What were the economic benefits of the triangular trade for the Europeans and the colonists?

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jameadows's profile pic

jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The triangular trade involved a trans-Atlantic system of trade by which European nations traded guns, textiles, and liquor in West Africa in exchange for slaves. Slaves were brought via the brutal "middle passage" across the Atlantic to be traded in the West Indies for sugar, tobacco, and cotton that were used to make textiles and liquor in Europe. The American colonies were sources of these raw materials and were made into finished products in Europe.

The triangular trade supported slavery and was inhumane and brutal in nature. The system benefited the colonies because it supplied them with slaves and provided a market for their surplus raw materials, including cotton, sugar, and tobacco. The system supported the European system of mercantilism, in which European governments protected their trade and forced their colonies to export raw materials that Europeans turned into finished goods. The triangular trade was beneficial to mercantilism, as it allowed Europeans to develop a favorable balance of trade--the underpinning of the mercantilist system. 

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Triangular trade provided several benefits for the colonies and the Europeans. Triangular trade is a series of trade routes between three countries or regions.  Triangular trade provides these countries with items they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get on their own. 

For the Europeans, the triangular trade provided two key benefits. The Europeans needed resources that would be used to make products in their industries.  By trading (often with their colonies), the Europeans could get these resources cheaply.  The triangular trade also provided the Europeans with a market for their finished goods. The Europeans wanted to trade the products they made, and triangular trade allowed the Europeans to increase their trade (again often with their colonies.) 

The colonies benefited from triangular trade also.  The colonies were able to get finished products from Europe. The colonies were not in a position to make these products themselves.  The trade allowed for them to get the products they wanted to have. The colonies were also able to get slaves as a result of this trade.  This was especially beneficial to the southern colonies.  Southerners wanted slaves to work on the plantations.

Triangular trade benefited both the European countries and the colonies they controlled.