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Slavery elective history: Economics

Year 10 Elective History




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The demand for a slave is a derived demand, as is that for any productive resource. It is derived from the demand for the output that resource helps to produce. There was an active market for slaves throughout the antebellum period, meaning that slave owners believed the purchase of a slave would prove to be a profitable expenditure, even though that expenditure required a considerable amount of money.

Slavery and Rememberance

The number of European and American merchants, shipbuilders, and investors directly involved in the transatlantic slave trade over a period of more than 350 years was immense.

BBC News

The hidden links between slavery and Wall Street


Why were slaves in the Americas? This video covers some of the primary drivers of the transatlatic slave trade and the role of sugar.

Many stakeholders in the South and North benefited from the cotton economy that fueled slavery's expansion. The cotton economy increased the number of slaves in America and led to cotton plantations spreading west across the Deep South to Texas. This created the second largest forced migration in America's history, as African Americans were uprooted from the Upper South to the Deep South.

How slavery became the economic engine of the South. 

This video is part of the following Choices Program curriculum units: Racial Slavery in the Americas: Resistance, Freedom, and Legacies.

Revealing Histories

The transatlantic slave trade transformed the Americas. Three factors combined to cause this transformation. Large amounts of land had been seized from Native Americans and were not being used.

The Gilder

In the pre-Civil War United States, a stronger case can be made that slavery played a critical role in economic development.

Khan Academy

The South prospered, but its wealth was very unequally distributed. Upward social mobility did not exist for the millions of enslaved people who produced a substantial portion of the nation’s wealth, while poor southern whites envisioned a day when they might rise enough in the world to own enslaved laborers of their own.


Building a commercial enterprise out of the wilderness required labor and lots of it. For much of the 1600s, the American colonies operated as agricultural economies, driven largely by indentured servitude.


The slave trade had devastating effects in Africa. Economic incentives for warlords and tribes to engage in the slave trade promoted an atmosphere of lawlessness and violence.