A few years after writing "The Little Brothers Stock Their Farms", I came across the words in Hugh Thomas's The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440-1870that stopped my breath: " ...entering the slave trade in the seventeenth century, each had their special textile to offer to the Africans. Thus the English specialty was, in the early days, woolen cloth, then and now a protection against the fierce cold wind of the Gulf of Guinea, the harmattan (when “the sharpness of the air . . . obliged all persons whatsoever, white or black, without exception . . . to keep to their houses or chambers”), and for use as blankets during those harsh nights of shivering known to the English as 'rigours'.” (location 63730.)
George's words, "nothing sells so well as wool" were tied up in his brother's purchases of people on the other side of the ocean. Then, just as much as now, the world was a global village. Now, just as much as then, we need to think hard about what is hidden in the economy we are part of. And yet, how easy is that, really? George was a farmer and his wife was a weaver. In a desperate economy, they were anxious to educate all of their children for a better life. Wool was the only resource they had to provide for their family, save their farm, and secure a better future for their children. I'm not sure I would have been able to turn my back on wool under those circumstances.
These questions still matter. According to National Geographic "there are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. " (Sept 2003, retrieved January 2018). For a look at the relationship of forced labor, child labor, and human trafficking on one popular product read this article on chocolate in Fortune Magazine. A more general article on products made through forced labor my be found at endslaverynow.