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date: 17 October 2019

Digital Resources: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. Please check back later for the full article.

The Slave Voyages website completed ten years of successful operation in 2018. Drawing on four decades of archival research on five continents, a revolution in computer processing costs, and the more recent explosive growth of the worldwide web, the site currently offers public access to several databases on slave trading in the Atlantic World. Most important of these are two: one of 36,000 slave trading voyages between Africa and the New World, and one of 11,400 voyages from one part of the Americas to another (a traffic known as the intra-American slave trade). The time span covered is from the 16th to the late 19th century. The site offers personal information on 92,000 Africans found on board some of those voyages, as well as a user interface that permits users to explore estimates of the overall size and direction of the transatlantic slave trade broken down by each of the 340 years of its existence. In sum, the site attempts to allow for voyages for which information has not survived. The site averages over 1,000 visitors per day who consult a mean of eight pages per visit. It was one of the first web-based databases to use crowdsourcing to correct existing information and attract new contributions to its core database. These are currently refreshed on an approximately annual basis, and earlier versions are made available to users on a download page. Slave Voyages has become the basic reference tool for anyone studying the transatlantic slave trade and is used widely by teachers, genealogists, and scientists, as well as historians and scholars of slavery and the slave trade.