Importance of the slave trade to the British economy

Source: BBC


Economic growth and the industrial revolution

Many historians describe the industrial revolution as a process rather than as an event. The part that exports played can be shown as a virtuous circle:

Slave Trade, history


From 1750 onwards a new industry emerged in Britain – the production of cotton cloth. Wool production had previously been Britain’s major industry, but cotton had one key advantage – machinery could process cotton fibres better than wool.

As a result it was in cotton production that the industrial revolution began, particularly in and around Manchester. The cotton used was mostly imported from slave plantations. Slavery provided the raw material for industrial change and growth.

The growth of the Atlantic economy was an integral part of the growth of exports – for example manufactured cotton cloth was exported to Africa.

The Atlantic economy can be seen as the spark for the biggest change in modern economic history. The Atlantic economy in the 1700s was founded on slave labour.

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