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 slaves taken captive and chained together
Slaves were chained together to be moved

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

Most slave ships got their slaves from British 'factors', who lived full-time in Africa and bought slaves from local tribal chiefs. The chiefs would raid a rival village and sell their captured enemies as slaves. The slaves 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 the slaves were sold at auction.

In 1700, the selling price of a slave 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.