The Importance of the Slave Trade
Examine the importance of the slave trade to the development of the plantation economies. The slave trade was vital to the development of plantation economies, which could only expand and survive in the West Indies with the use of slave labor.
The slave trade brought enslaved Africans from Africa to colonies in the West Indies, which had begun to take part in the “sugar Revolution ” starting in 1640.The plantation system which essentially is the organization of agriculture on a large scale usually producing a single crop such as sugar, coffee, cocoa and tobacco, small farmers were pushed out and few large plantation rose up to take their place and the combination Of these large plantations formed the plantation economies so the colonies became large monocot producing units .Agriculture on a large scale needs a large labor force which works for low wages or none at all so as to maximize the profitability of the plantation, in the west Indies there was plenty of land and capital which are essential for production but the labor was not present there to sustain plantation economies, so therefore labor had to be found and after many unsuccessful attempts, slave labor from Africa solved the Barbour problems of the planters and made the vital link between the plantation economies and the slave trade.The slave trade provided the labor, which was the backbone of the plantation system, without labor no production is possible and it soon became more profitable to buy slaves and work them to death and buy new ones than to allow the slave population to sustain itself by natural reproduction, this too made the link vital and with the growth if slave economies demand also grew and the linkage grew stronger.The link between the African slave trade and the plantation economies did tot exist early in the plantation system there was not always the scarcity of labor that lead to the link between the plantation system in the West Indies and the slave trade.In the beginning of the European development of the plantation system and economy the native population of the new world still existed In large enough numbers to provide unfreeze labor for the plantations but the native population was unaccustomed to large scale agricultural production the Meridians were accustomed only to a life of subsistence agriculture and hunting to the Meridian everything had meaning and ritual attached to it, therefore theory were totally unprepared for the meaningless backbreaking labor of plantation life.The change in the routine of their lives was so drastic that many committed suicide or simply died from diseases and workload.
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The Indian population soon fell drastically continuing the labor shortage. Whites were then tried as indentured and many were shipped Off to the developing plantation economies but an indentured servant was not a slave, indentures was based on a contract that compelled the white servant to work on the plantation for an allotted number of years after which e would be granted a plot of land or he simply would be free to work where he pleased.Many whites were sent from Europe to work in plantation colonies but this supply was never adequate an after the contract of indenture was up, many of these workers simply left the plantation to find less demeaning work, also moral concerns sprung up in Europe about how indentured servants were enticed to travel to the new world and how they were treated when there. This made white indentured labor unreliable in supply and in long term usefulness to the minimization of profit on the plantation.Finally came the enslaved Africans who due to the slave trade could be acquired in the large numbers needed for the betterment of the plantation economy, they would belong to the plantation owners for life unlike indentured servants and they were more productive than the Meridians, they were property and not persons so there could not be any moral concerns about their treatment and their method of procurement as had happened when people in Europe raised concerns about the treatment and the dubious methods Of getting indentured servants. O it was the plentiful supply of enslaved African labor provided by the salve trade that allowed for the development of the plantation economy. Of this process of the plantation economies turning to the slave trade for the supply of African labor Eric Williams writes in Capitalism and Slavery “Slavery in the Caribbean has been too narrowly identified with the Negro.
A racial twist has thereby been given to what is basically an economic phenomenon. Another major question to be dealt with in dealing with the importance of the slave trade to the development of plantation economies is how strong was the like between the slave trade and the development of plantation economies, Eric Williams in is book Capitalism and Slavery argues that in the production of crops such as sugar and cocoa with the use of slave labor, when producing in large units such as a plantation the cost of production goes down.So by this argument slavery is a necessity for the minimization of profits in the plantation system and as has been previously shown Indian slavery ended in failure and whites could not be enslaved so therefore that left only Africa with its large population and close proximity so the slave trade became a necessity to bring African slaves without which maximum profit could not be achieved Williams quotes Imperial as writing “slavery was an economic institution of the first importance. An example of this what ids now Guyana when it was under the Dutch in the development of sugar colonies in Subsequent and Bernice suffered because of a lack of slaves, caused by Dutch slavers getting higher prices in other colonies for their cargo. And with the opening up of Subsequent to foreign nationals in 1740 brought in many British planters from Barbados and that lead to a demand in slave labor. The increase in demand for slaves in Guyana came without an increase in supply, that lead to planters owing to Holland and protesting to the colonial authorities for an adequate supply of slaves.It was impossible to develop a plantation economy without out an adequate supply of slaves which were supplied by the slave trade.
When the British abolished the slave trade in 1 807 the only colony to support this move was Barbados which had a large slave population that adequately filled its labor needs but Guyana which was never adequately supplied with slaves say this move as detrimental to it plantation economy because the slave trade was the only way it could get adequate labor to base its lamination economy on.The plantation economy of Barbados was adequately supplied with slave labor by the slave trade to the point where it was no longer dependent on it, Winston f. McGowan argues in his book Themes in Roar-Gayness History that Dutch slave traders played an important role in the development of the sugar industry in Barbados by providing the colony with slaves, but Guyana which was never adequately supplied was dependent on the slave trade for labor, so weather adequately supplied or scarcely supplied the slave trade was pivotal in the development of plantation systems in both colonies.