West Africa in the South Atlantic Economy

  • Philip D. Curtin


British statesmen and publicists at most times thought of West Africa as a special region with its own individual problems. When they considered British economic interests and intentions, however, they thought in broader terms. The tropical Atlantic was still conceived as an inter-related economic entity, and with some justice. The flourishing South Atlantic System of the eighteenth century was no longer fully operating, but it was not yet completely dismantled either. Between the 1780’s and the 1830’s, each of the national sectors had undergone its own kind of evolution without destroying the essence of the system—the combination of forced African labor producing tropical staples in America for consumption in Europe. British legislation had cut off the labor supply to the British sector in 1807, emancipated the slaves as of 1838, and tried to impede the flow of labor to the other national sectors through the antislavery blockade. Nevertheless, the greater part of the tropical staples entering world trade was still produced in tropical America, still produced with the labor of slaves, still maintained and expanded by the slave trade from Africa.


Wage Labor Slave Trade Gold Coast Money Wage National Sector 
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  • Philip D. Curtin

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