Assessing the Slave Trade
This section of the Voyages website is organized around the three ways historians and researchers have used the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database to interpret the slave trade: essays, quantitative analysis, and maps. Interactive features of the “Estimates” sub-section enable users to raise their own questions about the full volume of the slave trade by year, national carrier, and routes of slaving expeditions, and obtain answers in the form of tables, a timeline, or maps.
Three essays offer an introduction to the Voyages website in the form of a broad interpretation and overview of the volume and structure of the trans-Atlantic slave trade from inception to suppression, an examination of seasonality in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and a study of an African liberated in Cuba from a slave ship captured by a British cruiser in 1826. Vignettes and research notes focus on more specialized topics. Other essays will be added as the website develops. The editorial board will consider for publication in the “Essays” section any text that uses databases on the website as a major source. Although the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database includes all slave voyages that have been documented up to now, it cannot claim to be complete. Records of many voyages have disappeared, in some cases irretrievably, while other documents remain to be discovered in public and private archives. The “Estimates,” on the other hand, provide an educated guess of how large the slave trade actually was. Altogether, the estimates are about 25 percent higher than unadjusted numbers in the main database. They raise the final totals to over 12,500,000 Africans forced to undertake the Middle Passage and around 10,700,000 who completed it, the largest forced migration in modern history. A third way of using the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database to interpret the slave trade is to represent statistics derived from it on historical maps. A project is now underway to create an atlas of the slave trade showing cartographically patterns and trends documented in the database. Yale University Press, the publisher of the atlas, and Mapping Specialists, Ltd., have given the Voyages website permission to preview 9 of over 200 maps that will make up the atlas. They depict the origins of the Atlantic slave trade, its development over time, how wind and ocean currents shaped its routes, and how it affected regions and ports in Africa and the Americas.
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