How did triangular trade affect colonial economies?

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Rory Share
Oct 20, 2016


Triangular trade increased the demand for both land and slave labor.


Triangular Trade refers to the trade between Europe, Africa, and North America over the Atlantic Ocean. Each continent had a different good that they typically supplied:

American Colonies: The English colonies supplied lots of natural resources, such as tobacco, lumber, sugar, etc. They bought lots of slave labor.

Europe: The European countries bought the natural resources from North America to manufacture goods (guns, clothes, furniture, etc). They supplied most of the manufactured goods.

Africa: West African leaders would trade slaves from inland to traders in exchange for European goods.

A trader could start in North America, picking up lumber, tobacco, and other natural resources and sell them to Europe while picking up manufactured goods. Then, they would sail down to Africa, trade the goods for slaves. Finally, they would return to North America to trade the slaves for more natural resources.

Because currents and trade winds made this route quick and efficient, this became the most profitable pattern for traders. As more traders began using "triangular trade," demand for colonial resources rose, which caused two tragic changes in the economy:

  1. More and more land was required for the collection of natural resources, resulting in the continuing theft of land from Native Americans.

  2. More and more labor was required to work the land, resulting in a tremendous growth in slavery in the middle and southern colonies.

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