Tapered layers of pre-cured composite material are integrated into a tapered, highly stressed laminate structure in order to provide improved compressive strength. The pre-cured composite material can advantageously be cured under tension as pultruded material, to further augment compressive strength. The thickness of composite layers can be tapered on their termination edges by mechanically abrading, chemical abrading, or other methods. Especially preferred embodiments include aircraft structural components such as wings, wing spars, wing skins, fuselage skins, rotor blades, propellers, and propeller blades. Preferred laminates can be constructed to have at least 6, 10, 30, 50, or 100 layers of material, and can have a maximum thickness of at least 0.15, 0.25, 0.5, 1.0, or 5.0 inches.