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Unveiling the Enormous Wealth Gained by Nations from the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Updated: Jan 2

The total number of Enslaved Africans transported during the transatlantic slave trade is estimated to be between 12.5 million and 12.7 million. They were forcibly transported from Africa to the Americas. This number includes both those who survived the journey and those who perished during the Middle Passage.


It's hard to determine the exact number that did not survive the transatlantic voyage, it is estimated that 25%+ did not survive, and reaching a more accurate estimate is hindered by an unknown number tragically lying at the bottom of the ocean. This post aims to unveil the enormous wealth gained by nations during the transatlantic slave trade.



The transatlantic slave trade involved numerous countries, primarily European nations with monarchies, thus including their colonized territories. the wealth acquired by the United States came after its independence from England. Some of the countries that benefited significantly from the transatlantic slave trade include:


Portugal's Monarchy

Portugal was at the forefront of European involvement in the slave trade. Portuguese explorers and traders established the first European slave-trading posts along the West African coast in the 15th century, initiating the transatlantic slave trade.


  • Though Portugal no longer has a monarchy, the royal family of Portugal had great economic prosperity, expansion of their empire, increase in naval power, and trade dominance due to their greed, oppression, and atrocities committed against the African people during the slave trade. Portugal's economic wealth from the slave trade still supports its infrastructure today.

  • It is estimated that Portugal transported the largest number of enslaved Africans, with an estimated 5.8 million, which is about 32% of the estimated total transported, The Portuguese colony of Brazil heavily relied on slave labor for its sugar and coffee plantations, thus receiving an estimated 4.9 million of the enslaved.

  • There were Portuguese companies that benefited from the transatlantic slave trade. However, it is challenging to directly attribute the wealth of specific companies today solely to the transatlantic slave trade. Nevertheless, there are 4 prominent Portuguese companies with historical ties to trade and colonial activities during that era:

    • Companhia de Jesus (Society of Jesus): also known as the Jesuits, was a Catholic religious order founded in 1540. While not a company in the traditional sense, the Jesuits played a role in colonial activities and had significant influence in Portugal's overseas territories, including Brazil. The wealth accumulated by the Jesuits during that time cannot be easily quantified today.

    • Banco Comercial Português (BCP): commonly known as Millennium BCP, is one of the largest Portuguese banks. While it did not directly accumulate wealth from the transatlantic slave trade, it is a longstanding financial institution that has operated in Portugal since 1985. Its current market capitalization is approximately €1.7 billion.

    • Companhia de Moçambique (Mozambique Company): was a Portuguese company established in 1891, primarily involved in colonizing and exploiting resources in Mozambique. While it profited from colonial activities, including trade, it is challenging to quantify its wealth solely from the transatlantic slave trade. The company ceased operations in 1942.

    • Banco Santander Totta: is a Portuguese bank and a subsidiary of the Spanish multinational bank Santander Group. It has a long history in Portugal, dating back to 1843. Its market capitalization is approximately €1.4 billion.


Spanish Monarchy

Spain played a significant role in the early stages of the transatlantic slave trade. Spanish colonies in the Americas, particularly in Central and South America, relied heavily on enslaved labor for agricultural activities such as sugar cane and tobacco cultivation.


  • Like other colonizers, Spain's monarchy experienced economic wealth from its labor force on plantations, extraction of natural resources, trade, and commerce. Spain's profits generated from the transatlantic slave trade significantly supported the Spanish monarchy, elite classes, and merchants until today.

  • Spain's participation in the slave trade resulted in the transportation of approximately 1.6 million enslaved Africans, this number accounts for about 9% of the total transported during this period.

  • There are no Spanish companies today that directly exist as a result of the wealth accumulated from the transatlantic slave trade, some Spanish companies have historical connections to it. Here are four notable Spanish companies with historical ties to the transatlantic slave trade:

    • Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA): BBVA is a Spanish multinational banking group founded in 1857. While BBVA itself does not have a direct link to the slave trade, some of its predecessor banks had connections to financing colonial activities in the Americas. BBVA is currently one of the largest banks in Spain, with a market capitalization of around $35 billion.

    • Compañía de las Indias: was a Spanish trading company established in the 18th century. While not directly involved in the slave trade, it played a role in the economic exploitation of Spanish colonies in the Americas. The company no longer exists today.

    • Sociedad Española de Construcción Naval (SECN): SECN was a Spanish shipbuilding company founded in 1912. While it was not directly involved in the slave trade, it constructed ships that were used for various purposes, including trade and transportation during the colonial period. The company ceased operations in the 1990s.

    • Iberia: Iberia is the flag carrier airline of Spain, founded in 1927. While it did not have a direct link to the transatlantic slave trade, it operated routes connecting Spain with its former colonies in the Americas. Iberia is now part of the International Airlines Group (IAG), and its current market capitalization is approximately $5 billion.


British Monarchy

England - Great Britain emerged as a major player in the transatlantic slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries. English traders transported millions of African slaves to the British colonies in North America and the Caribbean.


  • The British Empire became the largest slave-trading nation in the world during this period. They gained financially with profitable plantations, slave trading, manufacturing, financial institutions, and urban development.

  • Cities like London, Bristol, Liverpool, and Glasgow prospered as major centers of trade and commerce.

  • Great Britain approximately transported 3.4 million enslaved Africans, which accounts for 18% of the total number transported. Great Britain's involvement peaked during the 18th century when enslaved labor in the Caribbean was at its highest.

  • There are British companies with historical links to the transatlantic slave trade. Here are four of them with their worth as of today:

    • Lloyd's of London: is an insurance market that was established in the late 17th century. its exact worth is not publicly available.

    • Barclays: is a multinational bank that traces its origins back to 1690. Today, Barclays is involved in various financial services and has a market capitalization of approximately £30 billion.

    • Tate & Lyle: is a British multinational agribusiness and food ingredient company. The company's origins can be traced back to Henry Tate, who made his fortune in the sugar industry during the 19th century. Tate & Lyle has a market capitalization of approximately £3 billion

    • Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS): now known as NatWest Group, it has historical ties to banks that participated in financing slave trade activities. NatWest Group has a market capitalization of approximately £25 billion.



French Monarchy

France was heavily involved in the transatlantic slave trade, particularly with its Caribbean colonies such as Haiti (then known as Saint-Domingue) and Martinique. French slave traders transported a significant number of enslaved Africans to work on sugar plantations.


  • France experienced economic prosperity, expansion of its empire, naval power, and maritime dominance. The revenue generated from the slave trade enabled France to invest in its naval forces, an investment that is giving returns to this day.

  • It's estimated that France transported 1.4 million enslaved Africans to its colonies in the Caribbean and the Americas, about 7% of the total number transported. The majority were taken to French-controlled islands like Haiti (then known as Saint-Dominque), Guadalupe, and Martinique to work on their plantations and other agricultural businesses.

  • While there are no French companies today that directly exist as a result of the wealth accumulated from the transatlantic slave trade, some French companies have historical ties to it. Here are four notable French companies with historical connections to the transatlantic slave trade:

    • BNP Paribas: is a French multinational bank founded in 2000. Its predecessor bank, Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas, was involved in financing colonial activities, including those related to the slave trade. BNP Paribas is currently one of the largest banks in Europe, with a market capitalization of around €58 billion.

    • Société Générale: is another major French multinational bank founded in 1864. Like BNP Paribas, Société Générale's predecessor banks had connections to colonial activities, including financing trade in French colonies. Société Générale is currently valued at around €22 billion.

    • Compagnie de Saint-Gobain: is a French multinational corporation founded in 1665. While it does not have a direct link to the transatlantic slave trade, it profited from trade and colonial activities during the era. The company is primarily known for its production of construction materials and is valued at around €37 billion.

    • CFAO (Compagnie Française de l'Afrique Occidentale): founded in 1887 with a focus on distribution and services in Africa. While it was not directly involved in the slave trade, it operated in French colonies, which had historical ties to the transatlantic slave trade. CFAO is currently valued at around €2 billion.



Dutch Monarchy

The Netherlands, the Dutch were active participants in the transatlantic slave trade, with the Dutch West India Company establishing trading posts along the West African coast. The Dutch colonies in the Caribbean, such as Suriname and the Dutch Antilles, profited from the forced labor of enslaved Africans.

  • The Netherlands had colonies in the Americas, such as the Dutch Antilles and Suriname, where they established plantations that produced lucrative crops like sugar, coffee, tobacco, and cocoa. Amsterdam was a major financial center during the slave trade, such activities further expanded the benefits gained from the horrors placed upon African nations.

  • It's estimated that the Netherlands transported about 550,000 enslaved Africans, with an estimated 3% of the total transported, their Suriname colony receiving an estimated 300,000 of the enslaved. Others were transported to Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.

  • While it is challenging to directly attribute the wealth of companies today solely to the transatlantic slave trade, here are four prominent Dutch companies with historical ties to trade and colonial activities, along with their current worth:

    • ABN AMRO: is a Dutch banking and financial services company established in 1991. While ABN AMRO does not have a direct historical connection to the transatlantic slave trade, it is important to note that some Dutch banks during that era were involved in financing slave trade activities. As of today, ABN AMRO has a market capitalization of approximately €18 billion

    • Royal Dutch Shell: is a multinational oil and gas company with Dutch and British origins. While Shell's historical ties to the transatlantic slave trade are indirect, as it was founded in the early 20th century, it is important to acknowledge that the Dutch colonial empire played a role in shaping the business environment in which Shell operated. As of today, Royal Dutch Shell has a market capitalization of approximately €140 billion

    • Heineken: is a Dutch brewing company established in 1864. While the company does not have a direct historical connection to the transatlantic slave trade, it operated during the era when Dutch companies benefited from colonial activities. As of today, Heineken has a market capitalization of approximately €50 billion.

    • ING Group: is a Dutch multinational banking and financial services corporation established in 1991. Similar to ABN AMRO, ING Group does not have a direct historical connection to the transatlantic slave trade. However, it is important to recognize that some Dutch banks during that era were involved in financing slave trade activities. As of today, ING Group has a market capitalization of approximately €42 billion 


Norwegian Royal Family
Norwegian Royal Family
Danish Royal Family
Danish Royal Family

Denmark-Norway was involved in the transatlantic slave trade through its colonies in the Caribbean, including the Danish West Indies (now known as the U.S. Virgin Islands). Danish traders transported enslaved Africans to work on sugar plantations.

  • The establishment of these colonies allowed Denmark-Norway to expand its influence and territorial control in the region. This led to geopolitical advantages and economic gains which the country and monarchy still benefit from today.

  • Norway's participation in the slave trade allowed it to establish connections and trade networks with other European powers like Denmark, England, and the Netherlands. These connections support the Norwegian economy, thus the Monarchy's til this day.

  • An estimated 120,000 enslaved Africans, were transported by Denmark-Norway with an estimated 0.6% of the total number transported, their colony of St Croix receiving an estimated 100,000 of the enslaved, and the 20,000 were transported to St. Thomas and St. Johns to work on sugar plantations.

  • While Denmark did play a role in the slave trade, it is worth noting that there are no Danish companies today that directly exist as a result of the wealth accumulated from the transatlantic slave trade. However, some Danish companies have a historical connection to the trade. Here are four notable Danish companies with historical ties to the transatlantic slave trade:

    • A.P. Moller-Maersk: is a global shipping company founded in 1904. While it did not directly accumulate wealth from the slave trade, its predecessor, the Danish West India Company, played a role in the slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries. As of today, A.P. Moller-Maersk is one of the largest shipping companies in the world, with a net worth of around $35 billion.

    • Carlsberg Group: is a Danish brewing company founded in 1847. Its founder, J.C. Jacobsen, was involved in the sugar trade, which indirectly had connections to the slave trade. Carlsberg Group is currently one of the largest brewery companies globally, with a net worth of approximately $15 billion.

    • The East Asiatic Company (EAC): was a Danish trading company founded in 1897. While EAC did not directly participate in the slave trade, it operated in regions where the trade existed. The company was involved in various industries, including shipping, trading, and plantations. The EAC ceased its operations in the 1960s

    • Danske Bank: is a Danish banking institution founded in 1871. While the bank itself does not have a direct connection to the transatlantic slave trade, it is known that some of its predecessor banks, which merged to form Danske Bank, had connections to the trade. As of today, Danske Bank is one of the largest banks in Denmark, with a current market capitalization of around $16 billion.

  • As for Norway, it appears that it was not directly involved in the transatlantic slave trade as a nation, but rather as a part of the Kingdom of Denmark-Norway during that period. Norwegian individuals were reportedly involved in the slave trade, serving on Danish-Norwegian ships and participating in trade between Norway, Denmark, Ghana, and the Caribbean.


Wealthiest Counties in America

United States, although the United States did not participate in the initial stages of the transatlantic slave trade, it became a major beneficiary once it gained independence from Britain. The American colonies relied heavily on the enslaved African's labor for agricultural production.

  • The Southern States in particular prospered economically by the labor-intensive crops cultivated on plantations. Profits from the slave-based plantation economy were reinvested in various industries like textile manufacturing, shipbuilding, and banking.

  • The transatlantic slave trade created a vast network of trade routes and commercial connections between the Americas, Europe, and Africa. The profits from these trades stimulated economic growth and development which America is still benefitting from.

  • It is estimated that about 390,000 enslaved Africans were brought to British North America (colonial America) and later the United States. The majority were taken to the Southern states, where they worked on plantations producing crops like tobacco, rice, indigo, and cotton, amounting to an estimated 4.4% of the total number transported.

  • These US companies and institutions may have historical connections to the transatlantic slave trade, but the wealth they hold today has largely come from a wide range of business activities beyond the slave trade era. (as of the latest available data)

    • J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.: is a multinational investment bank and financial services company with a long history in the United States. While the company does not have a direct historical connection to the transatlantic slave trade, it is important to acknowledge that some American banks during that era were involved in financing slave trade activities. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. has a market capitalization of approximately $464 billion

    • Bank of America Corporation: is a multinational investment bank and financial services company. Similar to J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America does not have a direct historical connection to the transatlantic slave trade. However, it is worth noting that some American banks during that era were involved in financing slave trade activities. Bank of America Corporation has a market capitalization of approximately $370 billion

    • New York Life Insurance Company: is one of the largest life insurance companies in the United States. While the company does not have a direct historical connection to the transatlantic slave trade, it is important to acknowledge that insurance companies played a role in insuring slave owners and their property during that era. New York Life Insurance's market capitalization of approximately $30 billion

    • Aetna Inc.; is a diversified healthcare benefits company based in the United States. Similar to New York Life Insurance Company, Aetna does not have a direct historical connection to the transatlantic slave trade. However, it is worth noting that insurance companies in the past insured slave owners and their property. As of today, Aetna Inc. is a subsidiary of CVS Health Corporation, with a combined market capitalization of approximately $130 billion 



These countries were major participants in the transatlantic slave trade, and the fact that all these countries are currently wealthy and prosperous should not be overlooked. The consequences and legacies of this horrific system extend far beyond these nations. The impact of the slave trade is still felt today in various forms, including systemic racism, economic disparities, and cultural trauma within the African diaspora. The enormous wealth gained by nations from their transatlantic slave trade is still being leveraged in all countries today.


It is important to remember that the estimates provided here are approximations, and the actual numbers may vary. Additionally, the transatlantic slave trade had a profound impact on the demographics, cultures, and societies of the regions involved, leaving a lasting legacy that continues to shape the world today.



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