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date: 29 January 2023

Atlantic Slavery and the Slave Trade: History and Historiographyfree

Atlantic Slavery and the Slave Trade: History and Historiographyfree

  • Daniel B. Domingues da SilvaDaniel B. Domingues da SilvaHistory Department, Rice University
  •  and Philip MisevichPhilip MisevichDepartment of History, St. John’s University


Over the past six decades, the historiography of Atlantic slavery and the slave trade has shown remarkable growth and sophistication. Historians have marshalled a vast array of sources and offered rich and compelling explanations for these two great tragedies in human history. The survey of this vibrant scholarly tradition throws light on major theoretical and interpretive shifts over time and indicates potential new pathways for future research. While early scholarly efforts have assessed plantation slavery in particular on the antebellum United States South, new voices—those of Western women inspired by the feminist movement and non-Western men and women who began entering academia in larger numbers over the second half of the 20th century—revolutionized views of slavery across time and space. The introduction of new methodological approaches to the field, particularly through dialogue between scholars who engage in quantitative analysis and those who privilege social history sources that are more revealing of lived experiences, has conditioned the types of questions and arguments about slavery and the slave trade that the field has generated. Finally, digital approaches had a significant impact on the field, opening new possibilities to assess and share data from around the world and helping foster an increasingly global conversation about the causes, consequences, and integration of slave systems. No synthesis will ever cover all the details of these thriving subjects of study and, judging from the passionate debates that continue to unfold, interest in the history of slavery and the slave trade is unlikely to fade.


  • African Diaspora
  • Historiography and Methods
  • Slavery and Slave Trade

From the 16th to the mid-19th century, approximately 12.5 million enslaved Africans were forcibly embarked on slave ships, of whom only 10.7 million survived the notorious Middle Passage.1 Captives were transported in vessels that flew the colors of several nations, mainly Portugal, Britain, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. Ships departed from ports located in these countries or their overseas possessions, loaded slaves at one or more points along the coast of Africa, and then transported them to one or more ports in the Americas. They sailed along established trade routes shaped by political forces, commercial partnerships, and environmental factors, such as the winds and sea currents. The triangular system is no doubt the most famous route but in fact nearly half of all slaves were embarked on vessels that traveled directly between the Americas and Africa.2 Africans forced beneath the decks of slave vessels were captured in the continent’s interior through several means. Warfare was, perhaps, the commonest, yielding large numbers of captives for sale at a time. Other methods of enslavement included judicial proceedings, pawning, and kidnappings.3 Depending on the routes captives traveled and the ways they were captured, Africans could sometimes find themselves in the holds of ships with people who belonged to their same cultures, were from their same villages, or were even close relatives.4 None of this, however, attenuated the sufferings and appalling conditions under which they sailed. Slaves at sea were subjected to constant confinement, brutal violence, malnutrition, diseases, sexual violence, and many other abuses.5

Upon arrival in the Americas, Africans often found themselves in equally hostile environments. Slavery in the mining industry and on cash crop plantations, especially those that produced sugar and rice, significantly reduced Africans’ life expectancies and required owners to replenish their labor force through the slave trade.6 By contrast, slave systems centered on less intensive crops and the services industry, particularly in cities, ports, and towns, often offered enslaved Africans better chances of survival and even the possibility of achieving freedom through manumission by purchase, gift, or inheritance.7 These apparent advantages did not necessarily mean that life was any less harsh. Neither did the prospect of freedom significantly change slaves’ material lives. Few individuals managed to obtain manumission and those who did encountered many other barriers that prevented them from fully enjoying their lives as free citizens.8 In spite of those barriers, slaves challenged their status and conditions in many ways, ranging from “quiet” forms of resistance—slowdowns, breaking tools, and feigning illness at work—to bolder initiatives such as running away, plotting conspiracies, and launching rebellions.9 Although slavery provided little room for autonomy, Africans strove to maintain or replicate aspects of their cultures in the Americas. Whenever possible, they married people with their same backgrounds, named their children in their own languages, cooked foods using techniques, styles, and ingredients similar to those found in their motherlands, composed songs in the beats of their homelands, and worshipped ancestral spirits, deities, and gods in the same fashion as their forbears.10 At the same time, slave culture was subject to constant change, a process that over the long run enabled enslaved people to better navigate the dangerous world that slavery created.11

This overview may seem rather free of controversy, but it is in fact the result of years of debates, some still raging, and research conducted by generations of historians of slavery and the slave trade. Perhaps no other historical fields have been so productive and transformative over such a short period of time. Since the 1950s, scholars have developed and refined new methods, created new theoretical models, brought previously untapped sources to light, and posed new questions that shine bright new light on the experiences of enslaved people and their owners as well as the social, political, economic, and cultural worlds that they created in the diaspora. Although debates about Atlantic slavery and the slave trade go back to the era of abolition, historians began grappling in earnest with these issues in the aftermath of World War II. Early scholarship focused on the United States and tended to articulate views of slavery that reflected elite sources and perspectives.12 Inspired by the US civil rights movement, second-wave feminism, and wider global decolonization campaigns, the 1960s and 1970s witnessed the rise of approaches to the study of slavery rooted in new social history, which aimed to understand slaves as central historical actors rather than mere victims of exploitation.13 Around the same time, a group of scholars trained in statistical analysis sparked passionate debates about the extent to which quantitative assessments of slavery and slave trading effectively represented slaves’ lived experiences.14 To more vividly capture those experiences, some historians turned to new or underutilized tools, particularly biographies, family histories, and microhistories, which provided windows into local historical dynamics.15 The significance of the penetrating questions that these fruitful debates raised has been amplified in recent decades in response to the growing influence of transnational and Atlantic approaches to slavery. Atlantic frameworks have required the gathering and analysis of new data on slavery and the slave trade around the world, encouraging scholars from previously underrepresented regions to challenge Anglo-American dominance in the field. Finally, the digital turn in the 21st century has provided new models for developing historical projects on slavery and the slave trade and helped democratize access to once inaccessible sources.16 This article draws on this rich history of scholarship on slavery and the slave trade to illustrate major theoretical and interpretive shifts over time and raise questions about the future prospects for this dynamic field of study.

Models of Slavery and Resistance

While each country in the Americas has its own national historiography on slavery, from a 21st-century perspective, it is hard to overestimate the role that US-based scholars played in shaping the agenda of slavery studies. Analyses of American plantation records began around the turn of the 20th century. Early debates emerged in particular over the conditions of slavery in the American South and views of the relationship between slaves and owners. Setting the foundation for these debates in the early-20th century, Ulrich Bonnell Phillips offered an extraordinarily romanticized vision of life on the plantation.17 Steeped in open racism, his work compared slave plantations to benevolent schools that over time “civilized” enslaved peoples. Conditioned by the kinds of revisionist interpretations of Southern slavery that emerged in the era following Reconstruction, Phillips saw American slavery as a benign institution that persisted despite its economic inefficiency. His work trivialized the violence inherent in slave systems, a view some Americans were eager to accept and, given his standing among subsequent generations of slavery scholars, one that prevailed in the profession for half of a century.

Early challenges to this view had little immediate impact within academic circles. That primarily black intellectuals, working in or speaking to white-dominated academies, offered many of the most sophisticated objections helps explain the persistence of Phillips’ influence. In the face of looming institutional racism, several scholars offered bold and fresh interpretations that uprooted basic ideas about the slave system. Over his illustrious career, W. E. B. Du Bois highlighted the powerful structural impediments that restricted black lives and brought attention to the dynamic ways that African Americans confronted systematic exploitation. Eric Williams, a noted Trinidadian historian, took aim at the history of abolition, arguing that self-interest—rather than humanitarian concerns—led to the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire. Melville Herskovitz, a prominent white American anthropologist, turned his attention to the connections between African and African American culture.18 Though many of these works were marginalized at the time they were produced, this scholarship is rightfully credited with, among other things, shining light on the relationship between African and African American history. Turning their attention to Africa, scholars discovered a variety of cultural practices that, they argued, shaped the black experience under slavery and in its aftermath. Even those scholars who challenged or rejected this Africa-centered approach pushed enslaved people to the center of their analyses, representing a radical departure from previous studies.19

Similarly, works focused on the history of slavery and the slave trade in other regions of the Americas, especially those colonized by France, Spain, and Portugal, were often overlooked. The economies of many of these regions had historically depended on slave labor. The size of the captive populations of some of them rivaled that of the United States. Moreover, they had been involved in the slave trade for much longer and far more extensively than any other region of what became the United States. Researchers in Brazil, Cuba, and other countries often noticed these points.20 Some of them, like the Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre, received training in the United States and produced significant research. However, because they published mainly in Portuguese and Spanish, and translations were hard to come by, their work had little initial impact on Anglo-American scholarship. The few scholars who did realize the importance of this work used it to draw comparisons between the Anglophone and non-Anglophone worlds of slavery, highlighting differences in their patterns of colonization and emphasizing the distinctive roles that Catholicism and colonial legal regimes played in shaping slave systems across parts of the Americas. A greater incidence of miscegenation and slaves’ relative accessibility to freedom through manumission led some scholars to argue that slavery in the non-Anglophone New World was milder than in antebellum America or the British colonies.21

In the United States, the dominant narratives of American slavery continued to emphasize the absolute authority of slave owners. Even critics of Phillips, who emerged in larger numbers in the 1950s and vigorously challenged his conclusions, thought little of slaves’ abilities to effect meaningful change on plantations. Yet they did offer new interpretations of American slavery, as the metaphors scholars used in this decade to characterize the system attest. Far from Phillips’ training school, Kenneth Stampp argued that plantation slavery more appropriately resembled a prison in which enslaved people became completely dependent on their owners.22 Going even further, Stanley M. Elkins compared American slavery to a concentration camp.23 The experience of slavery was so traumatic that it stripped enslaved people of their identities and rendered them almost completely helpless. American slavery, in Elkins’ view, turned African Americans into infantilized “Sambos” whose minds and wills came to mirror those of their owners. While such studies drew much needed attention to the violence of plantation slavery, they all but closed the door on questions about slave agency and cultural production. Emphasizing slave autonomy ran the risk of minimizing the brutality of slave owners, and for those scholars trying to overturn Phillips’s vision of American slavery, that brutality was what defined the plantation enterprise.

It took the revolutionary spirit of the 1960s to move slavery studies in a significantly new direction. Driven by their hard-fought battles for political rights at home, African Americans and others whom the civil rights movement inspired added critical new voices and perspectives that required a rethinking of the American past. Scholars who emerged during this period largely rejected the overwhelming authority of the planter class and instead turned their attention to the activities of enslaved people. Slaves, they found, created spaces for themselves and exercised their autonomy on plantations in myriad ways. While they recognized the violence of the slave system, historians of this generation were more interested in assessing the development of black society and identifying resistance to plantation slavery. Far from the brainwashed prisoners of their owners, enslaved people were recast as producers of dynamic and enduring cultures. One key to this transformation was a more careful analysis of what occurred within slave quarters, where new research uncovered the existence of relatively stable—at least under the circumstances—family life. Another emphasized religion as a tool that slaves used to improve their conditions and forge new identities in the diaspora. The immediate post-civil rights period also saw scholars renew their interest in Africa, breathing new life into older debates about the origins and survival of cultural practices in the Americas.24

What much of the scholarship in this period shared was the idea that no matter how vicious the system, planter power was always incomplete. Recognizing that reality, slaves and their owners established a set of ground rules that granted slaves a degree of autonomy in an attempt to minimize resistance. Beyond mere brutality, slavery thus rested on unwritten but widely understood slave “rights”—Sundays off from plantation labor, the cultivation of private garden plots, participation in an independent slave economy—that both sides negotiated and frequently challenged. This view was central to Eugene Genovese’s magisterial book, Roll Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made, which employed the concept of paternalism to help make sense of 19th-century Southern slavery.25 Paternalist ideology provided owners with a theoretical justification for slavery’s continuation in the face of widespread criticism from Northern abolitionists. Unlike in the urban North, Southerners claimed, where free African Americans faced deplorable conditions and had little social support, slave owners claimed to take better care of their “black and white” families. Slaves also embraced paternalism, though toward a different end: doing so enabled them to use the idea of the “benevolent planter” to their own advantage and make claims for incremental improvements in slaves’ lives. Slavery, Genovese argued, was thus based on the mutual interdependence of owners and slaves.

The degree of intimacy between slaves and owners that paternalism implied spoke to another question that occupied scholars writing in the 1960s and 1970s: given the violence of the slave system, why had so few large-scale slave rebellions occurred? For Phillips and those whom he influenced, the benevolent nature of Southern slavery provided a sufficient explanation. But undeniable evidence of the violence of slavery required making sense of patterns—or the seeming lack—of slave resistance. Unlike on some Caribbean islands, where slaves far outnumbered free people and environmental and geographic factors tended to concentrate the location of plantations, conditions in the United States were less conducive to widespread rebellion. Yet slaves never passively accepted their captivity. The literature on resistance during this period deemphasized violent forms of rebellion, which occurred infrequently, and reoriented scholarship toward the variety of ways that enslaved people challenged the domination of slave owners over them. Having adjusted their lenses, historians found evidence of slave resistance seemingly everywhere. Enslaved people slowed the paces at which they worked, feigned illnesses, broke tools, and injured or let escape animals on plantations. Such “day-to-day” resistance did little to overturn slavery but it gave some control to captives over their work regimes. In some cases, slaves acted even more boldly, committing arson or poisoning those men and women responsible for upholding the system of bondage. Resistance also took the form of running away, a strategy that long preceded the famous Underground Railroad in North America and posed unique problems in territories with unsettled frontiers, unfriendly environmental terrain, and diverse indigenous populations into which fleeing captives could integrate.26

This shift in scholarship toward slave agency and resistance was anchored in the creative use of sources that had previously been unknown or underappreciated. Although they had long recognized the shortcomings of Phillips’s reliance on records from a limited number of large plantations, historians struggled to find better options, particularly those that shed light on the experiences and perspectives of enslaved people. Slave biographies provided one alternative. In the 1970s, John Blassingame gathered an exhaustive collection of runaway slave accounts to examine the life experiences of American slaves.27 Whether such biographies spoke to the majority of slaves or represented a few exceptional black men became the subject of considerable disagreement. Scholars who were less trusting of biographies turned to the large collection of interviews that the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration conducted with former slaves.28 Though far more numerous and representative of “typical” slave experiences, the WPA interviews had their own problems. Would former slaves have been comfortable speaking freely to primarily white interviewers about their lives in bondage? The question remains open. Equally pressing was the concern over the amount of time that had passed between the end of slavery and the period when the interviews were conducted. Indeed, some two-thirds of interviewees were octogenarians when federal employees recorded their stories. Despite such shortcomings, these sources and the new interpretations of slavery that they supported pushed scholarship in exciting new directions. Slaves could no longer be dismissed as passive victims of the plantation system. The new sources and approaches humanized them and reoriented scholarship toward the communities that slaves made.

Across the Atlantic, scholars of Africa began to grapple in earnest with questions about slavery, too. Early contributions to debates over the role of the institution in Africa and its impact on African societies came from historians and anthropologists. One strand of disagreement emerged over whether slavery existed there at all prior to the arrival of Europeans. This raised more fundamental questions about how to define slavery. The influential introduction to Suzanne Miers and Igor Kopytoff’s edited volume, Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives, took pains to distinguish African slavery from its American counterparts. It rooted slavery not in racial difference or the growth of plantation agriculture but rather in the context of Africa’s kin-based social organization. According to the coauthors, the institution’s primary function in Africa was to incorporate outsiders into new societies.29 So distinctive was this form of captivity that Miers and Kopytoff famously deployed scare quotes each time they used the word “slavery” in order to underscore its uniqueness.

Given their emphasis on incorporation, the process by which enslaved people over time became accepted insiders in the societies into which they were forcibly introduced, and their limited treatment of the economically productive roles that slaves played, Miers and Kopytoff came in for swift criticism on several fronts. Neo-Marxists were particularly dissatisfied. Claude Meillassoux, the prominent French scholar, responded with an alternative vision of slavery in Africa that highlighted the violence that was at the core of enslavement.30 That violence made slavery the very antithesis of kinship, which to many scholars invalidated Miers and Kopytoff’s interpretation. Meillassoux and others also pointed to the dynamic economic roles that slaves played in Africa.31 Studies in various local settings—in the Sokoto Caliphate, the Western Sudan, and elsewhere—made clear that slavery was a central part of how African societies organized productive labor.32 This reality led some scholars to articulate distinct slave, or African, modes of production that, they argued, better illuminated the role of slavery in the continent.33

In addition to these deep theoretical differences, one factor that contributed to the debates was the lack of historical sources that spoke to the changing nature of slavery in Africa. Documentary evidence describing slave societies is heavily concentrated in the 19th century, the period when Europe’s presence in Africa became more widespread and when colonialism and abolitionism colored Western views of Africans and their social institutions. To overcome source limitations, academics cast their nets widely, drawing on methodological innovations from anthropology and comparative linguistics, among other disciplines.34 Participant observation, through which Africanists immersed themselves in the communities they studied in order to understand local languages and cultures, proved particularly valuable.35 Yet the enthusiasm for this approach, which for many offered a more authentic path to access African cultures and voices, led some scholars to ignore or paper over its limitations.36 To what extent, for example, did oral sources or observations of social structures in the 20th century reveal historical realities from previous eras? Other historians projected back in time insights from the more numerous written sources from the 19th century, using them to consider slavery in earlier periods.37 Those who uncritically accepted evidence from such sources—whether non-written or written—came away with a timeless view of the African past, including as it related to slavery.38 It would take another decade, during which the field witnessed revolutionary changes to the collection and analysis of data, until scholars began to widely accept the fact that, as in the Americas, slavery differed across time and space.

The Cliometric Debates

Around the same time that some scholars in the Americas were pushing enslaved people to the center of slavery narratives, a separate group of academics trained in economics began steering the focus of studies of slavery and the slave trade in a different direction. While research on planter power and slave resistance allowed historians to infer broad patterns of transformation from a limited collection of local records, this new group of scholars turned this approach upside down. They proposed to assess the underlying forces that shaped slavery and the slave trade to better contextualize the individual experiences of enslaved people. This big-picture approach was rooted in the quantification of large amounts of data available in archival sources spread across multiple locations and led ultimately to the development of “cliometrics,” a radically new methodology in the field. Two works were particularly important to the establishment of this approach: Philip Curtin’s The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census and Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman’s Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery.39

Philip Curtin’s “census” provided the first quantitative assessment of the size, evolution, and distribution of the transatlantic slave trade between the 15th and 19th centuries. Previous estimates of the magnitude of the transatlantic trade claimed that it involved somewhere between fifteen and twenty million enslaved Africans—or in some cases many times that amount.40 However, upon careful examination, Curtin found that such estimates were “nothing but a vast inertia, as historians have copied over and over again the flimsy results of unsubstantial guesswork.”41 He thus set out to provide a new figure based on a close reading of secondary works that themselves had been based on extensive archival research. To assist in this endeavor, Curtin enlisted a technology that had only recently become available to researchers: the mainframe computer. He collected data on the number of slaves that ships of every nation involved in the traffic had embarked and disembarked, recorded these data on punch cards, and used the computer to organize the information into time series that allowed him to make projections for the periods and branches of the traffic for which data were scarce or altogether unavailable. Curtin’s findings posed profound challenges to the most basic assumptions about the transatlantic traffic. They revealed that the number of Africans forcibly transported to the Americas was substantially lower than what historians had previously assumed. Curtin also demonstrated that while the British were the most active slave traders during the second half of the 18th century, when the trade had reached its height, the Portuguese (and, after independence, Brazilians as well) carried far more enslaved people during the entire period of the transatlantic trade.42 Furthermore, while the United States boasted the largest slave population by the mid-19th century, it was a comparatively minor destination for vessels engaged in the trade: the region received less than 5 percent of all captive Africans transported across the Atlantic.43

Curtin’s assessment of the slave trade inspired researchers to flock to local archives and compile new statistical data on the number and carrying capacity of slaving vessels departing or entering particular ports or regions around the Atlantic basin. Building on Curtin’s solid foundation, these scholars produced dozens of studies on the volume of various branches of the transatlantic trade. Virtually every port that dispatched slaving vessels to Africa or at which enslaved Africans were disembarked in the Americas received scholarly attention. What emerged from this work was an increasingly clear picture of the volume and structure of the Atlantic slave trade at local, regional, and national levels, though the South Atlantic slave trade remained comparatively understudied.44 Historians of Africa also joined in these discussions, providing tentative assessments of slave exports from regions along the coast of West and West Central Africa.45 The deepening pool of data that such research generated enabled scholars to use quantitative methods to consider other aspects of the transatlantic trade. How did mortality rates differ on slave vessels from one national carrier to another?46 Which ports dispatched larger or smaller vessels and what implications did vessel size have for participation in the slave trade?47 Which types of European commodities were most highly sought after in exchange for African captives?48 As these questions imply, scholars had for the first time approached the slave trade as its own distinctive topic for research, which had revolutionary consequences for the future of the field.

Time on the Cross had an effect on slavery scholarship that was similar to—indeed, perhaps even greater than—that of Curtin’s, especially among scholars focused on the antebellum US South. Inspired by studies that challenged the view of plantation slavery as unprofitable, Fogel and Engerman, with the help of a team of researchers, set out to quantify nearly every aspect of that institution in the US South, from slaves’ average daily food consumption to the amount of cotton produced in the US South during the antebellum era.49 Consistent with the cliometricians’ approach, Fogel and Engerman listed ten findings that “contradicted many of the most important propositions in the traditional portrayal of the slave system.”50 Their most important—and controversial—conclusions were that slavery was a rational system of labor exploitation maintained by planters to maximize their own economic interests; that it was growing on the eve of the Civil War; and that owners were optimistic rather than pessimistic about the future of the slave system during the decade that preceded the war.51 Further, the authors noted that slave labor was productive. “On average,” the cliometricians argued, a slave was “harder-working and more efficient than his white counterpart.”52

While cliometrics made important contributions to the study of slavery and the slave trade, the quantitative approach came in for swift and passionate criticism. Curtin’s significantly lower estimates for the number of enslaved Africans shipped across the Atlantic were met with skepticism; some respondents even charged that his figures trivialized the horrors of the trade.53 Although praised for its revolutionary interpretation, which earned Fogel the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1993, Fogel and Engerman’s study of the economics of American slavery was almost immediately cast aside as deeply flawed and unworthy of serious scholarly attention. Critics pointed not only to carelessness in the authors’ data collection techniques but also to their mathematical errors, abusive assumptions, and insufficient contextualization of data.54 Fogel and Engerman, for example, characterized lynching as a “disciplinary tool.” After counting the number of whippings slaves received at one plantation, they concluded that masters there rarely used the punishment. They failed to note, however, the powerful effect that such abuse had on slaves and free people who merely watched or heard the horrible spectacle.55 More generally, and apart from these specific problems, critics offered a theoretical objection to the quantitative approach, which, they argued, conceived of history as an objective science, with strong persuasive appeal, but which silenced the voices of the individuals victimized by the history of slavery and the slave trade.

Nevertheless, the methodology found followers among historians studying the history of slavery in other parts of the Atlantic. B. W. Higman’s massive two-volume work, Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807–1834, remains an unparalleled quantitative analysis of slave communities on the islands under British control.56 Robert Louis Stein’s The French Sugar Business in the Eighteenth Century also makes substantial use of cliometrics and remains a valuable reference for students of slavery in Martinique and Saint Domingue (present-day Haiti).57 But outside of the United States, nowhere was cliometrics more popular than Brazil, where scholars of slavery, including Pedro Carvalho de Mello, Herbert Klein, Francisco Vidal Luna, Robert Slenes, and others, applied it to examine many of the same issues that their North American counterparts did: rates of profitability, demographic growth, and economic expansion of slave systems.58 Africanists also found value in the methodology and employed it as their sources allowed. Patrick Manning, for instance, used demographic modeling to examine the impact of the slave trade on African societies.59 Philip Curtin compiled quantitative archival sources to analyze the evolution of the economy of Senegambia in the era of the slave trade.60 Jan Hogendorn and Marion Johnson traced the circulation of cowries, the shell money of the slave trade, noting that “of all the goods from overseas exchanged for slaves, the shell money touched individuals most widely and often in their day-to-day activities.”61

In many ways, the gap between quantitative and social and cultural approaches to slavery and the slave trade that opened in the 1970s has continued to divide the field. Concerned that cliometrics sucked the dynamism out of interpretations of the slave community and reduced captives to figures on a spreadsheet, some scholars responded by deploying a variety of new tools to reclaim the humanity and individuality of enslaved actors. Microhistory, an approach that early modern Europeanists developed to recover peasant and other everyday people’s stories, offered one such opportunity.62 Biography provided another. By reducing its scale of observation and focusing on individuals, families, households, or other small-scale units of analysis, such research underscored the messiness of lived experiences and the creative and often unexpected ways that slaves fashioned worlds for themselves.63 But such approaches raised a separate set of questions: do biographical accounts reveal typical experiences? In an era when few slaves were literate and even fewer committed their stories to paper, any captives whose accounts survived—in full or in fragments, published or unpublished—were by definition exceptional. Moreover, given the clear overarching framework that decades of quantitative work on the slave trade had developed, one would be hard-pressed to ignore completely the cliometric turn. As two quantitatively minded scholars noted, “it is difficult to assess the significance or representativity of personal narratives or collective biographies, however detailed, without an understanding of the overall movements of slaves of which these individuals’ lives were a part.”64 While an emphasis on what might be described as the quantitative “big picture” is not by nature antagonistic toward social and cultural historians’ concerns with enslaved people’s lived experiences, the two approaches offer different visions of slavery’s past and often feel as if they sit on opposite ends of the analytical spectrum.

Women, Gender, and Slavery

In the roughly two and a half decades that followed the major interpretive shifts that Kenneth Stampp and Stanley Elkins introduced into scholarship on slavery, the field remained an almost exclusively male one. With rare exceptions, men continued to dominate the profession during this period; their work rarely probed with any degree of sophistication the experiences of women in plantation societies. While second-wave feminism inspired women to enter graduate programs in history in larger numbers beginning in the 1960s, it took time for published work on women’s history, at least as it related to slavery, to appear in earnest. Revealingly, it was not until 1985 that the Library of Congress created a unique catalog heading for “women slaves.” Yet in the three decades since then, women’s (and later gendered) histories of slavery have been published at an ever-increasing pace. Scholars in the 21st century would struggle to take seriously books written about slavery that fail to show an appreciation for the distinctive experiences of men and women in captivity or more generally across plantation societies.

Several forces worked against the production of studies on enslaved women. If sources detailing slaves’ lives are in general sparse, evidence on women slaves is particularly spotty. Deborah Gray White’s pioneering work, Aren’t I a Woman: Female Slaves in the Plantation South, the first book-length study of enslaved women, triumphantly pieced together fragments of information from Federal Writers’ Project interviews with scattered plantation records to breathe life into the historiography of black women. It revealed the powerful structures that served to constrain enslaved women’s lives in the 19th century United States. As White famously concluded: “Black in a white society, slave in a free society, women in a society ruled by men, female slaves had the least formal power and were perhaps the most vulnerable group of Antebellum Americans.”65 Yet publishers and academic peers did not immediately take seriously work focused on women slaves. White noted, for example, how colleagues in her department warned her that she would be unlikely to earn tenure writing about such a topic. This environment was hardly the type of nurturing one required for sustained research.66

Though it was an uphill struggle, an influential group of scholars gradually developed a framework for understanding slavery’s realities for women. Early work focused on the foundational tasks of recovering female voices and using them to challenge standard narratives of the plantation system. It made clear the complex and multifaceted roles of women captives—as mothers, wives, fieldworkers, and domestics—and in the process reshaped scholarly understanding of the dynamics of the plantation enterprise. Social relations within plantation households commanded particular attention. Some scholars emphasized bonds between black and white women whose lives, they argued, were conditioned by a shared and oppressive patriarchal culture. Catherine Clinton, for example, characterized white mistresses as “trapped” within plantation society. “Cotton was King, white men ruled, and both white women and slaves served the same master,” she argued.67 While she sympathized with the plight of plantation mistresses, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, another leading figure of American women’s history, offered a contrary view of gendered relations within Southern households, one that highlighted division. Far from sharing common interests with enslaved women, mistresses clearly benefitted from slavery’s continuation. Their status as white and elite took priority over the bonds of womanhood.68

The first sustained studies of women’s resistance to slavery also appeared in the 1980s. The historiographical pivot toward day-to-day resistance, which more effectively revealed the sophisticated ways that enslaved Africans and their descendants challenged their captivity, also opened a window of opportunity to view women as disruptors of the slave system in their own right. No longer dismissed as, at most, timid supporters of male-led revolts, women were in this period redefined as “natural rebels” who exploited white perceptions of female docility for their own benefit. Enslaved women, for example, were not generally chained onboard slave vessels, which gave them greater opportunities to organize revolts. Those few women who worked in privileged positions within plantation households took on responsibilities that gave them unique access to white families and exposed them to white vulnerabilities. Cooks could theoretically poison their owners, a threat that seemed all too real given the world of violence that underpinned the plantation. And while the coercive realities of slavery rooted every sexual relationship between white men and black women in violence, some scholars pointed to the possibility that women slaves who endured such abuse saw marginal improvements in their material circumstances or the prospects for their children.69

Within a decade of the publication of Deborah White’s book, scholarship began to shift away from analyses of women and toward investigations of the worlds that men and women made together under slavery. Scholars of Africa brought valuable insights into this issue, drawing on decades of careful research into local constructions of gender and, in particular, the gendered division of labor within Africa. Women, Africanists illustrated, performed many of the most important tasks in agricultural regimes across the continent.70 Some historians argued that it was their physical rather than biological roles that led slave owners in Africa to prefer and retain female captives, challenging earlier rigid emphases on women’s childbearing capacities.71 These polarized debates eventually gave way to local and more nuanced analyses that revealed the complex range of contributions that enslaved women made to African societies: Women had children that increased the sizes of households; they cultivated and marketed crops that fed and enriched kingdoms and other less centralized societies; they served as bodyguards to local elites; and they even bought, retained, and traded their own captives.72 If slavery in Africa was widespread, it was precisely because women had such wide-ranging productive and reproductive value.

These insights had wider implications for the study of the slave trade and the Atlantic World. African conceptions of gender conditioned the supply to Europeans of men and women captives along the coast, illustrating the close relationship between gender issues and economic concerns.73 Gendered identities that emerged in Africa were adapted and transformed in the Americas depending on demographic, economic, or cultural concerns.74 Whereas in low-density slave systems, African women and their descendants might follow work regimes that resembled those of their homelands, the gendered division of labor in large slave societies often more closely reflected European attitudes toward women and work.75 Grappling with such complex realities required historians to dig into local records across a staggering variety of geographic settings. It was in that context that scholars began to broaden their horizons and embrace an increasingly Atlantic orientation—a trend that mirrored broader changes in studies on slavery and the slave trade in the 1990s.76

The Atlanticization of Slavery Studies

It may seem redundant to identify a shift toward the Atlanticization of slavery studies. Enslaved Africans, after all, were brought to the Americas from across the Atlantic. How, then, could these studies be anything but Atlantic? The reality is that historians have generally looked at the institution through rather parochial eyes, as something limited by regional, national, or cultural boundaries. There were several early and noteworthy exceptions to this trend. Indeed, calls for studies to look at the societies surrounding the ocean as an integral unit of analysis date as far back as the late 1910s. Several scholars took up that call, the most notable perhaps being Fernand Braudel in his 1949 masterpiece, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II.77 However, in an increasingly polarized world, the idea faced significant resistance and obstacles. Following World War II, Atlanticization could be easily read as a stand-in for imperialism or westernization. It was only toward the end of the Cold War that historians were able to move past these ideological barriers and understand the value of looking at the Atlantic as “the scene of a vast interaction rather than merely the transfer of Europeans onto American shores,” an interaction that was the result of “a sudden and harsh encounter between two old worlds that transformed both and integrated them into a single New World.”78

This realization deeply shaped subsequent studies of the history of slavery and the slave trade, some of them reviving earlier debates about cultural continuity and change in the African diaspora. One of the most successful examples to focus on the influence of Africans in shaping slavery on both sides of the ocean is John Thornton’s Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World. In it, Thornton argues that slavery was the only form of “private, revenue-producing property recognized in African law.”79 Consequently, African political and economic elites had significant leverage over the institution, giving them some control over the transatlantic traffic. Thornton’s argument offered a new logic for African participation in the slave trade while also providing a new interpretation of African culture in Africa and the Americas. Although enslaved Africans came from several different regions and societies, Thornton stresses the similarities between their cultures and languages. Based on research on the traffic’s organization, he notes that slave ships rarely purchased captives in more than one port and that they normally sailed along very specific routes.80 Such an organization favored the transmission of some of the cultural practices enslaved Africans brought with them to the Americas. Nevertheless, Thornton points out, “slaves were not militant cultural nationalists who sought to preserve everything African but rather showed great flexibility in adapting and changing their culture.”81 His approach thus emphasized the systematic linkages that the transatlantic slave trade forged while leaving space for creolization within slave communities.

Another important contribution that emphasized cultural transformation was Ira Berlin’s Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America.82 Looking to identify the first generations of blacks who chartered their descendants’ fate in mainland North America, Berlin located them among a group he called “Atlantic creoles,” people who traced their beginnings to the earliest encounters between Europeans and Africans on the west coast of Africa, but who ultimately emerged from the world that Europe, Africa, and the Americas collectively created. Cosmopolitan by experience or circumstance, familiar with the commerce of the Atlantic, and fluent in its languages and cultures, these individuals laid down the foundations for black life in the New World.83 They arrived not as Africans desperate to replicate their culture, or flexible to adapt, but rather as profoundly changed individuals. Although they permeated most of the colonial societies of the Americas, Berlin claims that in mainland North America at least they were soon swept away by subsequent generations born under the expansion of large-scale commodity production, which ended the porous slave system of the early years of European and African settlement.84

Although these were important contributions, the Atlanticization of slavery studies opened many more avenues to understand the experiences of Africans and their descendants during the years of bondage. It allowed for comparisons between Africans’ trajectories with those of other players in the formation of the Atlantic world. Paul Gilroy’s well-known Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness is in a way a precursor, expressing “a desire to transcend both the structures of the nation state and the constraints of ethnicity and national particularity.”85 Jack P. Greene and Philip D. Morgan’s edited volume, Atlantic History: A Critical Appraisal, views a handful of European nations—Spain, Portugal, Britain, France, and the Netherlands—as creating this new world centered around the Atlantic, but it also places Africans as well as the indigenous populations of the Americas in comparative perspective.86 One immediate problem with this approach is that it conflates several hundreds of groups, nations, or peoples into a single category, “Africans,” a term that gained traction only as the slave trade expanded and, consequently, recognized by just a fraction of the people it intended to describe.

A more adequate approach, favored by the Atlantic framework of analysis, would focus on specific African regions or peoples. Here historians have made some progress, mainly in the form of edited volumes. Linda M. Heywood’s edited book, Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora, looks at how Kikongo and Mbundu speakers, often times grouped under designations such as Angola, Benguela, or Congo in places in the Americas as distant from one another as Havana, Montevideo, New Orleans, Recife, and Port au Prince, culturally shaped the African diaspora.87 Rebecca Shumway and Trevor R. Getz’s volume attempts a similar approach, centered on the societies of precolonial Ghana, mainly the Asante and Fante.88 Toyin Falola and Matt D. Childs’s book, by contrast, focuses on a single African people, the Yoruba.89 Not only were they a sizable group forced into the Atlantic, but they also left an indelible mark in several regions of the Americas. Interestingly, the Yoruba started calling themselves as such, that is, through their language name, only years after the transatlantic slave trade had ended, probably as a result of religious encounters leading up to the colonization of Nigeria.90 During the period of the slave trade, the Yoruba lived divided into a number of states like Oyo, Egba, Egbado, Ijebu, and Ijesa, located in Southwest Nigeria, and were called outside the region by different terms, such as Nagô in Bahia, Lucumí in Cuba, and Aku in Sierra Leone.91

Not only did the Atlantic approach contribute to the development of new historical frameworks and perspectives, it also encouraged historians to use traditional sources and methods in more creative and interesting ways. In Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation, Rebecca J. Scott and Jean Hébrard trace the paper trail that members of the Tinchant family left behind to reconstruct over multiple generations the saga of an African woman and her family from slavery to freedom.92 In addition to tracing individuals and families, historians have also paid greater attention to cultural practices embedded in traditions of agriculture, healing, and warfare, which were disseminated around the Atlantic during the period of the slave trade. Judith A. Carney, for example, looked at the African origins of rice cultivation in the Americas, connecting particular rice growing regions in Upper Guinea to their counterparts in places like South Carolina in the United States and Maranhão in Bazil; James H. Sweet examined the intellectual history of the Atlantic world by following the uses and appropriations of African healing practices from Dahomey to Bahia and Portugal; and Manuel Barcia explored the similarities and differences between warfare techniques employed by West African captives, especially from Oyo, in Bahia, and Cuba.93 Although urban history has a long tradition among historians, most studies have focused on cities and ports in Europe and the Americas.94 Historians, including Robin Law, Kristin Mann, Mariana Cândido, and Randy Sparks, however, are redressing that imbalance with studies focused on African ports—Ouidah, Lagos, Benguela, and Anomabu—that emerged or expanded during the slave trade era.95

Finally, although removed from the Atlantic, the very effort of looking at slavery and the slave trade from a broader perspective has influenced studies on these issues in other parts of the world or even within a global framework. Research on the intra-American slave trade has gained a renewed interest with publications like Greg O’Malley’s Final Passages: The Intercolonial Slave Trade of British America, 1619–1807.96 The same could be said of the slave trade in the Indian Ocean with works like Richard Allen’s European Slave Trading in the Indian Ocean, 1500–1850.97 One central debate that has recently been revived concerns the relationship between capitalism and slavery.98 Inspired by Eric Williams’s path-breaking work and, more recently, by Dale Tomich’s concept of “second slavery,” which highlights the creation of new zones of slavery in the United States and other parts of the continent during the 19th century, historians, including Sven Beckert, Edward Baptist, and Seth Rockman, are now enthusiastically assessing the connections between the expansion of slavery in that period and the formation of global financial markets and industrial economies in Europe and North America.99 Clearly, the scholarly potential occasioned by the Atlanticization of slavery studies is still unfolding and should not be underestimated.

Into the Digital Era

The digital revolution sparked a radical change across the historical profession that has had particularly important ramifications for the study of slavery and the slave trade. Despite the major theoretical, methodological, and interpretive differences that divided scholars throughout the 20th century, the means of scholarly communication and dissemination of research during that period remained virtually unchanged: books, journal articles, and very occasionally interviews, opinion pieces, and documentary films enabled scholars to explain their work to each other and, to a much lesser extent, a wider public. The emergence of the internet and its rapid infiltration of academic and everyday life has disrupted this landscape, opening new and once inconceivable opportunities to engage in open-ended inquiry unencumbered by publication deadlines, and to share the fruits of that labor with anyone who has access to the web. The digital turn has also inspired scholars to offer creative visual interpretations of the history of both slavery and the slave trade. Perhaps most importantly, the web has provided a site for the presentation and preservation of digitized archival sources that would previously have been accessible to only those people with the means to visit the repositories that hold them. While the consequences of the digital turn are being actively discussed and debated, it is clear that digital history is here to stay.

Digital projects focusing on slavery and the slave trade emerged in the 1990s and tended to be somewhat rudimentary in both their aims and scope, reflecting the limited capacity of the internet itself and, perhaps more appropriately, scholars’ limited comfort using it. These projects had as their main purpose the collection and presentation of primary sources—scanning and loading onto a web page images of captives, owners, slave ships, and forts that teachers or students had collected for pedagogical purposes. Among the first large-scale initiatives to bring together these scattered materials was Jerome Handler and Michael A. Tuite’s website, The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas.100 Created first as a portal to search through images that Handler had used in lectures, this website grew exponentially over time. From the roughly 200 images organized into ten categories with which the site first launched, it now provides access to 1,280 images arranged under eighteen topical headings. Other digital projects focused on the presentation of scanned archival documents. Libraries and historical societies used the web to advertise their holdings and entice interested viewers to further examine their collections. Many of these sites were free of charge, democratizing access to rare scholarly records—at least for those individuals who had access to the internet.

As the technology associated with digitization has improved, a number of organizations have dedicated vast resources to scaling up digital projects. Though its focus goes well beyond slavery and the slave trade, Google Books has been among the most prominent players in the field.101 Beginning in the early 2000s, Google quietly began scanning published volumes held in major academic libraries. By 2015, Google estimated that it had scanned 25 million books—nearly one-fifth of the total number of unique titles ever published. Though copyright laws limit full access to the collection, Google Books is nevertheless unparalleled in its scope and offers unrivaled access to published sources on slavery from the pre-copyright era. Other companies have taken more targeted approaches. The Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice portal, for example, offers access to original archival materials focused primarily, though not exclusively, on the Atlantic World that covers the period between 1490 and 2007. The project enables users to interface with scans of primary sources and use keyword searches to find relevant materials.102

As this implies, digitization initiatives have not been limited to the Western world, even if, at times controversially, Western institutions have funded the majority of them. Indeed, one of the enduring consequences of the Atlanticization of slavery scholarship has been the growing dialogue it helped generate between scholars living in or working on areas outside of the Anglo-American world. The British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme is one example: it has supported the digitization of entire archival collections in repositories situated in developing countries, where resources for preservation are extremely limited.103 Local archivists have become valuable collaborators; young students with interests in digital preservation have gained important training and exposure to scanning methods and technologies. Since the early 2000s, major digital initiatives have been launched or completed in places as wide-ranging as Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Saint Helena, with important implications for slavery scholarship.104 One such example is the Slave Societies Digital Archive, directed by Jane Landers and hosted at Vanderbuilt University, which preserves endangered ecclesiastical and secular documents related to Africans and people of African descent.105 Since 2007 or so, a truly global conversation about slavery and its long-term effects has been nurtured by more widespread access to relevant archival sources.

The growing sophistication of the internet and its users has transformed digital projects on slavery and the slave trade. Websites now go well beyond mere presentations of scanned primary sources. They tend to emphasize interactivity, encouraging site visitors to search through and manipulate data to generate new research insights. Some projects employ “crowdsourcing,” partnering with the public or soliciting data or assistance from site visitors to further a project’s reach. African Origins, for instance, provides to the public some 91,000 records of captives rescued from slave ships in the 19th century, including their indigenous African names.106 Historians, with the help of other researchers, particularly those people familiar with African languages, have been identifying to which languages these names belong and thereby tracing the inland, linguistic origins of thousands of slaves forced into the Atlantic during the 19th century.107 This has helped expand insights into slavery and the slave trade well beyond the limited confines of the ivory tower. Moreover, the internet has the added benefit of providing a space for individuals who are passionate about history but whose careers limit their abilities to publish books and articles to share their knowledge with a large pool of readers.

Few digital initiatives have done more for slavery scholarship than Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. The Voyages site is the product of decades of collaborative research into the transatlantic slave trade. Building on Curtin’s Census, it now provides access to information on nearly 36,000 unique slave voyages that operated between the 1510s and 1867. The site is made possible by the basic reality that, given the vast amount of money they laid out, owners and operators of slave vessels carefully documented many aspects of slaving excursions. Some of the details captured in written records lend themselves to coding and quantification: the names of captains and owners; the places to which slave ships went; the numbers of enslaved people loaded onto and forced off of slave ships; the ratios of males to females and adults to children among captives; and the prices paid for enslaved people. The vast amount of data to which the site provides free access has enabled scholars focused on virtually any aspect of the slave trade or slavery to benefit from and contribute to the Voyages project. Among its most important features is the site’s capacity to expand or revise its records based on contributions from users who uncover new or contradictory evidence.108

Based in part on the Voyages model—or, in some cases, as a critical response to it—since the 2000s, historical research has witnessed the creation and expansion of important digital projects about enslaved Africans and their descendants. Slave Biographies: Atlantic Database Network, a project spearheaded by Gwendolyn M. Hall and Walter Hawthorne from Michigan State University, offers an open access data repository of information on the identities of enslaved people in the Atlantic World.109Liberated Africans, developed by Henry Lovejoy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, brings together information about the lives of some 250,000 Africans rescued from slave ships between 1807 and 1896.110Final Passages, a project under development by Greg O’Malley and Alex Borucki at the University of California system, plans to provide a database of the intra-American slave trade to be deployed on the same platform as Slave Voyages.111 And what to say of Enslaved: People of the Historic Slave Trade, winner of a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation? The project seeks to bring such digital resources together by focusing on individuals who were enslaved, owned slaves, or participated in slave trading at any time between the beginning and the end of the transatlantic slave trade.112 It is no doubt the epitome in amassing and interconnecting historical data. Conversations about long-term institutional support for these sites and the data on which they are based—a central and underappreciated aspect of digital history—have also begun to take place in earnest. That they are happening at all is indicative of the revolutionary impact that the digital turn has had on the profession.

All in all, it is no easy task to synthesize decades of research on the history of Atlantic slavery and the slave trade. Although relatively new in comparison to more established fields of Western history, it has grown quickly, amassing a significant body of literature that incorporates some of the most sophisticated methodologies available. Historians have proven so adaptable in their approaches and uses of sources that it is nearly impossible to indicate the direction in which the field is moving. Moreover, in the wake of movements such as Black Lives Matter and Rhodes Must Fall, public interest has turned again to the complex and thorny issue of reparations. Consequently, historians have had an unprecedented opportunity to engage with the public on this question and related ones concerning how societies represent and memorialize the history of slavery. In 2013, Laurent Dubois noticed in an opinion piece in The New York Times that calls for reparations for slavery and the slave trade in the Caribbean offered an important opportunity to face the multiple ways in which the past continues to shape the present.113 In the following year, Ta-Nehisi Coates published a cover article in The Atlantic making a powerful case for reparations in the United States. According to him, “until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.”114 A leading advocate for public memorializing of slavery, Ana Lúcia Araújo, has recently published a book dedicated exclusively to the issue of reparations for slavery and the slave trade.115 While the most recent iteration of this debate draws on fresh materials and perspectives, Araújo notes that “since the eighteenth century, enslaved and freed individuals started conceptualizing the idea of reparations in correspondence, pamphlets, public speeches, slave narratives, and judicial claims, written in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.”116 That such issues continue to spark passionate debates and scholarship provides a strong indication of the enduring relevance of slavery’s past to the shaping of the present.


The authors would like to thank Alex Borucki, David Eltis, Greg O’Malley, and Nicholas Radburn for their comments on earlier versions of this article. All interpretations and conclusions reached here are, of course, the authors’ responsibility.

Further Reading

  • Allen, Richard Blair. European Slave Trading in the Indian Ocean, 1500–1850. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2014.
  • Araújo, Ana Lúcia. Reparations for Slavery and the Slave Trade: A Transnational and Comparative History. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.
  • Campbell, Gwyn, Suzanne Miers, and Joseph C. Miller, eds. Women and Slavery. 2 vols. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2007.
  • Cañizares-Esguerra, Jorge, Matt D. Childs, and James Sidbury, eds. The Black Urban Atlantic in the Age of the Slave Trade. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.
  • Cooper, Frederick. “The Problem of Slavery in African Studies.” Journal of African History 20, no. 1 (1979): 103–125.
  • Domingues da Silva, Daniel B. The Atlantic Slave Trade from West Central Africa, 1780–1867. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017.
  • Eltis, David. The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • Falola, Toyin, and Matt D. Childs, eds. The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004.
  • Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. London: Verso, 1993.
  • Green, Toby. The Rise of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Western Africa, 1300–1589. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
  • Lindsay, Lisa A., and John Wood Sweet, eds. Biography and the Black Atlantic. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.
  • Miers, Suzanne, and Igor Kopytoff, eds. Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1977.
  • Mintz, Sidney, and Richard Price. The Birth of African American Culture: An Anthropological Perspective (2nd ed.). Boston: Beacon Press, 1992.
  • Morgan, Jennifer L. Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.
  • Mustakeem, Sowande’ M. Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage. Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2016.
  • Nwokeji, G. Ugo. The Slave Trade and Culture in the Bight of Biafra: An African Society in the Atlantic World. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • O’Malley, Gregory E. Final Passages: The Intercolonial Slave Trade of British America, 1619–1807. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014.
  • Rediker, Marcus. The Slave Ship: A Human History. New York: Penguin, 2007.
  • Scott, Rebecca J., and Jean M. Hébrard. Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.
  • Scully, Pamela, and Diana Paton, eds. Gender and Slave Emancipation in the Atlantic World. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.
  • Shumway, Rebecca, and Trevor R. Getz. Slavery and Its Legacy in Ghana and the Diaspora. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.
  • Smallwood, Stephanie E. Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.
  • Stilwell, Sean. Slavery and Slaving in African History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  • Thornton, John K. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1800 (2nd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Wheat, David. Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570–1640. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016.


  • 1. David Eltis et al., “Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database,” 2008.

  • 2. Daniel B. Domingues da Silva, “Winds and Sea Currents of the Atlantic Slave Trade,” in The Rise and Demise of Slavery and the Slave Trade in the Atlantic World, ed. Philip Misevich and Kristin Mann (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2016), 152–167.

  • 3. Mariana P. Cândido, An African Slaving Port and the Atlantic World: Benguela and Its Hinterland (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013); Daniel B. Domingues da Silva, The Atlantic Slave Trade from West Central Africa, 1780–1867 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017); Walter Hawthorne, Planting Rice and Harvesting Slaves: Transformations along the Guinea-Bissau Coast, 1400–1900 (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003); Paul E. Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa, 2nd ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000); Kristin Mann, Slavery and the Birth of an African City: Lagos, 1760–1900 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007); G. Ugo Nwokeji, The Slave Trade and Culture in the Bight of Biafra: An African Society in the Atlantic World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Rebecca Shumway, The Fante and the Transatlantic Slave Trade (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2011); and Sean Stilwell, Slavery and Slaving in African History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

  • 4. John K. Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1800, 2nd ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998); and Olatunji Ojo, “The Slave Ship Manuelita and the Story of a Yoruba Community, 1833–1834,” Tempo 23, no. 2 (2017): 361–382.

  • 5. Stephanie E Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); Marcus Rediker, The Slave Ship: A Human History (New York: Penguin, 2007); and Sowande’ M. Mustakeem, Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage (Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2016).

  • 6. B. W. Higman, Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807–1834, 2 vols. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984); David Richardson, “Consuming Goods, Consuming People: Reflections on the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” in The Rise and Demise of Slavery and the Slave Trade in the Atlantic World, ed. Philip Misevich and Kristin Mann (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2016), 31–63; Michael Tadman, “The Demographic Cost of Sugar: Debates on Slave Societies and Natural Increase in the Americas,” American Historical Review 105, no. 5 (2000): 1534–1575; and J. R. Ward, British West Indian Slavery, 1750–1834: The Process of Amelioration (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).

  • 7. Camillia Cowling, Conceiving Freedom: Women of Color, Gender, and the Abolition of Slavery in Havana and Rio de Janeiro (Chapel Hill: University of Carolina Press, 2013); Kathleen J. Higgins, “Licentious Liberty” in a Brazilian Gold-Mining Region: Slavery, Gender, and Social Control in Eighteenth-Century Sabará, Minas Gerais (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999); and Rebecca J. Scott and Jean M. Hébrard, Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012).

  • 8. Cowling, Conceiving Freedom; Higgins, “Licentious Liberty” in a Brazilian Gold-Mining Region; and Scott and Hébrard, Freedom Papers.

  • 9. Michael Craton, Testing the Chains: Resistance to Slavery in the British West Indies (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982); João José Reis, Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia, trans. Arthur Brakel (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993); and Jason R. Young, Rituals of Resistance: African Atlantic Religion in Kongo and the Lowcountry South in the Era of Slavery (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2007).

  • 10. John Blassingame, The Slave Family in America, 7th ed. (Gettysburg, PA: National Historical Society, 1972); Judith Ann Carney, Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002); Emma Christopher, They Are We, Documentary (Icarus Films, 2013); Laurent Dubois, David K. Garner, and Mary Caton Lingold, “Musical Passage: A Voyage to 1688 Jamaica,” 2017; Walter Hawthorne, From Africa to Brazil: Culture, Identity, and an Atlantic Slave Trade, 1600–1830 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010); and Luis Nicolau Parés, The Formation of Candomblé: Vodun History and Ritual in Brazil, trans. Richard Vernon (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013).

  • 11. Alex Borucki, “From Shipmates to Soldiers: Emerging Black Identities in Montevideo, 1770–1850” (PhD diss., Emory University, 2011); Toby Green, The Rise of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Western Africa, 1300–1589 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Sidney Mintz and Richard Price, The Birth of African American Culture: An Anthropological Perspective, 2nd ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992); and David Wheat, Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570–1640 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

  • 12. The classic example is Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, American Negro Slavery: Survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro Labor as Determined by the Plantation Régime (New York: D. Appleton, 1918). For an outstanding historiographical overview of slavery scholarship in the United States, see Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619–1877 (New York: Hill & Wang, 1993).

  • 13. Kenneth M. Stampp, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South (New York: Knopf, 1956); Herbert Aptheker, American Negro Slave Revolts (New York: International Publishers, 1974); and Eugene D. Genovese, From Rebellion to Revolution: Afro-American Slave Revolts in the Making of the Modern World (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1979).

  • 14. Robert William Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman, Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery (Boston: Little Brown, 1974). For a broader reflection on the quantitative turn, see Robert William Fogel, The Slavery Debates, 1952–1990: A Retrospective (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003).

  • 15. John Blassingame, Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, Interviews, and Autobiographies (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977); Robert W. Harms, The Diligent: A Voyage through the Worlds of the Slave Trade (New York: Basic Books, 2002); and Lisa A. Lindsay and John Wood Sweet, eds., Biography and the Black Atlantic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013).

  • 16. Jorge Felipe, “Digital Resources for the Study of Global Slavery and the Slave Trade,” H-Slavery (blog), 2016.

  • 17. Phillips, American Negro Slavery.

  • 18. See, among his many other books, W. E. B. Du Bois, The Negro (New York: Holt, 1915); John Hope Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of American Negroes (New York: Knopf, 1947); E. Franklin Frazier, The Negro Family in the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939); Melville J. Herskovits, The Myth of the Negro Past (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1941); Eric Williams, Capitalism & Slavery (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1944); and Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro (Washington, DC: Associated Publishers, 1933).

  • 19. E. Franking Frazier and several other scholars feared that connecting African Americans to Africa would further ostracize African American families and limit their ability to integrate and gain full rights in American society.

  • 20. Gilberto Freyre, Casa Grande e Senzala: Formação da Família Brasileira sob o Regime de Economia Patriarcal, 10th ed. (Rio de Janeiro: José Olympio Editora, 1961); C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint Louverture and the San Domingo Revolution (New York: Dial Press, 1938); Manuel Moreno Fraginals, El Ingenio: El Complejo Económico-Social Cubano del Azúcar, 3 vols. (Havana: Comisión Nacional Cubana de la UNESCO, 1964); Fernando Ortiz, Los Negros Esclavos (Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1975); and Arthur Ramos, O Negro Brasileiro, 2nd ed. (São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1940); and Williams, Capitalism & Slavery.

  • 21. James, The Black Jacobins; Eugene Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (New York: Pantheon, 1972); and Frank Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen: The Negro in the Americas (New York: Knopf, 1946).

  • 22. Stampp, The Peculiar Institution.

  • 23. Stanley M. Elkins, Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959).

  • 24. John Blassingame, The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972); Herbert G. Gutman, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750–1925 (New York: Vintage, 1977); Peter H. Wood, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion (New York: Knopf, 1974). Literature on African American religion took off in the 1970s. Representative works include E. Franklin Frazier, The Negro Church in America (New York: Schocken, 1974); Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll; Milton C. Sernett, Black Religion and American Evangelicalism: White Protestants, Plantation Missions, and the Flowering of Negro Christianity, 1787–1865 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1975); and Gayraud S. Wilmore, Black Religion and Black Radicalism (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972).

  • 25. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll.

  • 26. Aptheker, American Negro Slave Revolts; Genovese, From Rebellion to Revolution; Jane Landers, “Spanish Sanctuary: Fugitives in Florida, 1687–1790,” Florida Historical Quarterly 62, no. 3 (1984): 296–313. Scholars of the Caribbean were around this time also grappling with questions about the scale and frequency of slave revolts. See, for example, Craton, Testing the Chains.

  • 27. Blassingame, The Slave Community.

  • 28. George Rawick, for example, edited a 41-volume set of WPA interviews, in George Rawick, ed., The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, 41 vols. (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1972). See also George Rawick, From Sundown to Sunup: The Making of the Black Community (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1972).

  • 29. Suzanne Miers and Igor Kopytoff, “African ‘Slavery’ as an Institution of Marginality,” in Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1977), 3–81.

  • 30. Claude Meillassoux, The Anthropology of Slavery: The Womb of Iron and Gold, trans. Alide Dasnois (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).

  • 31. Claude Meillassoux, ed., L’Esclavage en Afrique Précoloniale (Paris: François Maspero, 1975).

  • 32. Frederick Cooper, Plantation Slavery on the East Coast of Africa (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977); Martin A. Klein and Paul E. Lovejoy, “Slavery in West Africa,” in The Uncommon Market: Essays in the Economic History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, ed. Henry A. Gemery and Jan S. Hogendorn (New York: Academic Press, 1979), 181–212; Paul E. Lovejoy, “Slavery in the Sokoto Caliphate,” in The Ideology of Slavery in Africa, ed. Paul E. Lovejoy (Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE, 1981), 201–243; and Claude Meillassoux, “The Role of Slavery in the Economic and Social History of Sahelo-Sudanic Africa,” in Forced Migration: The Impact of the Export Slave Trade on African Societies, ed. Joseph E. Inikori, trans. R. J. Gavin (New York: Africana, 1982), 74–99.

  • 33. Frederick Cooper, “The Problem of Slavery in African Studies,” Journal of African History 20, no. 1 (1979): 103–125; Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, “Recherches sur un Mode de Production Africain,” La Pensée, no. 144 (1969): 3–20; Martin A. Klein, “The Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on the Societies of the Western Sudan,” Social Science History 14, no. 2 (1990): 231–253; and Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery.

  • 34. Some examples are available in John Edward Philips, ed., Writing African History (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2005).

  • 35. Sara Berry, Cocoa, Custom, and Socio-Economic Change in Rural Western Nigeria (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975); Philip D. Curtin, Economic Change in Precolonial Africa: Senegambia in the Era of the Slave Trade, 2 vols. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1975); and David Northrup, Trade without Rulers: Pre-Colonial Economic Development in South-Eastern Nigeria (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978).

  • 36. A candid reflection about this issue is available in Jan Vansina, “It Never Happened: Kinguri’s Exodus and Its Consequences,” History in Africa 25 (1998): 387–403.

  • 37. David Henige, “Truths Yet Unborn? Oral Tradition as a Casualty of Culture Contact,” Journal of African History 23, no. 3 (1982): 395–412; and Elizabeth Tonkin, “Investigating Oral Tradition,” Journal of African History 27, no. 2 (1986): 203–213.

  • 38. Adam Jones, “Some Reflections on the Oral Traditions of the Galinhas Country, Sierra Leone,” History in Africa 12 (1985): 151–165; and Donald R. Wright, “Uprooting Kunta Kinte: On the Perils of Relying on Encyclopedic Informants,” History in Africa 8 (1981): 205–217.

  • 39. Philip D. Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969); and Fogel and Engerman, Time on the Cross.

  • 40. Reginald Coupland, The British Anti-Slavery Movement (London: Cass, 1964), 21; Basil Davidson, Black Mother: The Years of the African Slave Trade (Boston: Little Brown, 1961), 89; David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1966), 9; Daniel Pratt Mannix and Malcolm Cowley, Black Cargoes: A History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1518–1865 (New York: Viking Press, 1962), 32 and 71; and Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen, 29–32.

  • 41. Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade, 11.

  • 42. Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade, 265–267.

  • 43. Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade, 87–88 and 247–249.

  • 44. Roger Anstey, The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition, 1760–1810 (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1975); David Eltis, Economic Growth and the Ending of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987); Herbert S. Klein, The Middle Passage: Comparative Studies in the Atlantic Slave Trade (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978); Robert Louis Stein, The French Slave Trade in the Eighteenth Century: An Old Regime Business (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1979); and Pierre Verger, Trade Relations between the Bight of Benin and Bahia from the 17th to the 19th Century (Ibadan, Nigeria: Ibadan University Press, 1976).

  • 45. Ivana Elbl, “The Volume of the Early Atlantic Slave Trade, 1450–1521,” Journal of African History 38, no. 1 (1997): 31–75; David Eltis, “Slave Departures from Africa, 1811–1867: An Annual Time Series,” African Economic History no. 15 (1986): 143–171; J. E. Inikori, “Measuring the Atlantic Slave Trade: An Assessment of Curtin and Anstey,” Journal of African History 17, no. 2 (1976): 197–223; Paul E. Lovejoy, “The Volume of the Atlantic Slave Trade: A Synthesis,” Journal of African History 23, no. 4 (1982): 473–502; Patrick Manning, Slavery and African Life: Occidental, Oriental, and African Slave Trades (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Joseph C. Miller, “The Numbers, Origins, and Destinations of Slaves in the Eighteenth-Century Angolan Slave Trade,” Social Science History 13, no. 4 (1989): 381–419; and David Richardson, “Slave Exports from West and West-Central Africa, 1700–1810: New Estimates of Volume and Distribution,” Journal of African History 30, no. 1 (1989): 1–22.

  • 46. Stephen D. Behrendt, “Crew Mortality in the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the Eighteenth Century,” Slavery and Abolition 18, no. 1 (1997): 49–71; Raymond L. Cohn and Richard A. Jense, “The Determinants of Slave Mortality Rates on the Middle Passage,” Explorations in Economic History 19, no. 3 (1982): 269–282; David Eltis, “Fluctuations in Mortality in the Last Half Century of the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” Social Science History 13, no. 3 (1989): 315–340; Stanley L. Engerman et al., “Transoceanic Mortality: The Slave Trade in Comparative Perspective,” William and Mary Quarterly 58, no. 1 (2001): 93–118; Herbert S. Klein, “The Trade in African Slaves to Rio de Janeiro, 1795–1811: Estimates of Mortality and Patterns of Voyages,” Journal of African History 10, no. 4 (1969): 533–549; and Joseph C. Miller, “Mortality in the Atlantic Slave Trade: Statistical Evidence on Causality,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 11, no. 3 (1981): 385–423.

  • 47. Roger Anstey and P. E. H Hair, eds., Liverpool, the African Slave Trade, and Abolition: Essays to Illustrate Current Knowledge and Research (Liverpool, UK: Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 1976); David Eltis and David Richardson, eds., Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010); Klein, The Middle Passage; and Robin Law and Silke Strickrodt, eds., Ports of the Slave Trade (Bights of Benin and Biafra): Papers from a Conference of the Centre of Commonwealth Studies, University of Stirling, June 1998 (Stirling, Scotland: Centre of Commonwealth Studies, University of Stirling, 1999).

  • 48. Richard Bean, “A Note on the Relative Importance of Slaves and Gold in West African Exports,” Journal of African History 15, no. 3 (1974): 351–356; José C. Curto, Enslaving Spirits: The Portuguese–Brazilian Alcohol Trade at Luanda and Its Hinterland, c.1550–1830 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004); David Eltis and Lawrence C. Jennings, “Trade between Western Africa and the Atlantic World in the Pre-Colonial Era,” American Historical Review 93, no. 4 (1988): 936–959; David Eltis, “Trade between Western Africa and the Atlantic World before 1870: Estimates of Trends in Value, Composition and Direction,” Research in Economic History 12 (1989): 197–239; David Eltis, “The Relative Importance of Slaves and Commodities in the Atlantic Trade of Seventeenth-Century Africa,” Journal of African History 35, no. 2 (1994): 237–249; Eltis and Jennings, “Trade between Western Africa and the Atlantic World in the Pre-Colonial Era”; George Metcalf, “A Microcosm of Why Africans Sold Slaves: Akan Consumption Patterns in the 1770s,” Journal of African History 28, no. 3 (1987): 377–394; Joseph C. Miller, “Imports at Luanda, Angola: 1785–1823,” in Figuring African Trade: Proceedings of the Symposium on the Quantification and Structure of the Import and Export and Long-Distance Trade of Africa in the Nineteenth Century, c.1800–1913 (St. Augustin, 3–6 January 1983), ed. Gerhard Liesegang, Helma Pasch, and Adam Jones (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1986), 162–244; and David Richardson, “West African Consumption Patterns and Their Influence on the Eighteenth Century English Slave Trade,” in The Uncommon Market: Essays in the Economic History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, ed. Henry A. Gemery and Jan S. Hogendorn (New York: Academic Press, 1979), 303–330.

  • 49. Alfred H. Conrad and John R. Meyer, “The Economics of Slavery in the Ante Bellum South,” Journal of Political Economy 66, no. 2 (April 1958): 95–130; and Yasukichi Yasuba, “The Profitability and Viability of Plantation Slavery in the United States,” Economic Studies Quarterly 12 (1961): 6067. See also Fogel, The Slavery Debates, 18–23.

  • 50. Fogel and Engerman, Time on the Cross, 4.

  • 51. Fogel and Engerman, Time on the Cross, 4–5.

  • 52. Fogel and Engerman, Time on the Cross, 5.

  • 53. David Henige, “Measuring the Immeasurable: The Atlantic Slave Trade, West African Population and the Pyrrhonian Critic,” Journal of African History 27, no. 2 (1986): 295–313; and Inikori, “Measuring the Atlantic Slave Trade.”

  • 54. Paul A. David et al., Reckoning with Slavery: Critical Essays in the Quantitative History of American Negro Slavery (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976); Thomas L. Haskell, “The True & Tragical History of ‘Time on the Cross,’” The New York Review of Books, October 2, 1975; and Herbert G. Gutman, Slavery and the Numbers Game: A Critique of “Time on the Cross” (Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1975).

  • 55. Fogel and Engerman, Time on the Cross, 144–148.

  • 56. Higman, Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807–1834.

  • 57. Robert Louis Stein, The French Sugar Business in the Eighteenth Century (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988).

  • 58. Manolo Florentino, Em Costas Negras: Uma História do Tráfico Atlântico de Escravos entre a África e o Rio de Janeiro, Séculos XVIII e XIX (São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 1997); Manolo Florentino and José Roberto Góes, A Paz das Senzalas: Famílias Escravas e Tráfico Atlântico, Rio de Janeiro, c.1790–c.1850 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Civilização Brasileira, 1997); Herbert S. Klein and Francisco Vidal Luna, Slavery and the Economy of São Paulo, 1750–1850 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003); Herbert S. Klein and Francisco Vidal Luna, Slavery in Brazil (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Pedro Carvalho de Mello, Slavery and the Economics of Labor in Brazilian Coffee Plantations, 1850–1888 (Santo André, Brazil : Strong Educacional, 2017); Robert Wayne Slenes, “The Demography and Economics of Brazilian Slavery, 1850-1888” (PhD diss., Stanford University, 1976); and Robert W. Slenes, Na Senzala, Uma Flor: Esperanças e Recordações Na Formação Da Família Escrava, Brasil Sudeste, Século XIX (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Editora Nova Fronteira, 1999).

  • 59. Manning, Slavery and African Life. See also his earlier work, Patrick Manning, Slavery, Colonialism and Economic Growth in Dahomey, 1640–1960 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

  • 60. Curtin, Economic Change.

  • 61. Jan S. Hogendorn and Marion Johnson, The Shell Money of the Slave Trade (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 2.

  • 62. Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983); Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller, trans. Anne Tedeschi and John Tedeschi (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980); and Giovanni Levi, Inheriting Power: The Story of an Exorcist, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988).

  • 63. In addition to the sources cited in note 15, see Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua, The Biography of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua: His Passage from Slavery to Freedom in Africa and America, ed. Robin Law and Paul E. Lovejoy (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2007); Sean M. Kelley, The Voyage of the Slave Ship Hare: A Journey into Captivity from Sierra Leone to South Carolina (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016); Kristin Mann, “The Illegal Slave Trade and One Yoruba Man’s Transatlantic Passages from Slavery to Freedom,” in The Rise and Demise of Slavery and the Slave Trade in the Atlantic World, ed. Philip Misevich and Kristin Mann (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2016), 220–246; Scott and Hébrard, Freedom Papers; and Randy J. Sparks, Africans in the Old South (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016).

  • 64. David Eltis and David Richardson, “The ‘Numbers Game’ and Routes to Slavery,” in Routes to Slavery: Direction, Ethnicity, and Mortality in the Atlantic Slave Trade, ed. David Eltis and David Richardson (New York: Routledge, 1997), 3.

  • 65. Deborah Gray White, Aren’t I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South (New York: Norton, 1985), 15.

  • 66. Deborah Gray White, “‘Matter Out of Place:’ Aren’t I a Woman? Black Female Scholars and the Academy,” Journal of African American History 92, no. 1 (2007): 5–12. See also the reflective contributions to this journal issue by other pioneers in the field of black women’s history. Jacqueline Jones’s Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow was published in the same year as White’s Aren’t I a Woman, though it had a broader scope and agenda. See Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work and the Family from Slavery to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 1985).

  • 67. Catherine Clinton, The Plantation Mistress: Woman’s World in the Old South (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982), 35.

  • 68. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988).

  • 69. The expression “natural rebels” comes from Hilary McD. Beckles, Natural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Black Women in Barbados (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1989). For a small but representative sample of women’s resistance to slavery in the Americas, see the many contributions in Stephanie M. H. Camp, Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004); and David Barry Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine, eds., More Than Chattel: Black Women and Slavery in the Americas (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996).

  • 70. Ester Boserup, Woman’s Role in Economic Development (London: Allen & Unwin, 1970); Leith Mullings, “Women and Economic Change in Africa,” in Women in Africa: Studies in Social and Economic Change, ed. Nancy J. Hafkin and Edna G. Bay (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1976), 239–264; G. Ugo Nwokeji, “African Conceptions of Gender and the Slave Traffic,” William and Mary Quarterly 58, no. 1 (2001): 47–68; and Claire C. Robertson and Martin A. Klein, “Women’s Importance in African Slave Systems,” in Women and Slavery in Africa, ed. Claire C. Robertson and Martin A. Klein (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983), 3–25.

  • 71. David Eltis and Stanley L. Engerman, “Was the Slave Trade Dominated by Men?,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 23, no. 2 (1992): 237–257; Herbert S. Klein, “African Women in the Atlantic Slave Trade,” in Women and Slavery in Africa, ed. Claire C. Robertson and Martin A. Klein (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983), 29–38; and Nwokeji, “African Conceptions of Gender.”

  • 72. The related bibliography is, of course, too vast to cite here, but see Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, “Women, Marriage, and Slavery in Sub-Saharan Africa in the Nineteenth Century,” in Women and Slavery: Africa, the Indian Ocean, and the Medieval North Atlantic, ed. Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers, and Joseph C. Miller, vol. 1, 2 vols. (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2007), 43–61; Claire C. Robertson and Marsha Robinson, “Re-Modeling Slavery as If Women Mattered,” in Women and Slavery: The Modern Atlantic, ed. Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers, and Joseph C. Miller, vol. 2, 2 vols. (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2008), 253–283; Joseph C. Miller, “Women as Slaves and Owners of Slaves: Experiences from Africa, the Indian Ocean World, and the Early Atlantic,” in Women and Slavery: Africa, the Indian Ocean, and the Medieval North Atlantic, ed. Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers, and Joseph C. Miller, vol. 1, 2 vols. (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2007), 1–39; and Joseph C. Miller, “Domiciled and Dominated: Slaving as a History of Women,” in Women and Slavery: The Modern Atlantic, ed. Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers, and Joseph C. Miller, vol. 2, 2 vols. (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2008), 284–310.

  • 73. Domingues da Silva, The Atlantic Slave Trade, 100–121; David Eltis, The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 85–113; Klein, “African Women”; and Nwokeji, “African Conceptions of Gender.”

  • 74. Jennifer L. Morgan, Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004); and Marietta Morrissey, Slave Women in the New World: Gender Stratification in the Caribbean (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1989).

  • 75. Kathleen M. Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); and Thayolia Glymph, Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

  • 76. Pamela Scully and Diana Paton, eds., Gender and Slave Emancipation in the Atlantic World (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005).

  • 77. Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, trans. Siân Reynolds (New York: Harper & Row, 1972).

  • 78. Donald William Meinig, The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986), i, 64–65. Quoted in Bernard Bailyn, Atlantic History: Concept and Contours (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 55–56.

  • 79. Thornton, Africa and Africans, 74.

  • 80. Thornton, Africa and Africans, 192–193.

  • 81. Thornton, Africa and Africans, 206.

  • 82. Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1998). Berlin later refined his argument in Ira Berlin, Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves (Cambridge, MA : Belknap Press, 2003).

  • 83. Berlin, Many Thousands Gone, 17.

  • 84. Berlin, Many Thousands Gone, 64–65.

  • 85. Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (London: Verso, 1993), 19.

  • 86. Jack P. Greene and Philip D. Morgan, eds., Atlantic History: A Critical Appraisal (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

  • 87. Linda M. Heywood, ed., Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

  • 88. Rebecca Shumway and Trevor R. Getz, Slavery and Its Legacy in Ghana and the Diaspora (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017).

  • 89. Toyin Falola and Matt D. Childs, eds., The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004).

  • 90. J. D. Y. Peel, Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000).

  • 91. Robin Law, “Ethnicity and the Slave Trade: ‘Lucumi’ and ‘Nago’ as Ethnonyms in West Africa,” History in Africa 24 (1997): 205–219; David Northrup, “Becoming African: Identity Formation among Liberated Slaves in Nineteenth-Century Sierra Leone,” Slavery and Abolition 27, no. 1 (2006): 1–21; and Robert Sydney Smith, Kingdoms of the Yoruba, 3rd ed. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988).

  • 92. Scott and Hébrard, Freedom Papers.

  • 93. Manuel Barcia, West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); Carney, Black Rice; and James H. Sweet, Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).

  • 94. See, for instance, Anstey and Hair, Liverpool, the African Slave Trade, and Abolition; Mariana L. R. Dantas, Black Townsmen: Urban Slavery and Freedom in the Eighteenth-Century Americas (New York: Macmillan, 2008); Mary C. Karasch, Slave Life in Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1850 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987); and Holger Weiss, ed., Ports of Globalisation, Places of Creolisation: Nordic Possessions in the Atlantic World during the Era of the Slave Trade (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2016).

  • 95. Cândido, An African Slaving Port; Robin Law, Ouidah: The Social History of a West African Slaving “Port”, 1727–1892 (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2004); Mann, Slavery and the Birth of an African City; Randy J. Sparks, Where the Negroes Are Masters: An African Port in the Era of the Slave Trade (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014). See also Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Matt D. Childs, and James Sidbury, eds., The Black Urban Atlantic in the Age of the Slave Trade (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013).

  • 96. Gregory E. O’Malley, Final Passages: The Intercolonial Slave Trade of British America, 1619–1807 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014).

  • 97. Richard Blair Allen, European Slave Trading in the Indian Ocean, 1500–1850 (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2014).

  • 98. Although not always acknowledged, these debates clearly started with Williams, Capitalism & Slavery.

  • 99. Edward E. Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 2014); Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (New York: Knopf, 2014); Dale W. Tomich, Through the Prism of Slavery: Labor, Capital, and World Economy (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004), 56–71. See also Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman, eds., Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016); and Dale W. Tomich, ed., Slavery and Historical Capitalism during the Nineteenth Century (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2017). An excellent review of the literature on this theme is available in Marc Parry, “Shackles and Dollars: Historians and Economists Clash over Slavery,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 8, 2016.

  • 100. Jerome S. Handler and Michael L. Tuite Jr., “The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record,” 2008.

  • 101. Google Books.”

  • 102. Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice: Digital Primary Sources” (Thousand Oaks, CA: Adam Matthew).

  • 103. Endangered Archives Programme” (London: British Library).

  • 104. “Endangered Archives Programme.”

  • 105. Jane G. Landers, “Slave Societies Digital Archive,” 2003.

  • 106. David Eltis and Philip Misevich, “African Origins: Portal to Africans Liberated from Transatlantic Slave Vessels,” 2009. Another related project is Henry Lovejoy, “Liberated Africans,” 2015.

  • 107. Richard Anderson et al., “Using African Names to Identify the Origins of Captives in the Transatlantic Slave Trade: Crowd-Sourcing and the Registers of Liberated Africans, 1808–1862,” History in Africa 40, no. 1 (2013): 165–191; Domingues da Silva, The Atlantic Slave Trade; David Eltis, “The Diaspora of Yoruba Speakers, 1650–1865: Dimensions and Implications,” in The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World, ed. Toyin Falola and Matt D. Childs (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), 17–39; Philip Misevich, “The Origins of Slaves Leaving the Upper Guinea Coast in the Nineteenth Century,” in Extending the Frontiers: Essays on the New Transatlantic Slave Trade Database, ed. David Eltis and David Richardson (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), 155–175; G. Ugo Nwokeji and David Eltis, “The Roots of the African Diaspora: Methodological Considerations in the Analysis of Names in the Liberated African Registers of Sierra Leone and Havana,” History in Africa 29 (2002): 365–379; and Ojo, “The Slave Ship Manuelita.”

  • 108. Eltis et al., “Voyages.”

  • 109. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall and Walter Hawthorne, “Slave Biographies: The Atlantic Database Network,” 2012.

  • 110. Lovejoy, “Liberated Africans.”

  • 111. This database will be launched on the same website as “Voyages.” A description of it as well as its scholarly potential is available in Gregory E. O’Malley and Alex Borucki, “Patterns in the Intercolonial Slave Trade across the Americas before the Nineteenth Century,” Tempo 23, no. 2 (2017): 314–338.

  • 112. Dean Rehberger and Walter Hawthorne, “Enslaved: People of the Historic Slave Trade,” 2018.

  • 113. Laurent Dubois, “Confronting the Legacies of Slavery,” New York Times, October 28, 2013, sec. Opinion.

  • 114. Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic, June 2014.

  • 115. Ana Lúcia Araújo, Reparations for Slavery and the Slave Trade: A Transnational and Comparative History (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017). Her previous publications include Ana Lúcia Araújo, Living History: Encountering the Memory of the Heirs of Slavery (Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Pub., 2009); Ana Lúcia Araújo, Public Memory of Slavery Victims and Perpetrators in the South Atlantic (Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2010); Ana Lúcia Araújo, ed., Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space (New York: Routledge, 2012); and Araújo, Public Memory of Slavery Victims and Perpetrators in the South Atlantic.

  • 116. Araújo, Reparations, 2.