The Triangular Trade

The Triangular Trade


  • The Triangular Trade refers to a trade model that took place between the 15th and 19th centuries between three regions: Western Europe, West Africa, and the Americas.
  • The term “triangular” derives from the shape the routes would make on a map, effectively forming a triangle.

Stage 1: From Europe to Africa

  • European goods were transported to Africa. These included textiles, rum, tobacco, and manufactured goods.
  • These European goods were traded with African leaders and merchants for slaves who had been captured in wars and raids.

Stage 2: The Middle Passage

  • This stage is known as the Middle Passage. It involved the gruelling transportation of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Slaves were tightly packed into ships, with appalling conditions often resulting in high mortality rates.
  • The slaves were taken to the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the Southern States of North America.

Stage 3: From the Americas back to Europe

  • In the Americas, slaves were traded for raw materials and goods not found in Europe, including sugar, cotton, tobacco, molasses, and rum.
  • These goods were then transported back to Europe, completing the triangle.

Impacts of the Triangular Trade

  • The Triangular Trade had significant economic, social, and human impacts on all regions involved.
  • On a human level, millions of Africans were forcibly captured, transported, and enslaved; this had profound social and cultural impact on West African societies.
  • Economically, the trade fuelled the development of capitalist economies in Europe, particularly the rise of port cities like Bristol and Liverpool in Britain.
  • In the Americas, enslaved Africans were the labour source for plantations and mines, shaping their economic and social structures.

Abolition of the Slave Trade

  • Abolition movements in the late 18th and early 19th centuries led to the ending of the Atlantic Slave Trade.
  • The British Parliament passed the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807, prohibiting the slave trade within the British Empire.
  • Other European nations and the United States gradually followed suit, with the USA abolishing the trade in 1808.
  • The end of the trade did not mean the immediate end of slavery; in many places, it continued well into the 19th century and beyond.