From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Triangular trade refers to a route used in the 18th century between England, the west coast of Africa, and the Caribbean. Ships from England would ply the African coast purchasing slaves from African slavers and sell them in the Caribbean before sailing back to New England with trade goods such as sugar and cocoa. This makes a triangle on a map hence the term "triangular trade."
The triangular trade involved three principle commodities: sugar, rum, and slaves. New England distillers made rum from Caribbean sugar. New England slave ships took vats of the rum to Africa and bought African slaves from their African owners with the rum. The bulk of the human cargo was sold in the Caribbean in trade for cane sugar. The sugar was then taken back to New England, and the cycle continued. At each stop along the way, an excellent profit was made off the top. Rum was very cheap to distill in New England, so the potential profits of the triangular trade were enormous.
Profits from the triangular trade are the basis for Industrialization and resultant capitalism in New England and elsewhere in the northeastern USA. For a time, New England itself held a number of African slaves, but these were freed and sent South to preserve a homogeneous society in the North.
Historians consider sugar to be the initial drive to the Industrial Revolution which England began. Surplus slaves not sold in the Caribbean or Latin America were brought on New England ships in the triangular trade to the American South and sold to the large plantations. Cotton in the American South was sold primarily to English textile mills which became the basis for industrialization in England and the subsequent British Empire.
See also: Slave Trade