This talk explores a key chapter in trans-Atlantic, U.S., and African American history. The title is from a quote from Malachi Postlethwayt, a British mercantilist theorist in 1745. The book on which this talk is based chronicles contributions made by millions of African peoples and their descendants to the vast “wealth of nations” that financed the economic and social progress of modern Western civilization called the “industrial revolution.” The same global process has been identified as one cause of the “underdevelopment” in Africa and other parts of the world. The phenomenal contribution resulted from the uncompensated labor of enslaved Black peoples across several centuries and on several continents. Prof. Bailey has coined the term “slave(ry) trade”™ to encompass an array of activities generally considered as separate developments. This includes the trade in Africans as commodities; commerce in slave-produced goods, especially sugar and cotton; trade among slave-based economies; production of manufactured goods from slave-produced raw materials; and related financial and commercial activities. The story is narrated in three “acts” focused the slave(ry) trade’s pivotal role in three key periods of global history. Act I is a chronicle of Europe’s journey—especially Portugal and Spain—out of its “Dark” Middle Ages beginning in the 9th century and into a new global system centered around the Atlantic Ocean. With a focus on Great Britain, Act II begins in a world of expanding commerce—the “Age of Reconnaissance” or “Age of Discovery” in the 1500s—the period of mercantilism and the “Triangular Trade” when the colonization of the Americas and other parts of the globe was completed. Great Britain emerges as the first global industrial power in the 18th century. Act III explores the American Revolution and focuses on the role of the slave(ry) trade and the global cotton kingdom in transforming colonial America into a world power as the independent United States, a process that continues with the Civil War in the 1860s.
Free online lectures: Explore a world of ideas