Extending the Frontiers


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Essays on the New Transatlantic Slave Trade Database

Edited by David Eltis and David Richardson

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Since 1999, intensive research efforts have vastly increased what is known about the history of coerced migration of transatlantic slaves. A huge database of slave trade voyages from Columbus’s era to the mid-nineteenth century is now available on an open-access Web site, incorporating newly discovered information from archives around the Atlantic world. The groundbreaking essays in this book draw on these new data to explore fundamental questions about the trade in African slaves. The research findings—that the size of the slave trade was 14 percent greater than had been estimated, that trade above and below the equator was largely separate, that ports sending out the most slave voyages were not in Europe but in Brazil, and more—challenge accepted understandings of transatlantic slavery and suggest a variety of new directions for important further research.


For the most complete database on slave trade voyages ever compiled, visit www.slavevoyages.org.

David Eltis is Robert W. Woodruff Professor of History, Emory University. He lives in Atlanta. David Richardson is director, Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, and professor of economic history, University of Hull, England. He lives in East Yorkshire.

“Based on historical information compiled and extensively analyzed over the last decade, these essays expand our understanding of the transatlantic slave trade as nothing has done in the last two generations.”—James Oliver Horton, co-author of Slavery and the Making of America

“Only in recent decades have we recognized the absolutely central and indispensable role of the transatlantic slave trade in creating the New World as we know it. And only since 1999 have historians acquired massive new data that wholly revises our understanding of that historical crime. Now David Eltis and David Richardson, the two leading experts on the subject, have provided the first crucial collection of essays interpreting and explaining the new findings.”—David Brion Davis, author of Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World 

"The greatest mystery in the history of the West, I believe, has always been the number of Africans who were enslaved and shipped to the New World. Who were these Africans? From whence did they hail? Where did they embark in Africa and disembark in the Americas? Five hundred years after that heinous trade commenced, this collection of essays, edited by David Eltis and David Richardson, has finally answered these questions. Together with the new slave trade database, this project has done more to reverse the Middle Passage than any other single act of scholarship possibly could. It is a scholarly miracle. Twelve and a half million slaves were lost; now, thanks to Eltis, Richardson and their contributors, they are found."—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University

"The complexity of all these chapters, liberally sprinkled with charts and graphs and rigorous logic, make clear both the enormous analytical power of the database and the great subtlety of method required to use its content responsibly to try to write history. . . . Editors Eltis and Richardson are clear on this vital distinction, and the studies in this book constitute an exemplory extension of the existing frontiers of knowledge and a solid base from which to advance them even further."—Joseph C. Miller, New West Indian Guide
ISBN: 9780300134360
Publication Date: October 7, 2008
400 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
17 b/w illus. + 2 maps
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