The Industrial Revolution

Slavery in Britain was abolished in 1807. “The civil rights movement of the 1960’s have left many people with the belief that the slave trade was exclusively a European and United States phenomenon and only white people were to blame for it.” ( Williams, 2007) But, as a matter of fact, slave trade flourished in the early middle ages, as early as 9th century, especially between Muslim traders and western African kingdoms. Kings of the tribes were often selling their own people to the Spaniards, Italians and others. In the middle ages, all European countries outlawed slavery, but African kingdoms continued their trade. Then the Muslim trade of African slaves came to an end when Arab domination was reduced by the Crusades. The USA fought with Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli in 1801 in order to stop Arab slave trade of Christians. The Dutch were the first to bring black slaves into North America, but black slaves had already been used all over the world, including South and Central America. Eventually, millions of slaves died on ships and of diseases, millions of blacks worked for free to allow the Western economies to flourish, and the economic interests in slavery became extremely strong.

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There are different views, which support the idea, that industrial revolution was financed with the help of the capital created by slavery, but it is absolutely wrong. Slavery did not create a major share of the capital that financed the European industrial revolution. The combined profits of the slave trade and West Indian plantations did not add up to five percent of Britain’s national income at the time of the industrial revolution. But, it is true that European colonists could not have settled and developed North and South America and the Caribbean without slave labor. “Slave labor did produce the major consumer goods that were the basis of world trade during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: coffee, cotton, rum, sugar, and tobacco.”( Davis, 2006).

There is no doubt, that slavery played critical role in economic development in the pre-Civil War United States. Crop of slave-grown cotton provided over half of all United States export benefits. By 1840, the South grew 60 percent of the world’s cotton and provided huge percent of the cotton consumed by the British textile industry. Therefore, slavery paid for a substantial share of the capital, iron, and manufactured good that laid the basis for American economic growth. In addition, mainly because the South specialized in cotton production, the North developed a variety of businesses that provided services for the slave South, including textile factories, a meat processing industry, insurance companies, shippers, and cotton brokers. Moreover, slavery was capable of producing enormous amounts of wealth. On the verge of the Civil War, the slave South had achieved a level of wealth not matched by Spain or Italy until the eve of World War II or by Mexico or India until 1960. As late as the 1850s, the slave system in the United States was expanding and slave owners were confident about the future. But, abolitionists, despite the fact that slavery was profitable felt that slavery degraded labor, inhibited urbanization, mechanization and industrialization, stifled progress, and associated slavery with economic backwardness, inefficiency and economic and social collapse. “When the North started war on slavery, it was not because it had overcome racism, but rather it was because Northerners identified their society with progress and viewed slavery as an obstacle to innovation, moral improvement, free labor, and commercial as well as economic growth.” ( Davis, 2006) Fortunately, with the use of modern technique the use of slaves was no more profitable.

As it was said above, slavery was always a result of the desire of great powers to gain wealth with the help of cheap labour. During the age or Renaissance as well as during Enlightenment slaves were used for the same purpose. The fact, that the kings of the African tribes were co-operating with slaveholders, explains why entire process was very easy.

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