What Are Trade Winds AP World History?

Trade winds are a phenomenon that has played an essential role in world history, particularly in the era of global exploration and colonization. In this article, we will explore what trade winds are and their significance to world history.

What Are Trade Winds?

Trade winds are consistent easterly winds that blow towards the equator from both the northern and southern hemispheres. These winds are caused as a result of the earth’s rotation, which creates specific air pressure zones.

The heat in the tropics causes warm air to rise, creating low-pressure areas near the equator. As a result, air from high-pressure areas near the poles moves towards the equator creating trade winds.

The Significance of Trade Winds in World History

The trade winds have played a crucial role in world history as they facilitated early maritime exploration and trade. During the Age of Exploration (15th-17th centuries), European merchants and explorers used these winds to travel across vast distances on their trade routes.

The Atlantic Slave Trade:

The trade winds played an important role in the Atlantic slave trade as well. Slave traders used these winds to transport enslaved individuals from Africa to America by following a specific route known as “the Middle Passage.” The Middle Passage was a triangular route that started in Europe, went down to Africa, picked up slaves, and then headed for America using the trade winds.

Exploration and Colonization:

The discovery of new landmasses such as America and Australia was also made possible due to these easterly winds. European explorers like Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama used these winds on their voyages across uncharted territories.


In conclusion, it is evident that trade winds have played a significant role in shaping world history. They facilitated early exploration, globalization, and colonization.

The trade winds continue to have an impact on the world economy, particularly in the maritime industry. Understanding the significance of trade winds offers a glimpse into how the natural world has influenced human history.