The Slave Trade
Morally and ethically, there's no question about it: slavery was an atrocious practice, and it destroyed countless lives. In this video, though, we explore the economics of the slave trade. Why did it begin? Why did it go on for so long? Get ready for some seriously heavy stuff.
|U.S. History||The New World: 1492-1600|
To understand it, we have to look at the economics of the slave trade.
Slavery has been around as long as mankind,
but was introduced to the Colonies by the Portuguese.
The Portuguese were sort of like used car salesmen, only not quite as bad.
America was rich with fertile land.
But the settlers didn’t have the labor force to properly utilize it.
So when the Portuguese came calling, they jumped at the chance.
The slave labor force worked out so well that, between 1492 and 1776,
five times as many slaves were brought to America as there were settlers.
The crops that they worked on were so in demand worldwide that the US quickly grew rich.
This situation laid the foundation for the economic boom of the Industrial Revolution and beyond…
…making the US a superpower.
Slaves became an economy unto themselves… …and were seen as valuable, expensive property.
They could be traded for other goods and services, or be used to pay off debt.
The South remained primarily agricultural...
…while the North made use of several new-fangled machines and became overrun with factories.
The North was able to abandon slave labor completely.
And yet, even while they wanted the South to abolish slavery, they still needed a large
amount of supplies, like cotton… …and they refused to pay higher prices for them.
Which kept the slave trade rolling along.
The slavery bubble did eventually burst.
Only it burst into the Civil War, which really wasn’t all that civil.
Was slavery so important to the economy that only a war could have ended it?
How could America have ended slavery sooner?
Shmoop amongst yourselves.