Triangular trade, or triangle trade, involved companies, profiteers, slave traders and African slaves traded between Europe, Africa and the Americas from the 1600s to the 1860s. The system started in Europe when boats carried goods to Africa that were traded for African slaves. These slaves then made the perilous journey to America, while the third trade route shipped products to Europe, making a triangle-shaped round trip in the Atlantic Ocean.
Europeans took industrial, consumable and durable goods from England to Africa. Supplies such as pots, pans, guns, alcohol and horses were traded on the west African coast for humans. The ships were then loaded up with Africans, usually under horrendous conditions, for the perilous middle passage.
Slaves that survived the journey west across the Atlantic were taken to slave trade markets in the Caribbean and southern coast of the American colonies. Slaves were traded and sold for rum, sugar, fish, lumber, cotton, tobacco and other products bound for Europe. The same ships that left Europe loaded with industrial goods for Africa returned home with natural products in great demand with European consumers.
Triangular trade fueled slavery in America. This practice transported between 10 and 15 million Africans to North America and as many as 40 percent of them died during the terrible middle passage. Slaves were often packed into spaces less than 5 feet high, and the typical slave ship contained between 400 and 700 humans. One person wrote slaves were packed onto boats "like books upon a shelf," according to Digital History.