Some historians have argued that the freedom and prosperity of the British Empire were all based on slavery. Examine this statement using specific examples.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One of the most famous historians to make this observation was Eric Williams, the former prime minister of Trinidad and a historian of European slavery. In his magnum opus, Capitalism and Slavery, Williams makes the argument that it was not capitalism that gave rise to slavery, but rather slavery that gave rise to capitalism. What he means by this is that without the transport of millions of enslaved Africans to the New World, and the labor power they provided for the extraction of raw materials like sugar and tobacco, eighteenth and nineteenth-century Europe, and especially Great Britain, would never have reached the level of capital gain and material wealth necessary for capitalism as an economic system to flourish.

On the one hand, there is a great deal of logic in...

(The entire section contains 388 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on