Reasons for the development of the slave trade


The use of African slave labour was not new. The Spanish and Portuguese had been using African slaves since the 16th century.

However, the Atlantic slave trade of the 18th century was a new kind of slavery and on a scale much greater than ever before.

It was the British who played a major part in this trade. The West Indian plantation owners increasingly turned to African slaves for labour.

How did use of African slaves develop?

A timeline depicting the development of the slave trade. Indigenous Africans were captured and enslaved to work on plantations for foreign markets.

These seven factors led to the development of the slave trade:

  • The importance of the West Indian colonies
  • The shortage of labour
  • The failure to find alternative sources of labour
  • The legal position
  • Racial attitudes
  • Religious factors
  • Military factors