their economies did thrive off the slave based industries of the south by capitalizing on the demand for maritime services, shipping and merchandising. There economy was sustained by the selling of timber and foodstuffs to the West Indies. It was these slave based colonies which produced the first mass consumer markets of sugar, tobacco and cotton. Eric Williams suggests that the profits that arose from these slave based colonies was essential to the Industrial Revolution. However, C Knick Harley work ‘Slavery the British Atlantic Economy and the Industrial Revolution’ and Jan Luiten Van Zanden’s ‘The Long Road to the Industrial Revolution’ emphasize that the creation of capital was stimulated through mass urbanization, a powerful and growing merchant class and technological advances. They highlight the importance of the Atlantic Slave Trade in success of the colonies in the Americas but question its significance in underwriting the industrial…show more content…
The Atlantic Slave trade was important as it created the initial demand for the devolvement of English exportation of manufactured goods. C Knick Harley comments in his work that “by 1770 trade (British Trade) with the Americas rivalled that with Europe”. Eric Williams believed that the cotton trade with the colonies, played an important role in the generation of capital, however this industry only come to fruition after 1800. This industry could not have had a significant affect in generating capital. It was an attribute to the textile industry in England however, its importance in underwriting the Industrial Revolution is unlikely. There is no doubt that trade with new world was important and that the new world was the main destination for English goods and the main exporter of goods that England imported. However, it is clear through James F Shepherd and Gary M Walton’s ‘Shipping, Maritime Trade and the Economic Development of Colonial North America’ and Ralph Davis works ‘English foreign trade 1660-1700’ and ‘English foreign trade 1700-1774’ that exports to Britain only accumulated to 10% of foreign exchange receipts and that the capital gained from imports and exports due to the Atlantic Slave trade generated less than 5% of the national income in

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