What impact did the triangle trade have on Europe?

Triangle trade allowed for Europe's economic development in many ways. Trade with Africa and the Americas allowed for increased access to raw goods and the growth of the shipping industry, which in turn led to additional jobs for Europeans. Additionally, the money earned through the triangle trade allowed Europe to develop the technology and engage in business ventures that led to the Industrial Revolution. Triangle trade also led to the proliferation of slavery and the growth of European imperialism. 

Expert Answers

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

In many ways, the Triangle Trade was a major contributor to the economic growth of European nations. This is simply because this trans-continental economic arrangement was ultimately designed to benefit Europeans the most. By supplying a seemingly endless source of slave labor to the American colonies, which were full of...

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

In many ways, the Triangle Trade was a major contributor to the economic growth of European nations. This is simply because this trans-continental economic arrangement was ultimately designed to benefit Europeans the most. By supplying a seemingly endless source of slave labor to the American colonies, which were full of natural resources, European markets became flooded with raw materials and consumer goods.

By the end of the eighteenth century, this system became the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution. Consumerism boomed, particularly in Great Britain. This gave rise to a nascent middle class and reshaped the European economy.

The Triangle Trade also shifted the destination of European exports. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, most European exports found themselves in other parts of Europe. By the century's end, however, the majority of European exports went to the Americas and Africa. Port cities in Europe grew in importance. Places like Bristol, Rotterdam, and Lisbon became some of the most prominent trading hubs in the region. Ships left these ports with goods to trade for slaves in Africa and returned with treasures such as tobacco, timber, sugar, and cloth from the Americas.

All the new imports from the Americas created new fashions and fads in Europe. Smoking tobacco became a popular pastime. So did drinking tea with sugar and wearing fur hats.

Eventually, as more and more Europeans became aware of the inhumanity of slavery, abolitionist movements cropped up. In the latter part of the eighteenth century, abolition found many supporters in Britain in particular. This led to a rift in society as many Europeans continued to support slavery for its many economic benefits.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Your question is about the impact of the triangular trade, also known as the Atlantic slave trade, on Europe. The triangular trade had several notable impacts on Europe, including massive profit opportunities, increased access to raw goods, more political power and colonization outside Europe, and the rise of the Industrial Revolution. 

The triangular trade consisted of goods like textiles, mirrors, and guns from Europe being shipped to Africa, where they were exchanged for slaves. The slaves were then shipped to the Americas, where they were exchanged for raw goods like sugar, mahogany, and cotton. These goods were then shipped back to Europe.

Creating shipping lines to Africa and the Americas boosted Europe's shipping industry, providing jobs and income. As the amount of product being imported and exported from Europe grew, so did the number of ports, ships, and workers. 

Doing business abroad helped create diplomatic relationships and opportunities to colonize countries outside Europe. European nations were able to more easily colonize African countries, for example, as they already had an established way to get supplies and transact business. The profit the countries received from the triangular trade helped them build their empires, which affected the political and social fabric of many countries both in and out of Europe. 

A continuous stream of raw materials from the Americas and the profit generated by the slave trade together helped contribute to the rise of the Industrial Revolution. European factories formed to make more manufactured goods. This growth in technology and business ventures was also largely possible due to money received from the triangular trade, made by selling goods and selling slaves. Dr. Will Hardy explains:

The British cotton mills, which became the emblem of the "Industrial Revolution," depended on cheap slaved-produced cotton from the New World; cotton would have been more costly to obtain elsewhere. British consumers also benefited from other cheap and plentiful slaved-produced goods such as sugar. The profits gained from the slave trade gave the British economy an extra source of capital. 

Without the triangular trade providing cheap raw materials, it's possible that the Industrial Revolution would have happened more slowly or focused on different types of manufactured goods in different areas of Europe. While the triangular trade isn't the only cause of the Industrial Revolution, it's likely it played its part.

One of the negative impacts of the triangular trade on European nations is the legacy of slave trading and colonialism. The awareness of slave trading also led to the rise of abolition movements in Europe that sought to end slavery. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Triangular trade was the name given to the voyage that began in Europe, where manufactured goods were loaded and taken to Africa.  Some of these goods included different types of clothing, gold and even weapons such as guns.  These goods were traded for African slaves provided by local slave traders.  These slaves were then taken across the Atlantic Ocean on the part of the voyage most commonly known as the Middle Passage.  Many slaves didn't survive the trip to the Americas because of how they were shipped.  Once they arrived in the Americas, the slaves were traded for goods such as raw cotton, molasses, sugar and tobacco which ultimately was returned and sold back in Europe.

The positive effects for Europe directly related to the economic benefit from having these new goods inserted into the market.  Exotic goods would catch a premium price, especially from the aristocracy that had extra income to spend to show off their wealth and status.

Another positive effect was to establish territorial dominance not only in Africa, but the Americas as well.  These areas served as strategic strongholds to expand in the future.

One negative effect on Europe has to be the dark cloud of slavery cast upon the Europeans, especially in the late eighteenth century.  Quakers and other religious groups made it their mission to end slavery and to bring the oppressive ways of economic imperialists to the public eye.  By the early nineteenth century, the slave trade had all but disappeared, but the legacy of the slave trade and those who played a role in it has carried on through time.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team