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Rediker argues that the slave industry was a manifestation of the worst elements of capitalism; capitalism itself was the driving force which kept the slave trade alive. Many merchants who participated in the trade, such as Henry Laurens of South Carolina, did not own slaves themselves, but profited from the trade. Countries such as Denmark chartered joint stock companies which participated in the trade even though they had no territorial interests in the Americas. The largest British Company, the Royal African Company, was comprised of a number of shareholders whose primary interest was profit and return on their investment.
Rediker also argues that the slave trade was a significant element in the wealth of the British Empire; in fact one trader, Humphrey Morice who made hs fortune in the slave trade, was a member of Parliament and close associate of the Prime Minister Robert Walpole.
The fact that the trade was in human beings was insignificant. The slave trade was a lucrative investment opportunity in which many who were financially able participated.
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