I agree to a high extent that slavery played a significant role in the expansion of the British Empire. I agree with this statement because slavery was one of the reasons that allowed the British to import a high amount of goods and to also receive an immense amount of profits. Even though slavery was considered of great importance, there were other key factors involved with the expansion of the British Empire – slavery being partly involved and responsible. The slave trade was mainly involved in two key aspects: the growth of the sea trade and finally the existing colonies/settlements.
Trade was one of the main key factors that allowed the British Empire to increase and grow steadily. This trading routine was the beginning of the Empire and from all the joint stock companies formed, Britain allowed its Empire to grow in profits and increase in size. The Slave trade played a major role in the growth of seaborne commerce/trade mainly across the Atlantic seas. The use of slavery helped the British a vast amount by bringing in increased profits and goods such as cotton, tobacco and sugar.
This triangular trade was a three point voyage in which Britain gained prosperity and wealth in return. The triangular slave trade supplied the Atlantic colonies with African people, which then were forced to work on the specific plantations. Slaves were transported across the Atlantic; they were bought and sold, and ended up working on plantations growing the crops that the Europeans craved. 1 The empire believed that it was all about their dominance in trade and it was known as being ‘Americanised’2.
Being ‘Americanised’, meant that Britain being increasingly centred on the America’s therefore meant being increasingly centred on slavery. From this, we can see that the slave trade was highly involved and helped the trading of the British. Joint stock companies such as the Royal African Company and the East India Company were mainly the most dominant companies in trade. These companies also played a part in the slave trade as they had the permission to and therefore they did. The Royal African Company received a monopoly of the trade from King Charles to supply slaves to the British colonies of the Carribean.
By doing this, it would further streamline the efficiency of the slave trade3 and allowed thousands of slaves a year to be exported. Headquarters of the British East India Company meant that London supplied commodites to Liverpool slave traders and handled other items to cover the bills of the slave sales. In all, companies like the RAC were immensly important. This is because trading companies were the origin of the trade, and therefore linking those with slave trading allowed them to gain much more.
This trade was often involved from mainly all the British ports including the ports of Bristol and London. Commodities were taken to the West African colonies and traded for slaves, which were then taken to the America’s so that they would be able to exchange the slaves for items such as cotton, tobacco and sugar. When the slaves reached the America’s, they would work on the plantations as their labour was in high demand. The use of slaves here was important in the growth of the British Empire because it led to the ports increasing their business intake.
Working on plantations meant that slaves would produce and continuously manufacture worthy items for the British to sell and earn from. The ports also achieved at the same time. Around all the British docks including London and Bristol, many shops and public facilities were arranged to encourage the merchants and public to unwind and take a break off their trading businesses. Things such as coffee shops, restaurants and dockyards were constructed4 and this influenced the people to make use of the sites and services. Due to all these sites, it led an increase to the surrounding businesses leading to other money intakes.
Here the use of slavery helped increase the size of the British Empire because all the trade led up to other forms of moneymaking. Another reason they were able to trade so freely was down to the British Royal Navy. The royal navy helped the British in three different ways. They did this by firstly clearing the Dutch off the seas and replacing them as being the most dominant maritime country of that time. They also vacated the seas of the French and therefore without the French and the Dutch, they had complete control and supremacy over the seas.
This supremacy was however, only down to their dominance. As well as that, the British Royal Navy also controlled the seas, and made anyone who crossed the Atlantic pay taxes to the British. The Atlantic seas were in full power of the British, which made it easier for the British ships to trade slaves whenever they wanted. This allowed slaves ships in and out of the Atlantic out of their own accord. This meant they could trade freely and without restraint meaning an increase in the imports rate. In addition, many English ships that carried slaves as cargo had the British Royal Navy flag on show.
This showed that the Royal navy was part of the transatlantic slave trade and they helped the British Empire. The Royal Navy was therefore partly responsible and the British Empire received the advantages out of it. This consequently caused the Empire to keep growing. The way the British were able to trade so freely across the Atlantic seas was because of the Asiento. They received this Asiento as a result of the War of Spanish Succession that was fought in 1701 – 1714. The Asiento meant that Britain was able to trade across the seas whenever they wanted and for whatever reason they wanted.
This was an advantage to the British because it was a right that they had given to them and it was not down to just their dominance. Due to this privilege, it meant that Britain was able to trade a huge amount of slaves and collect a huge amount of imports – bringing in a huge amount of money. As well as that, from the Royal Navy, they had no rivals, no oppositions and they were more able to do, as they desired. Due to the War of Spanish succession, they also received many colonies from the French and the Spanish. These colonies included: Minorca, Newfoundland and Gibraltar.
These new colonies meant that Britain was able to reach into new products and articles that these countries produced. More imports/exports meant that the British were taking in a vast amount of money for themselves, also increasing in profits. These new colonies contained more plantations that new crops were growing on. These newly owned plantations meant that there was a higher demand of slaves and therefore, Britain had to transport many more slaves around the Atlantic in order to stop the no labour and gain for themselves.
This was highly profitable for the Britains because it increased their money intake tremendously. Settlement was the other key aspect in the growth of the British Empire. All the colonies the British owned were amongst the best for producing the best groceries and articles; however these colonies still relied upon the slave trade too. This was because their crop producing plantations were expanding. Due to cultivation increasing, they also had more space for labour, which was therefore calling for the higher demand of slaves for the country’s economic development.
The North American and Caribbean colonies the British owned were producing items extremely fast and therefore the British were importing great amounts of this produce. This showed the British how profitable and valuable their colonies were to them. It was also obvious about how much slavery played a part in the expansion of the British Empire. In conclusion, there were many factors that contributed to the expansion of the British Empire. Slavery was partly involved and because of the slave trade, the empire received a vast amount of profits and imported a great deal of items.
However, the slave trade only worked with other territorial additions such as the government, the wars and colonies. Without these, the slave trade would not have been so successful in working towards making the British Empire enhance in size. I agree with the statement, as I think slavery and the British Empire were closely related.
1 http://www. nationalarchives. gov. uk/education/lessons/lesson27. htm 2 Kenneth Morgan 3 http://www. britishempire. co. uk/maproom/goldcoast. htm.