The triangular trade

Map showing triangular trade during the slave trade and the places involved.

The 'triangular trade' was the sailing route taken by British slave traders. It was a journey of three stages:

Painting of enslaved people taken captive and chained together
Enslaved people were chained together to be moved

A British ship carrying trade goods set sail from Britain, mainly from Liverpool or Bristol, bound for West Africa.

At first some people were captured and enslaved directly by the British traders.

Most slave ships got their enslaved people from British 'factors', who lived full-time in Africa and bought enslaved people from local tribal chiefs. Enslaved people were marched to the coast in chained lines where they were held in prisons called 'factories'.

The slave ship then sailed across the Atlantic to the West Indies – this leg of the voyage was called the 'Middle Passage'.

On arrival in the West Indies, enslaved people were sold at an auction.

Some ships then loaded up with sugar and rum to sell in Britain, before making the voyage back home.

The video below explores the triangular slave trade.