The Triangular Trade and the Middle Passage

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NBC News
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1600 - 1800
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Video Mini-Documentary
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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17th century merchants sail the Atlantic Ocean, forming a triangular trade route between Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Eventually, African slaves become part of this system.



"The Triangular Trade and the Middle Passage." NBC News. NBCUniversal Media. 29 Jan. 2008. NBC Learn. Web. 4 November 2017.


(2008, January 29). The Triangular Trade and the Middle Passage. [Television series episode]. NBC News. Retrieved from


"The Triangular Trade and the Middle Passage" NBC News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 01/29/2008. Accessed Sat Nov 4 2017 from NBC Learn:


Triangular Trade and the Middle Passage

Professor KAREN ORDAHL KUPPERMAN (New York University):

In the 17th century, merchants traded for whatever commodity they could buy. So, if you left New England, say, with a load of fish, you might go to Spain and sell your fish in Spain. If you were lucky, then you might pick up a cargo of sweet wine, sherry, in Spain, which you might then take to the Caribbean, where you might then acquire a cargo of sugar, which you might take back up into New England, where you might pick up a cargo of rum, which you might then take to the coast of Africa, which you would exchange the cargo of rum for a cargo of slaves, which you would then take to the Caribbean. So it's a kind of rough triangle. But it all, everything depended on what cargo you could pick up. And your next destination depended upon what that cargo was.

In the 18th century, you begin to get dedicated ships, ships that are solely for the slave trade. But in the 17th century, those ships will be carrying fish on one voyage, and slave people on the next. So you can imagine what a miserable passage it was. I mean the holds must have stunk horribly, with the different cargos that these ships carried.