Why did the transatlantic trade in enslaved people develop?

Last updated: 15/11/2023
Contributor: Ruth Shivas
Why did the transatlantic trade in enslaved people develop?
Main Subject
Key stage
Industry and Empire c. 1750-1900: Transatlantic Slave Trade
Includes answers
Resource type
Student activity
Concepts and methods
Cause and consequence

In this resource on the reasons behind the transatlantic trade in enslaved people, students begin by rewriting a quotation from historian David Olusoga in their own words.

They then colour-code statements to show which causes are linked to imperialism and which to economics. This should help them to realise the extent to which the expansion of the British Empire was driven by the desire to make money.

Finally, they watch a short online video containing the quotation. In the clip, David Olusoga talks about the reasons for the development of slavery in Barbados. Comprehension questions and answers are provided.

Note that the video contains some scenes that some viewers may find upsetting.

The key vocabulary featured in this resource:

  • Labour = people who are able to work (especially physical work)
  • Scarce = rare, less supply than demand
  • Indentured servitude = people signed a contract agreeing to work for a number of years in exchange for travel to the Americas
  • Manpower = the number of people working or available for work
  • Cultivate = prepare and use land for crops

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