See also Middle Passage and the Love of Liberty: Texts and Sources
CAPITALISM AND SLAVERY
- Hancock, David, CITIZENS OF THE WORLD, London merchants and the integration of the British Atlantic community, , 477pp. Cambridge University Press. Pounds 35. - 0 521 47430 2.
- Hancock has not just rehabilitated a long-forgotten relationship of eighteenth-century merchants; he has re-created a world which few knew existed; the interdependent one of North Atlantic trade before 1775. That the slave trade played a large, though not overwhelming, part in this world is certain. Hugh Thomas TLS March 08 1996
- Hobsbawm, E. J., Industry and Empire, Penguin 1968
- 24 . . . in 1750 . . . Liverpool . . . bustle of that fast-rising port, based, like Bristol and Glasgow, largely on the trade in slaves and colonial products - sugar, tea, tobacco, and increasingly cotton.
52 The powerful, growing and accelerating current of overseas trade . . .rested on three things: in Europe, the rise of a market for overseas products for everyday use, whose market could be expanded as they became available in larger quantities and more cheaply; and overseas the creation of economic systems for producing such goods (such as, for instance, slave-operated plantations) and the conquest of colonies designed to serve the economic advantage of their European owners.
53 Around 1700 (colonial trade) amounted already to fifteen per cent of (British) commerce - but by 1775 to as much as a third.
. . . after the war of the Spanish Succession (1702-13) between two and three thousand tons of British ships cleared from England every year for Africa, mainly as slavers; after the Seven Years' War (1756-63) between fifteen and nineteen thousand; after the American War of Indejpendence (1787) twenty-two thousand.
54 . . . by the early 1780s more than half of all slaves exported from Africa . . . made profits for British slavers
. . . throughout the nineteenth century . . . the exchange of overseas primary products for British manufactures was to be the foundation of (the British) international economy.
56 . . . cotton was the pace maker of industrial change. . .
57 Modest local manufacturers established themselves in the hinterland of the great colonial and slave-trading ports, Bristol, and even Glasgow and Liverpool, though the new industry was finally localized near the last of these. . . Until 1770 over ninety per cent of British cotton exports went to colonial markets . . . mainly to Africa. The vast expansion of exports after 1750 gave the industry its impetus: between then and 1770 cotton exports multiplied ten times over.
- Porter, Roy, English Society in the Eighteenth Century, Penguin, 1982
- 16 It was a society which was capitalist, materialist, market-oriented; worldly, pragmatic, responsive to economic pressures. Yet, its political institutions and its distribution of social power . . . were unashamedly hierarchical, hereditary, and privileged . . .
22 English boys . . . ached to go to sea.
23 . . . the Royal Navy . . .press-ganged men in ports. . . Englishmen . . liked being thought bloody-minded roughnecks. . . Even the top people duelled. . . .The English .. . . ate to excess, drank like lords, and swore like troopers
24 (quoting Southey) They love liberty; go to war with their neighbours, because they choose to become republicans, and insist upon the right of enslaving the negroes.
29 Poverty meant lives of deprivation and dependence: relying of bread as the main foodstuff; freezing in shacks and cellars; having animals occasionally living under the same roof . . .
31 Criminals were publicly whipped, pilloried, and hanged. Jacobites' heads were spiked on Temple Bar till 1777. . . . Sailors boasted of the thousands of lashes they had borne.
33 People almost never bathed. Before cottons became cheap, clothes were difficult to wash; children in particular were often sewn into theirs for the winter. . . Chamber pots were providing in dining-room side-boards for men, to save breaking up the conversation. . . Food hygiene was no better than personal hygiene. . . the streets were full of dung . . . the stench . . much was invisible in a world lit by candles and rush-lights.. . . Alcohol gave stimulus, release, oblivion.
35 People had to shift for themselves. . . . How one made out depended on skills in the games of deference and condescension, patronage and favour, protection and obedience . . .
36 There were no female parliamentarians, explorers, lawyers, magistrates, or factory entrepreneurs . . .
37 Men were intended (said men) to excel in reason, business, action, decision; women's forte was to be passive, maternal, submissive, modest, docile, and virtuous. . .
38 (quoting Blackstone) 'In marriage husband and wife are one person, and that person is the husband.'
A husband had the right to beat his wife, ruled a judge, so long as the stick was no thicker than a man's thumb.
39 (quoting Dr. Johnson) 'The chastity of women is of all importance, as all property depends on it.'
51 Slaves were the precious life-blood of the West Indian economy, where King Sugar reigned, and in which £70 million had been invested by 1790. Under the asiento British slave-traders transported a million and a half Africans during the century: 'All this great increase in our treasure,' wrote Joshua Gee in 1729, 'proceeds chiefly from the labour of negroes in the plantations.' West African gold gave England the guinea. . . English society was irreversibly being skewed by her imperial wealth.
52 The haul by road from Newcastle to London was ('God willing', as advertisements said) nine days . . .. Defoe thought a tree trunk might take three years to be dragged from Sussex to a dockyard in Chatham . . . Ox waggons were common.
101 . . . apprentices might be little better off than slaves. . . Men were subjected to brutality from their masters . . . women, especially servants, were prey to sexual exploitation. . . in some industries the relationship between master and worker (quoting Dean Tucker) 'approached much nearer to that of a planter and slaves in our American colonies . . .'
105 . . . the exceptional maid might - like Pamela in Richardson's novel - marry her master.
114 . . . violence was as English as plum pudding.
125 . . . candidates . . . cajoled voters by bribes and threats . . .
151 There had been fifty capital offences in 1689; by 1800 there were four times that number. Many specified death for small-scale theft such as pick-pocketing goods worth more than 1s. . . offenders caught poaching were frequently transported
Property was . . . the soul of eighteenth century society. . . Thus Negro slaves were openly sold as chattels. . .
152 There was a thriving trade in making ornamental collars and padlocks for slaves.
153 Despite the much trumpeted Somersett ruling of 1772, even the rights to own Negro slaves in England remained stubbornly secure through the whole of the century.
163 . . . in an age when fertility was low, sex did not often result in conception.
180 Polite society did not take girls' minds very seriously.
181 (quoting Davies Giddy in 1807) Giving education to the labouring classes or the poor would be prejudicial to their morals and happiness; it would teach them to despise their lot in life, instead of making them good servants in agriculture and other laborious employment. Instead of teaching them subordination, it would render them fractious and refractory.
205 England's successful trafficking economy was consistently energized by highly favourable overseas trade, especially with the fast-growing empire. The merchant marine (grew) from about 3,300 vessels (260,000 tons) in 1702 . . . to about 9,400 (695,000 tons) in 1776.
216 The most spectacular growth points early in the century were west-coast ports such as Liverpool and Bristol. . . Though its population was under 10,000 in 1700, by 1800 Liverpool had become the second largest town in the kingdom. It thrived on overseas merchant investment, specializing in tobacco and slaves.
235 . . . water supplies were often contaminated . . .Sugar got cheaper: 200,000 lbs were consumed in 1690, 5,000,000 in 1760.
238 . . . few houses had baths installed
252 Books remained quite dear. . . A novel would cost at least 7s 6d. . . even so, Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews sold 6,500 copies in 1742.
257 John Newbery poured out spelling books, primers, picture books, chapbooks, joke books, and fairy stories. . .
288 Freed slaves were prettified as personal servants and imprisoned in condescending nicknames such as Zeno, Socrates or Pompey.
- Richardson, David, Liverpool and the English Slave Trade, in Tibbles, Anthony (ed.), Transatlantic Slavery: Against Human Dignity, HMSO, 1994
- 73 It is claimed that (Liverpool merchants) were more prepared than merchants at other ports to supply slaves illegally to the colonies of other nations, notably Spain and France.
75 . . . equipping ships for a slaving voyage to Africa was expensive . . . a crew of up to forty or fifty men . . . it appears that the cost of putting a slave ship to sea . . . reach(ed) about £10 -12,000 by the end of the (eighteenth) century. . . . about £200,000 a year was invested at Liverpool in the slave trade around 1750. This sum may have risen to £1,000,000 a year by 1800.
. . . most of the capital invested in the trade came from merchants, tradesman and shipmasters living in Liverpool and adjacent towns. To fund and organize voyages, these investors formed partnerships, the membership of which ranged in most cases from about three to eight individuals . . . most of the funding and organization . . . revolved around a core of substantial and regular investors drawn mainly from the elite of eighteenth-century Liverpool commercial families such as the Blundells, Crosbies, Earles, Heywoods and Tarletons.
76 Overall returns on investment in the trade seem . . . to have averaged about eight to ten percent a year in the second half of the eighteenth century . . . investment in the African trade helped to bring substantial wealth to some of the principal Liverpool slave traders. . . John Tarleton . . . mayor of the city in 1764, saw his fortune climb from £6,000 in 1748 to nearly £80,000 in 1773. . . . Thomas Leyland . . . several times mayor of Liverpool . . . was reputed to have been worth over £736,000 just before his death in 1827. . . the slave trade also brought employment and economic opportunities to many others in the city and surrounding towns.
. . . the trade in enslaved Africans was a vital pillar in the eighteenth century Liverpool economy, underpinning the substantial increase in the city's trade and shipping and promoting closer connections with the industrializing towns of Lancashire. . . . Liverpool merchants were amongst the most vocal opponents of British abolition of the slave trade in 1807.
- Trevelyan, G. M. English Social History, Penguin 1967
- 398 In 1775 the Norwich coach was waylaid in Epping Forest by seven highwaymen, of whom the guard shot three dead before he was himself killed at his post.
404 In the census of 1801, Liverpool showed 78,000 inhabitants . . .The branch of American trade especially belonging to Liverpool was the slave trade, which was closely connected with cotton manufacture in Lancashire. More than half the slaves carried across the Atlantic made the 'middle passage' in the holds of English ships . . . .In 1771 as many as fifty-eight 'slavers' sailed from London, twenty-three from Bristol, and one hundred and seven from Liverpool. They transported 50,000 slaves that year.
- Atlantic Slave Trade.
The following exchange took place on H-World, moderated
by Ken Pomerantz. Contributors: James Blaut, Ricardo Duchesne, R. J. Barendse
- The history of slavery, the slave trade, abolition and emancipation [SLAVERY@LISTSERV.UH.EDU]; on behalf of; Steven H Mintz [SMintz@UH.EDU]
From: James Blaut
University of Illinois, Chicago
Ricardo Duchesne is dead wrong in saying that there is a "scholarly
consensus " that colonial wealth and slavery were not basic forces in
the industrial revolution, and that the arguments of Eric Williams et al.
are just passe. We've been around this block with him a few times on this
This is the conventional view but it has been , and is being, strongly
questioned. See e.g., Robin Blackburn, _The Making of New World Slavery_
1997, pp. 371-568; J. Inikori, and S. Engerman, eds. _The Atlantic Slave
Trade: Effects on Economies, Societies, People..._, (1992), esp. chapters
by R. Bailey, W. Darity, and Inikori; Article by J. Cuenca Esteban in
Econ Hist. Rev v57 (1997); and in the Solow/Engerman ed. volume cited by
Ricardo there are several chapters that contradict his argument: see esp.
chapters by Richard Sheridan, Inikori, and Hillary Beckles.
University of New Brunswick, St John
In the post to which you are responding below, I did acknowledge that
some scholars are not part of this consensus, those who are still
strongly pro-Williams and those (so-called "cliometricians") who think
that the colonial trade was insignificant. In the pro-Williams camp, I
would include Darity and Inikori, and in the cliometrician one,
Bairoch and Donald McCloskey (indirectly, and perhaps not now that he
has turned into a woman called Deidre, as I just read his editorial
praises of Pommeranz's book, but who knows?).
As a consensus is never absolute, it is worth noting that Solow and
Engerman now agree on the basic points. Yes, Engerman the author of that
well-known 1972 paper which showed that colonial profits were nowhere near
Williams's exaggerated figure of 30%. He, together with O'Brien, *now*
recognize that there was much more to the colonial trade than profit
margins and their relation to capital formation in Britain; they recognize
that this trade was quite significant in all sorts of ways, but it was
certainly NOT sufficient. I would also include here Richardson.
Note, this time I did not say that it was "neither necessary nor
sufficient" - because it is really difficult, if not impossible, to
conceive the British economy apart from its worldly connections. However,
just because it is impossible to think of the human body functioning
without a kidney, it does not follow that the kidney is the "foundation",
or "major cause" of the functioning of the body.
Finally, I don't know why Frank persists with the idea that the colonial
trade was the key source of British capital formation in the 18th century:
His new argument about the world economy does not require that it be. It
is enough that it was a "ticket" (first class?) to the Asian train.
Besides, there's much more to WS theory than this question of profit
From: James Blaut
University of Illinois, Chicago
Not all cliometricians hold to the view that you espouse concerning the
relative insignificance of slavery, the slave plantation, the slave trade,
colonialism (profits, demand, settlement, raw materials, etc., etc.), and,
most generally, "external" against "internal" forces in the (British)
industrial revolution. See, for instance, papers by Brezis in Econ Hist.
Rev 1995, Cuenca-Esteban EHR 1997, Grantham (on France vis-a-vis England)
J. Econ. Hist 1989, and: on China, Flynn, Giraldez, Pomerance, Von Glahn,
B. Wong; on India , Arasaratnam, Subrahmanyam....etc.,
However, it is indeed true that many cliometrically inclined economic
historians argue against the significance of non-Europe in the IR by
narrowly analyzing data gleaned from European sources (English, mostly),
data from sources biased to begin with either because of the source of the
information or because the data do not include unrecorded facts ( e.g.,
contraband,), then subject the data to assumptions from neo-classical
economics, and end up with the conclusion that they wanted to arrive at to
begin with: insignificance of external factors in the IR.
The main problem with cliometric analysis in economic history seems (to
me) to be the fact that, when you work with bare-bones statistics, derived
from very special and unrepresentative series, you are able to, as it
were, "prove anything with the statistics," because you are not obligated
to look at a problem in a way that encompasses all of its historical
complexity (and almost never gives you subaltern statistics!). Honest
economic historians have been led on occasion to make serious Eurocentric
errors because of the allure of available statistics.
But things are changing. Today the situation is very different than it
was, say, 20 years ago because (a) evidence from non-European regions is
flooding in, (b) this leads historians to re-evaluate the " internal"
evidence (on the principle of the Emperor's Clothes); and (c) the general
critique of eurocentrism in history has opened the eyes (Emperor's Clothes
again) of scholars to the Eurocentric errors in earlier work. Some
cliometrically oriented economic historians, like O'Brien, McCloskey, and
Engerman, are wonderfully broadening their views. Others, like Eric L.
Jones and David Landes have not yet done so.
From: R. J. Barendse
Yes - we had that argument before and as I pointed out before I would -
strictly regarding Britain - not support his argument, as I pointed out
before too. For if it is indeed difficult to show any direct connection
between colonial wealth and direct investment in industry colonial wealth
did play a major role in facilitating the mobilization of wealth by credit
in Britain and - to an extent - Scotland (and in attracting foreign
investment towards Britain).
However ... lest Ricardo complains I always pick on him I have to say IMHO
Ricardo does have a good point in a comparative context.
For, as Eric C. Maierhofer also pointed out, the link between colonial
wealth and industrialization is a fairly uniquely British (and to an
extent US) phenomenon - other countries involved in the Atlantic
slave-trade were not at all conspicuous because of their early
industrialization, thus the kingdom of Denmark/Norway. While, on the other
hand, many industrial 'early starters' had no colonial links. At least I
find it extremely difficult to link Wallonia to any colonial interests,
let alone Silesia, the Rhineland, Bohemia or Turin.
Conversely the two Spanish region, which ought to have profited most from
the colonies, namely Galicia (because of its close links to Spain's
booming plantation in the 19th century: Cuba) and, first and foremost,
Andalucia (of course the port for the Americas for three centuries) have
remained the two poorest regions of the Iberian peninsula until today.
Whereas the two regions which were not much involved in the Americas
namely the Basque region and, first and foremost, Catalunha turned into
the industrial powerhouses of the Peninsula by 1770.
Now - Andalucian local historiography (which has flowered since the
1970's) has spent a massive amount of effort to explain why so little of
the wealth generated in the America has stayed in Andalucia.
For a simple `provincially chauvinistic' explanation in which all wealth
is either pulled to Castille or out of the country will simply not do.
Andalucia was a specially favored region. Finally, the position of first
Seville then Cadiz as exclusive ports for the carrera da India was an
administrative choice of Madrid, so that Castille can hardly be accused of
willingly impoverishing Andalucia. While, again, it also can not plausibly
be accused of neglecting Spanish national interest to benefit its great
power-policy. For in the eighteenth century the Bourbon government - far
from welcoming foreign goods and investment - sought to stimulate its
industry by draconian tariffs. The administration in the eighteenth
century can hardly be accused of not perceiving the problem of being
undersold by foreign imports, then
Instead - Andalucian historians have essentially argued that America
impoverished Andalucia in at least two ways. First, because of the
constant massive `drain' of manpower (literally `manpower' since it mostly
concerned young men) from Andalucia, who also - unlike, say, the English
in the West Indies - permanently established themselves in America and
thus mostly did not remit funds home - to that extent Spain benefited less
from the massive migration to America than, say, France did from its tiny
migration to the Caribbean. Second, because the capital needed to invest
in the Americas was huge - for remember that investment in the Americas
involved extremely long-term outlays (three years at least) far longer
than were normal in Europe and was even then still a gamble - Andalucian
agriculture was essentially used as a `milk-cow' to obtain money to invest
in the Americas. And this capital was - if it came back at all -
re-invested in 'latifundias' rather than in trade or industry since
'latifundias' were a safe investment. Lest it be argued that's a typical
case of the supposed `anti-commercial' mentality of Spanish hidalgos or
would-be-hidalgos remember that British planters from the West Indies were
not behaving very differently in England. Furthermore, because these
investments were so long term and risky Andalucian small bankers were both
unwilling and unable to lend money so that instead banking was taken over
by Genoese, Tuscan or South German bankers in the sixteenth century,
`Hanseatic' German, Flemish and still Genoese bankers in the eighteenth
century (though we know far less about banking in Cadiz than we do about
Seville). This meant that - as prospective investors were often heavily in
debt - after having obtained their initial capital by exploiting the
peasants on their latifundias in Andalucia, investors in America would
often send the profits on their investments to Hamburg, Genoa or Antwerp -
really to anything but Andalucia and even Spain. (For even investment in
the manufacturing industry in Catalunha was also mainly obtained from
Catalunha rather than from funds from the Americas.)
However, the main reason why a simple link between colonial wealth and
industrialization will not do in a comparative context is the Portuguese
case. For, after all, if ONE country should have profited from the
'plantation-complex' in the Atlantic - particularly in the eighteenth
century - it's Portugal. The Portuguese Empire was still the world's
second largest dealer in slaves and Brasil was in the eighteenth century
the world's biggest producer of gold and diamonds and (I believe also) of
sugar, next to being a major producer of cotton, indigo and increasingly
of coffee too - and yet, of course, Portugal was then and still is the
poorest country of western Europe besides Ireland.
Now, one simple explanation for this would be (sanctioned by the authority
of C.R. Boxer and I indeed have read that explanation on this list too)
that the government (and church) in Portugal were simply 'stupid' and
wasted all that wealth on churches or on the palace-monastery at Mafra
(which admittedly dwarves Versailles). And that the state hardly supported
industry, allowing it to be out-priced by foreign competition. But
although this may be sustained for the first half of the eighteenth
century (for Portugal during the Brazilian gold boom had indeed an uncanny
resemblance to, say, Saudi Arabia in the 1970's). But it was certainly not
the case during the period of 'dictator' Marques de Pombal (1755-1774)
(who as the specialists know had been ambassador in London). Pombal was
seriously worried about Portugal's industrial 'retardation' relative to
England, and amongst other things used the funds from the colonies to put
up manufacturing workshops in Portugal. He also tried systematically to
substitute imported with Portuguese manufactured goods be it by heavily
taxing imports, be it by putting up commercial companies to give
small-scale Portuguese manufacturers a competitive edge. Nor was this
policy fully reversed after the removal of Pombal. The state was,
therefore, seriously concerned about the foreign competition and
Portugal's industrial retardation. And had been since the sixteenth
century. Briefly - the idea that the Iberians willingly squandered their
colonial wealth is simply a piece of the 'black legend'. Nor did Portugal
lack serious, responsible, administrators and highly capable economists -
the physiocrats were busily discussed in eighteenth century Portugal and
there were even special reviews and prices devoted to discussions on how
to "improve the economy". The enlightenment Portuguese were far from the
'cafers of Europe'.
A more subtle explanation has been put forward by Jorge Borges de Machedo
in his classic "Problemas da industria Portuguesa no seculo XVIII"
(Lisbon, 1961). The problem, Borges de Machedo has argued, was that
Portugal was a tiny and thinly populated country. Portuguese industry,
hence, hardly disposed of a domestic market which was in any way
comparable to that of France or even of Britain. Apart from this Portugal
was still far from the rest of western Europe and the Tague really leads
from Lisbon to ... nowhere. Portuguese products had thus to compete in a
western European market where they were already burdened by
transport-costs and had no real advantage either in technology or in
labor-costs. (For though there was a small putting-out industry in Beira
province it could not really compete with that of Flanders or that of the
The only product with which Portugal could compete were products of slaves
and forced laborers from the colonies but these hardly contributed to the
development of the metropolis - as, again, Portugal was too remote from
the markets to establish, say, a cotton industry (although Brasil was, as
said, a major producer of cotton) or a sugar-industry.
Additionally, Portuguese agriculture and Portuguese infrastructure were
'undercapitalized'. (70 km east of Lisbon you were basically back into an
early Middle Age-style manorial system and the kingdom did not have a
single good road). This was mainly - it seems - as virtually all money of
the Portuguese state was spent - had to be spent - on infrastructure in
the colonies rather than in the motherland (For if Brazil was making vast
profits other colonies like the Azores, Madeira, San Thome and India were
making a heavy loss). And, furthermore, Portuguese investors were using
Portuguese agriculture as 'milk-cow' of the colonies somewhat like in
However, it could be argued these disadvantages could have been
compensated by import-substitution, which, indeed, was the policy during
the Pombal-dictatorship when the Portuguese state sought to heavily tax
and restrict foreign imports. Initiatives to develop manufacturing under
Pombal collapsed after his deposition from office, though. So that, in
spite of having followed all the recipes of the classical mercantilist
writers (and to some extent even of the dependista-economists
ninety-sixties style) all efforts to stimulate industry did not lead to a
self-sustaining industrial take-off like in Britain in the same period (as
the Portuguese were very much aware by 1790.)
Therefore, although Borges de Machedo is undoubtedly partly right, we have
also to look into the cost-structure of Portuguese trade as has been
argued by the brilliant Brazilian historian Fernando Novais (see his
magnum opus Portugal e Brasil no crise do antigo sistema colonial, Sao
Now, to follow Novais' argument, in a way the structure of exchange
between the motherland and its Brazilian colony was a colonial paradox. As
the motherland succeeded in running its trade as advantageous as possible
it also succeeded in very efficiently pricing itself out of the market.
For the central objective of the Portuguese government in Brasil - unlike,
for example, of the British in the West Indies - was that the colonies
were to pay for themselves, while delivering products to Portugal for as
low a price as possible. And by the eighteenth century Portugal was by and
large successful in that. Brazil could, indeed, pay its own expenses AND
could deliver products to the motherland practically `for free' AND pay
for the expenses of the other colonies AND handsomely reward Portuguese
investments. So that Portuguese merchants preferably invested in Brasil
instead of Portugal (or India). Portugal therefore obtained Brazilian
products practically for free - meaning that (since Portugal could obtain
foreign products in exchange for `free' Brazilian products) Portuguese
industry - which could not produce against Brazilian slave-labor - would
always be under-sold by foreign competition. Brasil therefore very
successfully 'underdeveloped' Portugal.
Of course, Portuguese industry could conceivably have sold its products to
Brasil but here emerged the other paradox of Portuguese mercantilism. For
both to obtain the maximum revenue from Brasil Portugal had to squeeze the
colony as much as possible; and to obtain the cheapest possible products
from Brasil and thus derive maximum revenues from the colony Portugal had
to keep wages and, hence, purchasing power in Brasil as low as possible
too. Remember these products are 'free', so to obtain the most
advantageous rate of exchange and hence the most foreign products you have
to sell them as cheaply as possible. Therefore - as practically the only
input in these products was labor-costs (all other costs being fixed)
wages had to be kept as low as possible. Furthermore - to keep wage-levels
down in the plantation-sector the metropolis had also to restrict
manufacturing-industry and agriculture delivering to the plantations in
Brasil. For - as Brasil was a small market and therefore manufacturing and
non-plantation agriculture was suffering from high initial and entry-costs
- this would pull overall wage-levels up. Even counting transport-costs
in, it was cheaper to sell 'free' foreign products in Brasil than having
these manufactured or raised in Brasil.
Note that this was not all to the detriment of EVERY Brazilian as, because
the market was so small it could also easily be monopolized, thus allowing
both Brazilian and Portuguese elites to gather rent on their monopolies -
large parts of the Brazilian market being cornered by monopoly-contractors
on anything from playing-cards to tobacco. It was therefore in the best
interest of these monopoly contractors too to keep the population poor.
The Portuguese economy was caught in a trap then - since it disposed of
'free' Brazilian products Portuguese products were always undersold by
foreign competition. Not only did no manufacturing industry develop but -
since money for investing in the colonies was obtained from agriculture -
there was actual de-investment from agriculture (and the infrastructure).
Apart, of course, from the hemorrhage out of the Portuguese countryside by
the mass-emigration to Brasil. For Portugal with already only 1.3 million
inhabitants - and I would grant this point to the black legend up to one
on every eight people a 'unproductive' cleric - in addition sent hundreds
of thousands of people to Brasil in the eighteenth century. And these,
again, mostly were young men. While Brasil was also caught in a trap
because its entire economy was premised on trade. Yet the only products
with which it could compete were products premised on low wages or
slavery. Therefore, the very structure of its exchange kept Brasil poor -
particularly after the weathering of the gold-boom after about 1750 when
Brasil again mainly had to sell agricultural products with which it had to
compete with the slavery in the West Indies in addition. The two countries
were so to say caught in a downward spiral of mutual underdevelopment from
which they have still not fully escaped.
To repeat Maierhofer's point: sugar might certainly produce "obscene
amount of wealth for a growing capitalist system" (and let there be no
mistake about it - the Portuguese Empire was in the eighteenth century the
vanguard of this growing capitalist system) but the circumstances which
produced the 'take-off' into self-sustained industrial growth were
uniquely British - the same wealth might also trap countries into
N.B..: The - very extensive - literature on Pombal is only in Portuguese
but K. Maxwell, Pombal: Paradox of the Enlightenment Cambridge, 1995 gives
an excellent introduction to this historiography.
Happy Millennium - all.
R.J. Barendse The Netherlands
P.S. Sorry this is not about Asia or about feudalism but I would under no
circumstance miss a good chance to praise Ricardo Duchesne.
From: Ricardo Duchesne
Responding to James Blaut, 7 February:
Your qualification that not all cliometricians have minimized the colonial
trade is correct. I was following O'Brien (1991) in this characterization,
but, as I learned later, Solow (1985) and Darity have also used
mathematical models to support Williams's thesis. Brezis's 1995 paper is
also strictly statistical. I could not find Cuenca-Esteban in EHR 1997.
Grantham and the others you mention do not concern this issue directly, so
we can leave them to the side.
I certainly disagree with your claim that anyone who uses data against
Williams's thesis must be wrong simply because they are eurocentric and
because they "subject the data to assumptions from neo-classical
economics, and end up with the conclusion that they wanted to arrive at to
begin with: insignificance of external factors in the IR." First, the
"general equilibrium model" which Darity uses in his defense of the
Williams's thesis is a revised version of neoclassical trade models.
Second, what is the conclusion Jim Blaut has always wanted to arrive at?
Have you ever given any attention to those facts which run against your
pre-established views? O'Brien has. And so has Solow, which may explain
why she concluded in 1987 that "slavery did not cause the IR, but played
an active role in its pattern and timing".
About Brezis's paper, remember that she is writing about the "inflows of
foreign capital", which is not the same as the inflows of colonial
profits. Here's Nash's summation of Brezis's contribution: "These capital
flows, she further argues, while previously neglected, played a vital role
in British industrialization as for most of this period they provided
nearly one-third of total investment in the economy. Brezis's work
provides a strong challenge to the current orthodoxy about the causes of
British industrialization, which sees the process as a home-grown product,
one based on the technology, demand, and capital generated in the intermal
rather than the external economy. If Brezis is correct [and Nash thinks
her statistical information is problematic] we are required to modify
these views and to recognize that industrialization, at least with respect
to the financing of capital formation, was heavily influenced by forces
operating in the international as well as in the domestic economy" (EHR
I would qualify this remark by saying that the "orthodoxy" through the
60-70s was that foreign trade was the "engine of growth" of the British
economy in the 18th, as only in the 80s did this view came under strong
attack. Either way, I have no problem with Brezis's view: Foreign trade
was a (though not the) major factor in the industrialization of England.
But let us not forget that it was England which powered herself into a
position of dominance in the world market.
- Chronology on the History of Slavery, compiled by Eddie Becker 1999, see on line at http://innercity.org/holt/slavechron.html) (excerpts)
English merchants form the Royal Company to exploit the African slave trade. (The People's Chronology 1995, 1996 by James Trager from MS Bookshelf)
In 1660, the English government chartered a company called the "Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa." At first the company was mismanaged, but in 1663 it was reorganized. A new objective clearly stated that the company would engage in the slave trade. To the great dissatisfaction of England's merchants, only the Company of Royal Adventurers could now engage in the trade.
The Company did not fare well, due mainly to the war with Holland, and in 1667, it collapsed. But out of its ashes emerged a new company: The Royal African Company
Founded in 1672, the Royal African Company was granted a similar monopoly in the slave trade. Between 1680 and 1686, the Company transported an average of 5,000 slaves a year. Between 1680 and 1688, it sponsored 249 voyages to Africa.
Still, rival English merchants were not amused. In 1698, Parliament yielded to their demands and opened the slave trade to all. With the end of the monopoly, the number of slaves transported on English ships would increase dramatically -- to an average of over 20,000 a year. By the end of the 17th century, England led the world in the trafficking of slaves. (Timeline from the PBS series Africans In America )
Dutch traders buy black slaves at 30 florins each in Angola and sell 15,000 per year in the Americas at 300 to 500 florins each. (The People's Chronology 1995, 1996 by James Trager from MS Bookshelf)
Regarding Jewish investment in the Dutch West India Company (WIC), which had a monopoly of the Dutch slave trade in the 17th Century, Jews accounted for a share of 1.3% of the founding capital. When the Governor of New Amsterdam (now New York) attempted to bar the entrance of Jewish refugees from Brazil, Jewish investors accounted for about 4% of the investors in the WIC. Jews could not, of course, participate in the management of the WIC. (Seymour Drescher citing what will appear in a collective volume on Jews and the Expansion of Europe to the West, forthcoming from Berghahn Books. From "The history of slavery, the slave trade, abolition and emancipation" SLAVERY@LISTSERV.UH.EDU> 20-AUG-1998 08:27:34.45)
"Jews established their most significant niche in the trade as purchasers of lower-priced slaves, or "refuse slaves." These were usually the weakest or unhealthiest of the Africans who landed in Jamaica. Such slaves were re-exported to colonial systems in the islands, or to the South American coast. For a time Sephardic Jews may have had a business advantage deriving from their familiarity with the Spanish language and prior trade links to "New Christian" merchants - descendants of Jews - in mainland South American ports. In any event, Jews in Jamaica purchased up to 6% or 7% of all Africans landed by the Royal African Company at the end of the 17th century, just when their co-religionists in London reached the peak of their own involvement with the trade." (Review by Seymour Drescher in the foreword 01/06/99 of a book by Eli Faber, "A Painstaking Rebuttal To an Incendiary Charge" A Historian Sets the Record Straight on Slavery) (Jews, Slaves, and the Slave Trade: Setting the Record Straight 1998 New York University Press)
Parliament opens the slave trade to British merchants, who will in some cases carry on a triangular trade from New England to Africa to the Caribbean islands to New England. The merchant vessels will carry New England rum to African slavers, African slaves on "the middle passage" to the West Indies, and West Indian sugar and molasses to New England for the rum distilleries. (The People's Chronology 1995, 1996 by James Trager from MS Bookshelf)
The colonists imported their manufactured goods from Britain, payment for which had to be made in sterling funds. The colonists gained control over sterling funds as the result of their exports. In the Southern colonies trade between the colonies and Great Britain was direct. A Virginia planter might export his tobacco to Britain, consigning it to a commission merchant who would sell it and place the proceeds to the Virginia planters account. The proceeds produced a fund of sterling money upon which the Virginia planter might draw. Perhaps he accompanied the shipment of his tobacco with an order for goods. His correspondent in Britain would buy the goods and debit his account for the cost. The goods would then be shipped to the colony when the tobacco ships again returned to Virginia. Here no more than a bookkeeping transaction was necessary. If, however, the Virginia planter wished to transfer some of his balance with his London correspondent to Virginia for use in the colony, he might draw a bill of exchange on his correspondent for, say, £100 sterling. The bill was in the nature of an order to his correspondent to pay £100 sterling. The planter then sold the bill at the going rate of exchange to a fellow Virginian who had need of sterling funds to pay an obligation in Britain. The purchaser forwarded the bill to his creditor in Britain, who presented it to the correspondent of the Virginia planter for acceptance--for the custom was to draw bills of exchange payable thirty days after sight. If the correspondent accepted the bill, the creditor then held it for thirty days, at the end of which time he presented it for payment. The rate at which sterling bills were sold in the colonies was determined at any one time by the effective supply of, and demand for, sterling bills.
A British bill designed to restrict the number of slaves carried by each ship, based on the ship's tonnage, was enacted by Parliament on June 17, 1788; and that year the French abolitionists, inspired by their English counterparts, founded the Société des Amis des Noirs (Society of the Friends of Blacks). Finally in 1807, the British Parliament passed an act prohibiting British subjects from engaging in the slave trade after March 1, 1808 -16 years after the Danes had abolished their trade. In 1811 slave trading was declared a felony punishable by transportation (exile to a penal colony) for all British subjects or foreigners caught trading in British possessions. Britain then assumed most of the responsibility for abolishing the transatlantic slave trade, partly to protect its sugar colonies. In 1815 Portugal accepted £750,000 to restrict the trade to Brazil; and in 1817 Spain accepted £400,000 to abandon the trade to Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo. In 1818 Holland and France abolished the trade. After 1824, slave trading was declared tantamount to piracy, and until 1837 participants faced the penalty of death. ("Blacks in Latin America," Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation.)
- The Economics of the African Slave Trade
By Anika Francis firstname.lastname@example.org
- In Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust, John Henrik Clarke asserts that the voyages of Christopher Columbus marked the starting point of world capitalism and the beginning of Europe's colonial domination of the world. Columbus set in motion an act of criminality that influences our very life today. Clarke described the period between 1400-1600 as the point in history when Europe freed itself from the lethargy of the Middle Ages. During this period, Europe witnessed the renewal of nationalism as well as the political transformation from feudalism to nation states through the centralization of power by the monarchs. The African slave trade played an important role in the stabilization of Europe's economy, its transition to capitalism, the development of the nation state, and the establishment of their imperial empires. The opening of the Atlantic led to the development of Europe's commercial empire and industrial revolution.
While Ghana was the headquarters of the African slave trade, Tropical America was the real center of the trade. Thirty-six of the forty-two slave fortress were located in Ghana. Aside from Ghana, slaves were shipped from eight coastal regions in Africa including Senegambia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Liberia region, Gold Coast, Bight of Benin, Bight of Biafra, Central Africa, and Southeast Africa (from the Cape of Good Hope to the Cape of Delgado, including Madagascar). The slave trade had the greatest impact upon central and western African. According to James Rawley, West Africa supplied 3/5ths of the slaves for exportation between 1701-1810. Half of the slaves were exported to South America, 42% to the Caribbean Islands, 7% to British North America, and 2% to Central America.
The continuing demand for African slaves' labor arose from the development of plantation agriculture, the long-term rise in prices and consumption of sugar, and the demand for miners. Not only did Africans represent skilled laborers, but they were also experts in tropical agriculture. Consequently, they were well-suited for plantation agriculture. The high immunity of Africans to malaria and yellow fever compared with Europeans and the indigenous peoples made them more suitable for tropical labor. While white and red labor were used initially, Africans were the final solution to the acute labor problem in the New World.
The economic systems which dominated the African slave trade reflected the transitions in Europe's economic systems. Initially, mercantilist views characterized the conduct of the slave trade. The primary purpose of mercantilism, an economic system which developed during the transition of Europe from feudalism to nation-states, was to unify and increase the power and monetary wealth of a nation through strict government regulation of the national economy. Therefore, 16th century organization of the trade was entrusted to a company which was given the sole right by a particular nation to trade slaves and to erect and maintain forts. However, these monopolistic companies had two major opponents: the planter in the colonies, who complained of insufficient quantity and poor quality of high priced slaves, and the merchants at home. The failure of monopolies to deliver enough slaves led to free trade in the 18th century. While it is easy to analyze the various economic systems utilized in the African slave trade, it is far more difficult to determine a precise estimate of how profitable the trade was.
The slave trade was one of the most important business enterprises of the 17th century. The nation states of Europe stabilized themselves and developed their economy mainly at the expense of African people. During the latter half of the century; Colbert, a Frenchman, stated that, "no commerce in the world produces as many advantages as that of the slave trade" (Williams, From Columbus to Castro, 144). The wealth of the New World in the form of sugar, tobacco, metals, gold, cotton, etc. was extracted by African labor and then exported from the colonies through the capitalistic enterprise of western Europe. Western Europe drew profits from the trade in slaves, commodities produced, service of shipping, the develop of new industries based on processing raw materials, financing, and insurance. According to Eric Williams, no other commerce required so large a capital as the slave trade which kept the wheels of metropolitan industry turning. Cities such as Liverpool, Amsterdam, and Bristol were built upon slave labor. The capital and raw materials derived from the African slave trade contributed significantly to the Commercial and Industrial revolution. According to James Rawley, the "black slavery was essential to the carrying on of commerce, which in turn was fundamental to the making of the modern world" (TransAtlantic Slave Trade, 4). In other words, the modern world was built upon the blood, sweat, and tears of our African ancestors.
Louis Proyect and George Snedeker draw attention to the work of Oliver C. Cox, Eric Williams, Eduardo Galeano, Mariategui, Walter Rodney, CLR James, Cesaire and Amin on the origins and structure of capitalism.
Origins and structure of capitalism: Louis Project and George Snedeker
marxism-digest Sunday, June 3 2001 Volume 01 : Number 3566
Date: Sat, 02 Jun 2001 21:04:37 -0400
From: Louis Proyect <email@example.com
Subject: Re: origins and structure of capitalism
George ("George Snedeker" <firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote:
I would like to recommend the work of Oliver C. Cox on the origins and structure of the capitalist world system. Cox is perhaps better known, if he is known at all, for his CASTE, CLASS AND RACE which he published in 1948. In this work he presents a Marxist theory of racism. However, I would like to recommend his three volume study of the capitalist world system: THE ORIGINS OF CAPITALISM (1959), CAPITALISM AND AMERICAN LEADERSHIP (1962) and CAPITALISM AS A SYSTEM (1964). All of these are out of print. Cox made a strong argument that primitive accumulation and imperialism were permanent features of capitalism. He was writing at the same time Amin was working on his WORLD ACCUMULATION. His over all discussion should be of interest. I doubt very much if any of his work is available on a web page.
It might also be obvious that Oliver C. Cox was an African-American. Isn't it interesting that some of the most original thinking around these questions have come from Africans, African-Americans and Latin Americans like Eric Williams, Eduardo Galeano, Mariategui, Walter Rodney, CLR James, Cesaire, Amin, et al. Do you think it might have something to do with the harsh reality of capitalism in the 3rd world?
Louis Proyect Marxism mailing list: <http://www.marxmail.org/
Carrington,Selwyn H. H. The Sugar Industry and the Abolition of the Slave Trade,1775–1810. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002. 394pp. $59.95(cloth).
In areview in the International Third World Studies Journal and Review, VolumeXV, 2004 Thomas C. Buchanan writes: Sixty years after the publication of EricWilliams’ Capitalism and Slavery the debate over the cause of theBritish anti-slavery movement still rages. Did the decline of the profitabilityof slavery in the British West Indies provide the material conditions necessaryfor an effective abolitionist movement to rise? Or was abolition caused (by) amoral revolution in the English populace that overcame a profitable trade andthe West Indian interests that represented it? The writings of revisionisthistorians Seymour Drescher and David Brion Davis have argued strongly againstthe Marxist interpretation. (Carrington) . . . offers a meticulously researchedand convincing rebuttal to these scholars.
Clarke,John Henrik. Christopher Columbus & the Afrikan holocaust: slavery &the Solow,Barbara L. British capitalism and Caribbean slavery: the legacy of EricWilliams. Studies in interdisciplinary history. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]; NewYork: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
rise ofEuropean capitalism. Brooklyn, N.Y.: A & B Brooks, c1992.
Fox-Genovese,Elizabeth and Eugene D. Genovese, Fruits of merchant capital: slavery andbourgeois property in the rise and expansion of capitalism Oxford UniversityPress, 1983.
Williams,Eric, Capitalism and Slavery (London: André Deutsch, 1964),