Economics of Slavery

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The period of slavery was one of the most difficult periods and controversial periods in the history of American nation. Following Kolchin (1995), slavery in American was primarily caused by economic factors including a fast development of the agricultural sector, rapid industrialization and growth of cities, transatlantic trade and immigration to Europe.


Since an average slave hand could produce about a ton of tobacco yearly, the total increase in the tobacco trade over the century required an increase of about 70,000 hands, a minuscule fraction of the 5.7 million slaves imported during the same period. "As late as 1860 the average value of the capital invested in an American cotton textile factory was just $109,000 and the average number of employees was just 130" (Kolchin 1995, p. 24). Throughout the eighteenth century, the great slave plantations of the sugar colonies, with profits averaging about 10 percent on invested capital, were the largest privately owned enterprises of the age and their owners were among the richest of all men. The same can be said of the great cotton plantations in the United States on the eve of the Civil War (Kolchin, 1995).
Alternative sources of labor were scarce; European labor was more expensive than African labor; Africans could endure the rigors of the tropics better than Europeans. While each of these factors played a role, no one of them individually, or their joint sum, constitutes an adequate explanation. ...
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