The Slave Trade in Africa
Eric Williams thesis entitled "Capitalism and slavery"
is not a study on the nature of the slave trade, but rather
a study of the role of slavery in the English economy. In
his thesis Williams proposes the idea that capitalism is a
result of the Atlantic slave trade.
Williams defines capitalism as when someone can use
their resources to make a profit without that person
actually being present. The Atlantic Slave Trade was then
an example of capitalism. English investors gave funds to
stock companies, such as the Dutch East Indian Company, who
wound use those funds to purchase ships and trading goods.
The stock companies would then hire a crew and send the
ships to Africa where they would trade their goods for
African Slaves. The ships would then transport the slaves
to the Americas where they would sell their human cargo and
purchase American goods.
The ships could then return to
England and sell their American goods for capital, then
splitting the profit amongst the investors.
In his thesis Williams asserts that these stock
companies were the first examples of capitalism and that the
capitalists systems which are present in the modern world
are direct results of the Atlantic Slave Trade. It appears
that Williams is correct in his thesis. While elements of
capitalism, such as buying and selling of goods, were
present prior to the slave trade, this was the first point
in history when private investors combined their capital in
the form of a company whose sole purpose was to increase
that capital. At no point did the stock companies
manufacture any new product instead these companies served
only to buy and sell commodities in such a way as to
increase the capital of their investors.
Ancient Africa was characterized...