More fake news from the left

Did slavery profits bankroll the Midlands industrial revolution, as local socialist M.P. Tristram Hunt (Labour) would have had you believe in his recent speech in Stoke?


Erm, no. Slavery did not fund a major share of the capital that went into our industrial revolution. If you put together all the combined profits of the slave trade and the West Indian sugar plantations in general, together they did not even add up to five percent of Britain’s national income, either before or during the Industrial Revolution. Even a Midlands-specific claim doesn’t hold water — that exports to colonial settlers might have made huge profits for our early textiles and small metalworking industries. Such activity was at best of minor importance, and overall profits from the colonial trade were low…

“Profits from the colonies and imperial trade and capital accumulation in Britain”: [when put together, all of the] commerce with the ‘periphery’ [i.e.: with fringe areas of the world and colonies] generated funds sufficient to finance only 15 per cent of gross investment expenditures during the Industrial Revolution [… and such] external trade was only a small proportion of Europe’s economic activity and most industries did not depend upon imported raw materials … historians have argued that sugar did not furnish a sufficiently large total output to be a major contributor to the savings that funded the Industrial Revolution … It is equally difficult to prove that merchant capital amassed from colonial commerce [as a whole] was decisive for British industrial growth.” — Kenneth Morgan, Slavery, Atlantic Trade and the British Economy, 1660–1800, Cambridge University Press.

The book is described by Cambridge University Press as… “An up-to-date synthesis of work on slavery, Atlantic trade and the British economy … essential reading”.

The socialist notion that that the industrial revolution was funded largely by slavery arose from the rabidly Marxist 20th century historian Eric Williams, about whose work…

“the majority of scholars working on British industrialization tend to be highly skeptical” [today, because…] “Eric Williams and his followers probably exaggerated the profitability of the slave trade and slave plantation complex.” — from a review of Slavery, Atlantic Trade and the British Economy, 1660–1800, in Reviews in History, June 2002.


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