The triangular trade

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

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

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

At first some people were captured and enslaved directly by the British traders. They ambushed and captured local people in Africa.

Most slave ships got their enslaved people from British 'factors', who lived full-time in Africa and bought enslaved people from local African chiefs. The chiefs would raid a rival village and sell their captured enemies as slaves. The enslaved people were marched to the coast in chained lines where they were held in prisons called 'factories'.

In 1700, a slave cost about £3-worth of traded goods (cloth, guns, gunpowder and brandy).

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 auction.

In 1700, the selling price of an enslaved person in the West Indies was £20. This meant there was a good profit to be made, which made the risks worthwhile.

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.