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The Importance of the Slave Trade to the Development of the Plantation Economies

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Essay title: The Importance of the Slave Trade to the Development of the Plantation Economies

Question: 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 labour. 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 a 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 monocrop producing units . Agriculture on a large scale needs a large labour 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 labour was not present there to sustain plantation economies, so therefore labour had to be found and after many unsuccessful attempts, slave labour from Africa solved the labour problems of the planters and made the vital link between the plantation economies and the slave trade. The slave trade provided the labour, which was the backbone of the plantation system, without labour 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 pf slave economies demand also grew and the linkage grew stronger. The link between the African slave trade and the plantation economies did not exist early in the plantation system there was not always the scarcity of labour 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 unfree labour for the plantations but the native population was unaccustomed to large scale agricultural production the Amerindians were accustomed only to a life of subsistence agriculture and hunting to the Amerindian everything had meaning and ritual attached to it, therefore theory were totally unprepared for the meaningless backbreaking labour 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. The Indian population soon fell drastically continuing the labour 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, indentureship was based on a contract that compelled the white servant to work on the plantation for an allotted number of years after which he 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 labour unreliable in supply and in long term usefulness to the maximization 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 Amerindians, 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. So it was the plentiful supply of enslaved African labour 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

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