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State Contractors and Global Brokers: The Itinerary of Two Lisbon Merchants and the Transatlantic Slave Trade during the Eighteenth Century

  • J. Bohorquez and Maximiliano Menz
Abstract

The Portuguese Empire was the stage for one of the largest movements of enslaved people during early modern times. Almost two millions enslaved humans were violently carried from Africa in Portuguese vessels in the eighteenth century alone. Yet, in contrast to British or French slave traders based in Europe, for which a vast literature is available, little is known about the Lisbon traders. This paper aims at filling this gap by paying attention to the trajectory of two Lisbon slave traders: Domingos Dias da Silva and José António Pereira. In recounting their biographies and their business in Africa, Brazil, and Asia, we draw attention to the active role Lisbon-based slave traders played in the financing, organisation, and carrying of slave traffic, as well as the different institutional conditions they confronted when profiting from the commerce in humans. Domingos Dias da Silva became a key state contractor in spite of his poor origins, while Pereira featured as a global broker, connecting different markets in four continents. These two agents and their diverse characteristics help shed light on the slave trade, the context in which it expanded, and on the people who conducted this infamous commerce.

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J. Bohorquez gained his PhD at the European University Institute. Currently, he is researcher at the Instituto de Ciências Sociais (ICS)-Universidade de Lisboa, and previously he was Weatherhead initiative on global history postdoctoral fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affaires (Harvard University). His research interests encompass global history and political economy in the Early Modern Age.

Maximiliano M. Menz is Professor of Early Modern History at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), his main interests are the economic history of the Portuguese Empire, specially the slave trade and its relations with the European finance.

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