The changing nature and extent of trade

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  • Created on: 09-06-17 14:13

The abolition of slave trade

Economic importance of the slave trade:

  • Triangular trade of manufactured goods from Brit. to W. Africa, slaves from W. Afr. to W. Indies and raw materials from W. Indies to Brit. - banker, Thomas Leyland, carries £8,326 of goods to Africa on the 'Lottery' and returns with £12,091
  • Brit. ports flourish from slave trade (Liverpool, Bristol, Glasgow etc) due to plantocracy agents trading ships/goods/supplies - 1790: 120-130 slave ships leave from Liverpool each year 
  • Creates a large pool of workers for the Royal Navy to draw from
  • Money provided for traders by bankers and the government benefit from taxes and tariffs - 1766: 'Gentlemen's Magazine' claim over 40 members of parliament are planters/have business interest:

- Church of England owned Codrington plantations in Barbados

- Sir Richard Neave (Gov. of the Bank of England) chaired the Society of West Indian Merchants 

- William Beckford (twice mayor of London) owned over 1000's acres of plantations in Jamaica

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The abolition of slave trade (2)

Why was the slave trade abolished?

  • Moral uprising with 11K signatures in Manchester
  • Religious institutions/communities against slavery
  • Undermines the French post-revolution
  • Slave trade is economically unstable with fluctuating harvests and high mortality rates amongst slaves
  • Slaves begin to rebel against owners

Abolition of slave trade:

  • 1783 - Quaker abolitionists start petitioning parliament and by 1787 they join other groups, led by William Wilberforce to create a grass-roots campaign (non-profit) to win over the public - have the support of PM, William Pitt, in 1789
  • 1789 - French Revolution and in 1792 the French Republic renews hostility with Brit. landowners
  • French free slaves in Saint Domingue (Haiti) after rebellion but Brit. and Fre. plantocracy invade island to restore sugar and coffee plantations 
  • 1802 - people in favour of abolitionists due to loss of life from defeats and disease
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The abolition of slave trade (3)

  • Brit. end up supporting ex-slaves to undermine Napoleon and the French
  • 1804 - Wilberforce successfully passes slavery-abolishing bill through House of Commons but its defeated in the House of Lords
  • 1806 - abolitionists quickly pass Foreign Slave Trade bill with widespread support, prohibiting Britons from supplying slaves to French colonies 
  • 1806 - many abolitionist MPs elected in the general election
  • 1807 - House of Parliament passes Slave Trade Act, ending Britain's role in the trade
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Free Trade


  • Dominated 16th-18th cent. economic thought 
  • Need to export a higher value of goods than what is imported 
  • Spain acheived a positive balance of trade with their silver mines in the Americas helping to build their empire
  • 1763 - Brit. debt is 157% of their GDP, rising to 260% in 1821 after Nap. Wars and Amer. War of Independence 
  • Became too emphasised on gold and silver which isn't a true indication of countries' wealth, like natural resources and factories
  • Tariffs bring conflict with other Eur. countries 

Adam Smith's theory of free trade:

  • Proposed in his book 'Wealth of Nations' in 1776
  • Attacked the mercantile system saying instead countries should produce goods where they're most efficient in and import goods they're less efficient in
  • Removing tariffs would be mutually beneficial
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Free Trade (2)

Problems in Ireland:

  • Ireland have a strong economy, despite Brit. tariffs - 1750: Irish exports at £1.9 mill and imports at £1.5 mill
  • 1779 - free trade granted after escalatingdemands from armed Irish political groups  
  • End of Nap. Wars 1815 - Corn Laws passed, keeping grain prices high and by exluding foreign grain - Tories keep power and protectionism remains unchallenged until the 1830s

Changing political landscape:

  • 1830s - election of the Whigs, who introduce the Representation of the People Act in 1832, making constituency boundaries more representative and extending the electorate to 250,000 people
  • After 1832 - manufacturers and consumers have a larger role in determining trade policy and were opposed to protectionist measures that kept up high prices
  • 1738 - Anti-Corn Law League is founded by advocates of free trade
  • Sir Robert Peel strongly believes in free trade and founded the Conservative Party in 1834 - party is split into protectionist 'Old Tories' and 'Peelites' who supported free trade
  • 1841 election - Peel secures majority against Whigs and becomes PM - laws supporting mercantilism are dismantled, repealing the Corn Laws and abolishing over 1200 tariffs from 1842-46
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Repeal of the Navigation Acts, 1849

The Navigation Acts:

  • The basis of Brit. mercantilism 
  • Colonial goods had to be exported on English ships
  • Some raw goods had to be shipped to an English port regardless of their destination
  • Brit. use salutary neglect (acts not sctrictly enforced) in collecting N. Amer. taxes until 1763 when they use a large standing army, who are much more efficient than custom officials, and force N. Americans to pay for it
  • Eur. imports to Brit. colonies must first land at English ports

Disputed laws in the 1760s:

  • The residence of custom officials in Amer. after 1763 was an issue and they were obliged to stay in N. Amer.
  • The Sugar Act 1764 - lowers duties on sugar from 6d to 3d but people had only really paid 1d before so this seemed more like a rise of 2d
  • The Mutiny Act 1765 - colonies must provide accomodation and supplies for Brit. troops - most states accept this except New York, so the New York Restraining Act 1767 prevents them from revolting 
  • The Stamp Act 1765 - requires stamps on all formal documents with a much broader tax
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Repeal of the Navigation Acts, 1849 (2)

  • Stamp Act is condemned by the newly formed inter-colonial congress in Amer. and informal boycotting of Brit. goods - leads to repeal of the Stamp Act in 1776

Repeal of the Navigation Acts:

  • Robert Peel's landmark budget in 1842 gets rid of protectionist tariffs and the Importation Act 1846 repeals sugar duties and the Corn Laws
  • New PM, Lord John Russell, prioritises free trade over national defense
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The acquisition of Singapore

- Entrepôt: a town/city where goods are imported/exported/stored/traded - begin to spawn with long distance trade and were often tax-free places

  • Sir Stamford Raffles, a colonial administrator, wanted to undermine Dutch prescence in Malaysia and to open a trade route with China - gains permission from the East India Co. to est. a Brit. base Singapore in 1819
  • The Dutch are adamant the Brit. should leave so the Anglo-Dutch treaty is signed in 1824 but by then, Brit. had made roughly 11 mill Spanish dollars had been made, with a growth of over 2700% - Brit. keep Singapore and hand over other settlements 

Success of Singapore:

  • Tax-free status brings merchants from all over South-East Asia and ships of all nationalities could trade
  • Ships can offload goods during a journey in return for textiles/guns/opium
  • Creation of merchant houses for loading/unloading and storage - other services like banks and auction houses are built - 1846: 20 Brit. merchant houses had been built
  • Ships going between China and Brit. can trade here  
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The acquisition of Hong Kong

- Monopoly: having exclusive control over trade

- Staging post: where people/vehicles regularly stop during a journey

  • Chinese laws only allow Brit. merchants in a small area of Canton and piracy dominates the seas between Singapore and China 
  • East India Co. end up w/ a negative balance of trade w/ a higher demand for Chinese goods in Brit. than vice versa
  • Decide to change to selling opium and this trade accelerates as they deal directly with the producers
  • Other Brit. traders were banned by the E. I. Co. until 1833 and by 1839, Chinese opium imports had reached 2,533 tons, reversing the balance of trade 

The Chinese Blockade:

  • 1839 - Chin. troops sent by gov. to blockade Canton and take Brit. merchants hostage, demanding they surrender their goods - over 1000 tons of opium are burnt 
  • Lord Palmerston, foreign secretary, sends RN to settle this with 'gunboat diplomacy', causing the First Opium War - Brit. warship 'The Nemesis' easily destroys Chin. ships
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The acquisition of Hong Kong (2)

  • Brit. dictate terms w/ Chin. emperor, forcing him to open new ports and seizing Hong Kong in 1841, establishing it as an entrepôt 
  • Population grows from 15,000 in 1841 to 300,000 in 1900
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The opening up of Shanghai to trade, 1842

- 1842 - The Treaty of Nanking signed by Chin. as the first of the 'unequal treaties' w/ Brit.:

  • Gives them Hong Kong
  • Opens new ports (like Shanghai) to foreign traders
  • Make Chin. pay 6 mill silver dollars for the destroyed opium, 3 million to Brit. merchants for Canton and 12 mill in war reperations
  • Import tariffs go back to 5%
  • Gives Brit. citizens protection

- Shanghai is at the mouth of the Yangtze , opening up the interior of China to merchants 

- Shanghai becomes self-governed by Brit. - 1854: businessmen from here est. the Shanghai municipal council to co-ordinate services like road maintenance and waste disposal - this greatly reduces Chin. influence and Shanghai becomes an international city

- Opium trade booms here, with 6,500 tons imported in 1880 - helped by its protection after the Taiping Rebellion which grew into a full-scale civil war 1850-64 where 20-30 mill Chinese were killed

- The council use this to selling their modern weaponry to the Chin. Emperor

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The purchase of Suez Canal shares, 1875

  • 1854 - Ferdinand de Lesseps obtains permission from the Khedive of Egypt to build a canal from the Red Sea to the Med. - bankers in Brit., Amer. and Ger. wouldn't commit large sums but the Khedive invests 44% of shares and the French own a majority of stock
  • Costs roughly 200 mill francs but goes up to 433 mill francs due to disease and technical  problems 
  • Construction takes 10 years (1859-69) with tens of thousands of forced labourers doing handwork to build the canal
  • The canal was only suitable for steam ships which damaged its commerical value - shipping is only at 436,000 tons in 1870 when the canal opened but it has a massive impact later on long-distance routes
  • 1874 - 3/4 tonnage through the canal is Brit. but Brit. are worried about relying on Fre. infrastructure
  • 1875 - when Khedive Ismail is forced through bankruptcy to sell his Suez Canal stocks, the Brit. PM Disraeli buys their shares on behalf of Brit., borrowing money from the Rothschilds
  • £4 mill shares bought, increasing from 4.7% to 33% by 1911
  • Disraeli is criticised by House of Commons for acting w/o permission but has the support of the Queen and the population
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Suez Canal advantages and risks


  • New area of production in colonized Egypt
  • Reduced travel times means better quality of goods
  • Opens new safe and strategic trade route


  • Undemocratic move by Disraeli
  • Would put Brit in serious debt if it fails
  • Created further international tension, especially w/ France
  • Results in long-term military occupation of Egypt under Gladstone
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The acquisition of Zanzibar, 1890

  •  Already an entrepôt before Brit. involvement, w/ their trade revolving around ivory and slavery
  • Brit. wanted to safeguard the route of the Cape of India and suppress the slave trade there however they could
  • 1822 - pressure on local rulers to end slavery is successful and the sultan ends the exports of slaves from Zanzibar
  • Decrease Zanz. status as a slave port and increase status as an entrepôt - 1859-79: Eur./Amer. ships docking at Zanz. grows from 65 ships and 18,872 tons of goods to 96 ships and 95,403 tons 
  • Imperialists settled here for patriotism over commercial gain - unattractive investment with the Sultan's control, lack of a river system and underinvestment into the railway system
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German expansion

German expansion and the British East Africa Association:

  • 1884 - German initiative led by Karl Peters for his East German Trading Co. had gained gov. support
  • 1885 - German chancellor Bismarck publishes a declaration saying Peters is under imperial protection 
  • 1887 - Bismarck persuades Kaiser to invest £25,000 of his personal fortune into the East German Trading Co. and in 1904, German gov. sponsor the construction of an interior railway
  • William Mackinnon, Brit. owner of the Zanzibar-Aden Steamship Service, tries to set up a trading company in 1878 but lacks gov. support - tries again when Germans start to establish themselves and raises £250,000 for a British East Africa Association with no big commerical investors
  • Never makes much money and in 1892 their expenditure was £85,000 and income was £35,000
  • Wanted to est. a Brit. foothold in Eastern Africa
  • 1896 - Brit. gov. fund a railway system from Mombasa to Uganda 
  • Sultan's tight hold of territory is ignored when Brit. and Ger. split up Zanz. in the 1890 treaty and Zanz. becomes a Brit. protectorate rather than a colony
  • 1896 - pro-Brit. Sultan dies and his cousin takes the throne so Brit. bombard Zanz. with 500 Zanz. killed and 1 Brit. sailor injured - lasts 38 mins and is the shortest war ever
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The Lease of Weihaiwei, 1898

  • Was a north-eastern area of China
  • Brit. technological superiority being eroded in late 19th cent. and wary of growing Russian influence in Asia and as a threat to India - this battle becomes known as the 'Great Game' and includes countries like Persia and Afghanistan 

Russian interests:

  • Russ. want to trade w/ China due to growing opium trade and w/o their own port they seek influence in the Yellow Sea port, Port Arthur, as well as Japan who captured the port in 1894 after defeating the Chin. 
  • Russ. persuade Fra. and Ger. (who have interests in China) to support removal of Japan by force - Japan evac. Port Arthur in 1895, goes back to the Chin, but then leased to the Russians in 1898 as China can't protect it 
  • Brit. feel threatened and demand a port from China to oversee developments in Port Arthur - leased Weihaiwei after the Siege of Wei. in 1898
  • Weihaiwei has no commerical value and is simply in strat. interest to limit Russ. influence - Brit. had also done this in areas of E. Africa to limit German influence 
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