Modules for History Lessons
Edited By Uta Fenske, Daniel Groth, Klaus-Michael Guse and Bärbel P. Kuhn
Colonialism and the Caribbean: Wealth, Power and the British Imperial State
Introduction to the Module
Building the British Empire involved colonialism, which is when one country gains control over another country, region or people, and while this included the establishment of new settlements, institutions and civic structures, it also included the exploitation of people and natural resources for profit. In the European context of colonialism this can be seen very clearly with the Atlantic Slave Trade. The trafficking of Africans (the buying of slaves in Africa, transporting them across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean and then reselling them to people who wanted cheap labour) was done by many European powers including Spain, Portugal, France, Britain and the Dutch.
If we look at the British Empire during the eighteenth century, we can see that it was working very hard to compete with the other European countries for power and money. The slave trade generated a lot of money and by 1800 Britain was the dominant European power involved in the slave trade. Personal ambition and the desire to amass fortunes inspired many Britons to become involved with an economy based on slave labour to produce sugar, cotton, indigo and rum. The development of the settler colonies abroad and of communities at home in Britain came to depend upon the money that was being generated by slave labour in the Caribbean. Generating the enormous profits that were being realised in the Caribbean required an assertion of power and the entire system of slavery there depended upon...
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