Scottish trade with Africa and the West Indies in the early 18th century, 1694-1709

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Sugar cane from Willem Piso, Historia naturalis Brasiliae. S oon after Columbus returned from his first voyage to the new world it became apparent to old world investors and the Spanish crown that the new territories could not be exploited as had been hoped.

However, the Europeans quickly realized that the new world possessed potential of a different sort: Consequently, the plantation system and the sugar refining industry, rather than the harvesting of spices and silk production, were destined to shape the economy and europe west indies trading company of Brazil and the West Indies.

The European discovery and colonization of Madeira and the Canary Islands would prove fateful precedents for the new world, because the plantation system and colonial governments instituted on these islands became models for the great sugar plantations in the new world. Piso, Historia naturalis Brasiliaep. The earliest large-scale production of sugar was established in Brazil, along the Atlantic coasts surrounding Bahia and Pernambuco.

Although sugar cane was reputedly first planted in Brazil init was apparently done as much for strategic as economic reasons, because the European powers were struggling for legal and economic claims to territory in the Americas. By the middle of the seventeenth century the Brazilian sugar industry had begun to expand rapidly with support of capital from the Dutch East India Company, which had seized Pernambuco from the Portuguese inand the Dutch importation of slaves from equatorial Africa.

In the total production of sugar in Brazil had reached 14, tons, and by the s Pernambuco alone exported more than 24, tons of sugar annually to Amsterdam. However, the the focus of sugar europe west indies trading company began to europe west indies trading company from Brazil to Barbados and other islands of the West Indies.

Unfortunately, this process is not well understood, primarily due to a lack of documentation. It has been suggested that Brazil suffered from economic stagnation because of higher production costs, decreasing yields and general trends in investment that negatively affected sugar production.

Surviving evidence shows that despite increases in production, Brazil was not able to keep the sugar refineries in Amsterdam adequately supplied, forcing the Dutch refiners to look elsewhere for the product. Drax, who had been a student of Portuguese and Dutch production methods and organization in Pernambuco, adapted europe west indies trading company production to the limited resources of the islands and proved that, despite their relatively small size, the West Indies were capable of producing significant amounts of muscovado europe west indies trading company, or raw sugar.

His adaptations included the abandonment of the Pernambuco europe west indies trading company, which had called for self-sufficient plantations, as the limited timber resources and food production on the islands made such a system impractical. Once established on the Caribbean island, sugar production increased rapidly, with Barbados experiencing an increase from 7, to 12, tons produced per year between and Even more remarkable is Guadeloupe, which increased its exports from 2, tons in to 10, tons in the early eighteenth century, with assistance from Martinique.

Although Brazil remained the largest exporter of sugar, it was no longer dominant in the face of Dutch, and later French and English, competition from the Caribbean. The Dutch, French and English ultimately proved better able to endure the steadily decreasing prices resulting from the rapid rise in supply due to the geographical advantages of their proximity to Europe and the slave trade and their royal support in the form of official trade monopolies. However, the legacy of Brazil in the sugar trade remained significant, as the Portuguese and Dutch pioneered the plantation system from old world examples and adapted it to the special conditions of the new world.

More importantly, this legacy is evident in the development of colonial society in the America. The plantation system of Brazil and the Caribbean, like the hacienda system on the continent, would endure for centuries as the model for agricultural production and rural society. The introduction of slavery would likewise leave a significant, most unfortunate legacy in the new world.

Ultimately, sugar production provided one of the original means and motivations for European expansion, europe west indies trading company and control in the new world, precipitating a course of events that would forever shape the destiny of the Western Hemisphere.

The Making of the West Indiesp. The Worlds of Christopher Columbuspp. Phillips and Phillips, europe west indies trading company.

Auger et alp. Bythe price for refined sugar in London had fallen to one quarter of its price in See Matthew Edel, p.

Patterns of Development, Culture and Environmental Change sincep. The Making of the West Indies. The Dutch in the Caribbean and on the Wild Coast, University of Florida Press, The Worlds of Christopher Columbus. Cambridge University Press, Patterns of Development, Culture and Environmental Change since Essays without author attribution were contributed by staff. For information on the Expansion of Europe seminar, contact the curator at ragn umn. Ask a Question Name.

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Before the 16th century, Europeans were not deeply involved in slave trading on the West African coast. However, there was some movement of African labour to Madeira and the Canary Islands by the early Portuguese explorers from onwards. These plantations became the model for future sugar estates in the West Indies. African exports at this time included gold, palm oil, nuts, yams, pepper, ivory, gum and cloth. There was intense rivalry for West Africa among Europeans.

With no interest in conquering the interior, they concentrated their efforts to obtain human cargo along the West African coast. During the s, the Dutch challenged the Portuguese monopoly to become the main slave trading nation. Later, Scottish, Swedish and Danish African companies registered their interest. With so many European powers on the coast, conflict was inevitable, culminating in the Anglo-Dutch war of West African rulers were instrumental in the slave trade.

They exchanged their prisoners of war rarely their own people for firearms manufactured in Birmingham and elsewhere in Britain. With their newly acquired weapons, kings and chiefs were able to expand their territories. The slave trade had a profound effect on the economy and politics of West Africa, leading, in many cases, to an increase in tension and violence.

In , for example, Dahomey, a small coastal state on the Atlantic, extended its borders into the interior of Africa. Half a century later, the Asante Empire under Osei Tutu forcibly united a number of small kingdoms into a strong federation. A large proportion of the prisoners of war were sold on as slaves. Other Africans captured during raids into the interior were exchanged for commodities. Europeans lacked the local knowledge to be able to negotiate the perils of the African interior, so they used middlemen for this task, according to Olaudah Equiano , who had himself been captured in this way.

European slaving ships waited at coastal ports to pick up their cargoes of slaves. Middlemen would attack Africans working in the fields and march them to the coast.

Children acting as lookouts for their parents might also be captured. The captured Africans were held in forts, sometimes called 'slave castles', along the coast. They remained there for months until finally leaving their homeland for an unknown destination on board European merchant ships, including those of the British Royal African Company.

Ships constructed in Britain carried the Africans to the West Indies. This human cargo of slaves was chained at the wrists and legs with irons, and stowed in the lower decks of the ships, like any other commodity. The slave trade developed into a complex system that included many different groups and interests. The actual number of Africans taken continues to be disputed, but it is somewhere in the range of 15 to 20 million people.

It has been suggested that a great many of those captured went unrecorded. Many died on the march to the coast, in the cellars of slave forts and on the ships. Great Britain , London, Slavery in the British Empire 2nd edn , London, About Feedback Glossary Copyright Sitemap. Africa and the Atlantic Slave Trade.

Europeans Before the 16th century, Europeans were not deeply involved in slave trading on the West African coast. During the 16th century the first foundations of globalisation were laid when African rulers forged relationships with European traders.

In the s, Hawkins made voyages to Guinea to obtain ivory, dyewoods and gold. At this stage the English seemed to have little interest in taking slaves.

This, however, was soon to change. Slaves for Guns West African rulers were instrumental in the slave trade. Kidnapped and Incarcerated Europeans lacked the local knowledge to be able to negotiate the perils of the African interior, so they used middlemen for this task, according to Olaudah Equiano , who had himself been captured in this way. The slave trade was responsible for major disruption to the people of Africa.

Women and men were taken young, in their most productive years, thus damaging African economies. The physical experience of slavery was painful, traumatic and long-lasting. We know this from the written evidence of several freed slaves. Captivity marked the beginning of a dehumanising process that affected British attitudes towards African people.

References and Further Reading Clarkson, T. Great Britain , London, Walvin, J.