Lecture 11. Liverpool: The Triangle Trade and the Architectures of the Slave Economy

For nearly two centuries, the price of cotton in Liverpool determined the fate of the most lucrative markets in the World. From the displacement of indigenous populations in the American South for cotton plantations, to the massive movement of West Africans to work those plantations. The theme of this lecture is that slavery and the desire for goods such as cotton, sugar, coffee, gold transforms the modern world. The economics of slavery is embedded in the form and creation of architectures from the West Coast of Africa, to the Americas. Without slavery there is no Industrial Revolution, no mass production of textiles, no fashion, no rapid urbanization in England, no railroads, and no modernity. Following the depopulation of the Americas the human costs of colonialism are stark when viewed through the lens of slavery. Slavery was not invented in the colonial period, as many ancient and contemporary cultures throughout the world utilized slaves, often for domestic, sexual, military or menial tasks. In most of these cases slaves were captured in smaller groups during military conflicts or raids to be sold throughout markets around the world. Colonialism, however, institutionalized slavery on an industrial global scale, relocating millions of people by force around the world for profit for nearly four centuries. What is more, the argument for slavery, as for the conquest of the Americas and issues of contemporary power, was always framed in religious, moral, biological, health, scientific and market terms.

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Lecture Notes