An integrated Atlantic economy came into being after the mid-18th century, in which merchants in British, American, West Indian and Iberian ports established firm commercial ties and a modern, enterprising outlook with regard to making money through imperial trade.
To what extent was British hegemony in empire, trade and industry based on the growth of imperial commerce? Many historians have discussed this basic question, and disputed the level of stimulus to the domestic British economy, and hence to industrialisation, that was provided by the growth of empire.
A negative assessment would emphasise that the profits of slavery and the slave trade were more modest than the bonanza that was once thought to have taken place, and that the contribution of slavery and the slave trade to national income was marginal at best.
Sceptics would also argue that British manufacturing production owed more to demand from the domestic market than from overseas customers; they would stress agricultural productivity and other supply-side factors as the vital components of British economic growth.