Slave traders and planters in the expanding South: entrepreneurial strategies, business networks, and western migration in the Atlantic world, 1787-1859 Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 21, 2019
  • Yagyu, Tomoku
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • This study attempts to analyze the economic effects of the domestic slave trade and the slave traders on the American South in a broader Atlantic context. In so doing, it interprets the trade as a sophisticated business and traders as speculative, entrepreneurial businessmen. The majority of southern planters were involved in the slave trade and relied on it to balance their financial security. They evaluated their slaves in cash terms, and made strategic decisions regarding buying and selling their property to enhance the overall productivity of their plantations in the long run. Slave traders acquired business skills in the same manner as did merchants in other trades, utilizing new forms of financial options in order to maximize their profit and taking advantage of the market revolution in transportation and communication methods in the same ways that contemporary northern entrepreneurs did. They were capable of making rational moves according to the signals of global commodity markets and financial movements. The slave trade eventually played a central role in determining the fate of the South, as a business that created a unified South under proslavery ideology and encouraged western migration to preserve the institution of slavery. In a time of western expansion and the cotton boom, some slave traders were able to accumulate great wealth from the slave-trading business and sought opportunities to acquire higher social status and financial stability. Through the case of Rice C. Ballard, who was able to make the transition from a slave trader in Virginia to a cotton planter in the West, this dissertation will show that skills and networks established from the slave-trading business enabled the traders to acquire managerial abilities and the ethos associated with nascent global capitalism. They were able to develop awareness and knowledge of commercial networks beyond the South and operated with an expansive mindset to adapt to the increasingly integrated global economy of the early nineteenth century.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Coclanis, Peter A.
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

This work has no parents.