Molasses, Rum and Slaves

During 18th and 19th century a new type of economy developed between regions of three continents- America, Europe and Africa. America produced cash crops like sugarcane, tobacco and cotton. This raw material (ex. molasses), was then exported the Europe where it was converted into rum and other manufactured good. These were then exported countries of West Africa, where goods were exchanged for slaves. Slaves were then exported America, where they worked in sugarcane fields, tobacco and cotton plantation.


Slaves worked harder and harder to produce more raw materials, which inturn resulted in more rum and other manufactured goods, resulting in purchase of more slaves.


Molasses to rum to slaves

‘Tisn’t morals, ’tis money that saves

Shall we dance to the sound

Of the profitable pound

In molasses and rum and slaves

-1776, “Molasses to Rum”

Owners of this trade were Europeans and they made lot of money, which resulted in high standard of living for Europeans, while slaves who were at bottom of hierarchy lived a miserable life.


Question was how Europeans managed to get so many slaves. One source was capturing regions of Africa and enslaving the people of captured regions, other source was tie up with African rulers who sold prisoners of war to Europeans. African rulers found this a good source of income, as they could get rum and other goods in exchange of prisoners which they would have anyway killed.

“African chiefs were the ones waging war on each other and capturing their own people and selling them. If anyone should apologise it should be the African chiefs. We still have those traitors here even today.”

-President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda

Two painters visited Latin America and through they painted for royal families, they also developed interest in life of common people esp. African slaves and American Indians. Their paintings depict treatment of slaves in America.


Johann Moritz Rugendas was a German painter, who visited several countries of American continent and his paintings give us glimpse of life of slave and conditions under which they were forced to live.

Rugendasroda[1] Habitação_de_Negros._Rugendas[1]

Jean-Baptiste Debret was French Painter who took interest in black slaves and native people of Brazil. He did several paintings depicting life of these people. Unfortunately, his paintings were not a commercial success and he died poor.

debert 1 Debret15a





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