With over 1,600,000 enslaved Africans transported to the West Indies, France was clearly a major player in the trade. Its slave ports were a major contributor to the country’s economic advancements in the 18th century. Many of its cities on the west coast, such as Nantes, Lorient, La Rochelle, and Bordeaux, built their wealth through the major profits of the triangular slave trade.
Between 1738 and 1745, from Nantes, France’s leading slave port, 55,000 slaves were taken to the New World in 180 ships. From 1713 to 1775, nearly 800 vessels in the slave trade sailed from Nantes.
By the late 1780s, French Saint Domingue, which is modern-day Haiti, became the richest and most prosperous colony in the West Indies, cementing its status as a vital port in the Americas for goods and products flowing to and from France and Europe.
The income and taxes from slave-based sugar production became a major source of the French national budget. Each year over 600 vessels visited the ports of Haiti to carry its sugar, coffee, cotton, indigo, and cacao to European consumers.