Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

The Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on Africa: A Review of the Literature1

  • Paul E. Lovejoy (a1)

Recent revisions of estimates for the volume of the trans-Atlantic slave trade suggest that approximately 11,863,000 slaves were exported from Africa during the whole period of the Atlantic slave trade, which is a small upward revision of my 1982 synthesis and still well within the range projected by Curtin in 1969. More accurate studies of the French and British sectors indicate that some revision in the temporal and regional distribution of slave exports is required, especially for the eighteenth century. First, the Bight of Biafra was more important and its involvement in the trade began several decades earlier than previously thought. Secondly, the French and British were more active on the Loango coast than earlier statistics revealed. The southward shift of the trade now appears to have been more gradual and to have begun earlier than I argued in 1982. The greater precision in the regional breakdown of slave shipments is confirmed by new data on the ethnic origins of slaves. The analysis also allows a new assessment of the gender and age profile of the exported population. There was a trend toward greater proportions of males and children. In the seventeenth century, slavers purchased relatively balanced proportions of males and females, and children were under-represented. By the eighteenth century, west-central Africa was exporting twice as many males as females, while West Africa was far from attaining such ratios. In the nineteenth century, by contrast, slavers could achieve those ratios almost anywhere slaves were available for export, and in parts of west-central and south-eastern Africa the percentage of males reached unprecedented levels of 70 per cent or more. Furthermore, increasing numbers of slaves were children, and again west-central Africa led the way in this shift while West Africa lagged behind considerably.

This review of the literature on the demography of the slave trade provides a context to assess the revisionist interpretation of David Eltis, who has argued recently that the slave trade and its suppression were of minor importance in African history. It is shown that Eltis' economic arguments, based on an assessment of per capita income and the value of the export trade, are flawed. The demography of the trade involved an absolute loss of population and a large increase in the enslaved population that was retained in Africa. A rough comparison of slave populations in West Africa and the Americas indicates that the scale of slavery in Africa was extremely large.

Hide All

2 Lovejoy Paul E., Transformations in Slavery. A History of Slavery in Africa (Cambridge, 1983), 22.

3 Ibid. 275.

4 Eltis David, Economic Growth and the Ending of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (New York, 1987), 77.

5 Ibid. 225.

6 Also see his ‘Fluctuations in the age and sex ratios of slaves in the nineteenth-century transatlantic slave traffic’, Slavery and Abolition, vii, 3 (1986), 257–72; and ‘Nutritional trends in Africa and the Americas: heights of Africans, 1819–1839’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, xii (1982).

7 According to Eltis (Economic Growth, 15), ‘There can…be no doubt that the slave trade was of critical economic importance to the nineteenth-century Atlantic basin as long as it lasted. The only part of the basin where this was not the case was Africa…’.

8 Eltis David and Jennings Lawrence C., ‘Trade between Western Africa and the Atlantic world in the pre-Colonial era’, American Hist. Review, xliii, 4 (1988), 936–59.

9 Eltis, Economic Growth, 72.

10 Eltis and Jennings, ‘Western Africa and the Atlantic world’, 958.

11 Eltis, Economic Growth, 74.

12 Ibid. 183.

13 Curtin Philip D., The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (Madison, Wisconsin, 1969), 268.

14 For a summary of the debate, see Lovejoy Paul E., ‘The volume of the Atlantic slave trade: a synthesis’, J. Afr. Hist., xxiii, 4 (1982), 473501; and Transformations in Slavery.

15 Henige David, ‘Measuring the immeasurable: the Atlantic slave trade, West African population and the Pyrrhonian critic’, J. Afr. Hist., xxvii, 2 (1986), 295313.

16 Curtin undertook one such regional analysis; see his Economic Change in Precolonial Africa: Senegambia in the Era of the Slave Trade (Madison, Wisconsin, 1975). His interpretation has been challenged; see especially Becker Charles, ‘La Sénégambie à l'époque de la traite des esclaves. A propos d'un ouvrage récent de Philip D. Curtin’, Revue française d'histoire d'outremer, lxiv (1977), 203–44. For a general survey of the regional studies, see Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery.

17 Vol. 1, Nantes (Paris, 1978, Daget S., ed.); Vol. 11, Ports autres que Nantes (Paris, 1984, S. and Daget M., eds.). Serge Daget has also completed an inventory of the illegal trade of the nineteenth century; see Répertoire des Expéditions négrières françaises à la traite illégale (1814–1850) (Nantes, 1988), but I have not attempted to analyse the data therein. Instead, I am relying on Eltis's research, which is based on different data.

18 Richardson David, ‘Slave exports from west and west-central Africa, 1700–1810: new estimates of volume and distribution’, J. Afr. Hist., xxx, 1 (1989), 122; Becker Charles, ‘Note sur les chiffres de la traite atlantique française au XVIIe siècle’, Cahiers d'études africaines, xxvi (1986), 633–79.

19 Richardson David, ‘The eighteenth-century British slave trade: new estimates of its volume and distribution’, Research in Economic History, xii (1988); and Richardson, ‘Slave exports’.

20 Curto José C., ‘Recounting the numbers: the legal Angolan slave trade, 1710–1830’, unpublished. I wish to thank José Curto for showing me his unpublished work.

21 ‘Slave exports’, 2.

22 See, for example, Elbl Ivana C., ‘The Portuguese trade with West Africa, 1440–1521’ (Ph.D. thesis, University of Toronto, 1986). According to Elbl's interpretation, some upward revision is called for.

23 This is why I did not use the Nantes volume in my 1982 synthesis.

24 ‘La traite atlantique française’, 633–79, and personal communication.

25 The gaps include at least 3,848 slaves on twenty-two ships not reported in the Mettas inventory, and another twenty-six ships whose cargoes are unknown. For Senegambla alone, Becker has information on other vessels that are also not included in the Mettas data. In addition, Becker refers to documents that conflict with the Mettas materials for certain periods. In a registry of slaves introduced into the Americas between 1728 and 1740, for example, 203,522 slaves arrived on 723 ships. The Mettas material records only 132,851 slaves on 418 vessels. These discrepancies alone account for an additional 82,000 slaves. Other documents reveal similar discrepancies. All figures are lower than the Mettas data; see Becker, ‘Traite atlantique française’, 665–8. A figure of 1,082,000 is certainly the lower limit for the period of the Mettas data (1707–93). When estimates for the period before 1707 and after 1793 are included, an adjusted estimate for Becker's figure would be at least 1,126,000 and easily 1,150,000. Becker's projection of 1·5 million for the French trade as a whole, including 160,000 slaves shipped to the Mascarene islands, represents a further increase of 15 per cent. Whether or not he is correct in this projection remains to be proven.

26 Richardson, ‘Slave exports’, 10, 14. The similarity between Richardson's and Becker's calculations of the Mettas data cannot be explained. Becker included the Mascarene trade; Richardson states that he did not. Nonetheless, both reached virtually identical totals based on the same number of ships. A more thorough comparison of their methodologies might resolve the difference.

27 Richardson (‘Slave exports’) correctly observes that my earlier estimate of the French trade to the Americas wrongly included the Mascarene trade. I relied on Stein Robert, The French Slave Trade in the Eighteenth Century: An Old Regime Business (Madison, Wisconsin, 1979); and Stein, ‘Measuring the French slave trade, 1713–1792/3’, J. Afr. Hist., xix, 4 (1978), 515–21. Richardson incorrectly assesses my error at 125,000, not 160,000; see Filliot J.-M., La Traite des esclaves vers les Mascareignes au XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1974), 4551.

28 Richardson, ‘Slave exports’, 34. For the earlier research, see Lovejoy, ‘Volume of the Atlantic slave trade’, 473501 and the citations therein, especially Anstey Roger, The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition, 1760–1810 (London, 1975); Anstey, ‘The volume and profitability of the British slave trade, 1761–1807’, in Engerman Stanley and Genovese Eugene (eds.), Race and Slavery in the Western Hemisphere: Quantitative Studies (Princeton, 1975); Inikori J. E., ‘Measuring the Atlantic slave trade: an assessment of Curtin and Anstey’, J. Afr. Hist., xvii, 2 (1976), 197223; Curtin Philip D., ‘Measuring the Atlantic slave trade once again’, J. Afr. Hist., xvii, 4 (1976), 595605; Anstey, ‘The British slave trade 1751–1807; a comment’, J. Afr. Hist., xvii, 4 (1976), 606–7; and Drescher Seymour, Econocide: British Slavery in the Era of Abolition (Pittsburgh, 1977), 205–13.

29 Richardson criticizes my synthesis for failing ‘to examine critically the basic sources of information used by the various protagonists in the debate over the volume of the British slave trade’ (‘British slave trade’). Richardson is correct, but after reviewing the various calculations, I accepted the arguments of Anstey and Drescher; Lovejoy, ‘Volume of the Atlantic slave trade’, 486–7.

30 Richardson, ‘British slave trade’. It should be noted that Richardson has located new data on the annual volume of shipping, the number of slaves delivered per vessel in the Americas, and the mortality of slaves in the Atlantic crossing, but no new data on the average number of slaves loaded on British ships in Africa.

31 Richardson's estimates for the British trade vary. In ‘British slave trade’, he estimates the trade from 1700 to 1807 at 3,039,050 (I have subtracted his estimate for 1699 from his total, with an allowance for mortality of 20 per cent). In ‘Slave exports’, he rounds his figures to the nearest thousand and adds in additional figures for slaves shipped via Madeira, which affect his estimates for the period 1710–29, an upward revision of 81,000.

32 The few foreign ships that somehow crept into British statistics and those ships that did not carry slaves affect Richardson's estimate and should be eliminated from the analysis, while most ships that failed to complete their voyages still carried slaves and hence should be included in an assessment of volume.

33 Richardson, ‘British slave trade’.

34 Richardson, ‘Slave exports’, 79, and full citations therein, but see Coughtry Jay, The Notorious Triangle: Rhode Island and the African Slave Trade (Philadelphia, 1981) and Klein Herbert S., ‘The Cuban slave trade in a period of transition, 1790–1843’, Revue française d'histoire d'outre-mer, lxii (1975), 72–5.

35 Anstey Roger, ‘The volume of the North American slave-carrying trade from Africa, 1761–1810’, Revue française d‘histoire d'outre-mer, lxii (1975), 65.

36 As indeed may have been the case.

37 ‘Angolan slave trade’.

38 In a personal communication, Curto has indicated that his data may warrant a revision that might be a few thousand higher still.

39 Eltis, Economic Growth, 241–54.

40 Richardson's analysis suggests an upward revision of 437,000.

41 If Richardson's estimates are used, then the new total would be in the order of 11,911,000.

42 Compare with Lovejoy, ‘Volume of the Atlantic slave trade’, 496.

43 Joseph Miller's analysis of the export trade from west-central Africa suggests that there may be less missing data than some scholars might like to think, at least for the crucial eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Portuguese records are particularly rich; the other countries were involved in an ‘illegal’ trade from the Portuguese perspective, but their shipments show up in their national records, especially as reflected in import series and shipping records. The regional distribution of slave exports within west-central Africa requires adjustment, but not the overall level of exports; see ‘The origins and destinations of slaves in the eighteenth-century Angolan slave trade’ (unpublished). I wish to thank Miller for letting me read this important contribution.

44 Richardson, ‘Slave exports’.

45 Richardson, ‘British slave trade’; ‘Slave exports’, Tables 6 and 7.

46 See Northrup David, Trade Without Rulers: Pre-Colonial Economic Development in South-Eastern Nigeria (Oxford, 1978); Ekejiuba F. I., ‘The Aro trade system in the nineteenth century’, Ikenga, 1, 1 (1972), 1126; and Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery, 82–3, 99100.

47 Richardson, ‘Slave exports’. Joseph C. Miller demonstrates that slaves from west-central Africa, whether exported from Loango, Luanda or Benguela, came from interior regions that overlapped considerably (Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730–1830 (Madison, Wisconsin, 1988), 140244); see also Miller, ‘Origins and destinations of slaves’.

48 Richardson, ‘Slave exports’, 1718.

49 Manning Patrick, ‘The slave trade in the Bight of Benin, 1640–1890‘, in Gemery H. A. and Hogendorn J. S. (eds.), The Uncommon Market: Essays in the Economic History of the Atlantic Slave Trade (New York, 1979), 141; Johannes Postma did not break down the Dutch figures sufficiently to resolve this question; see ‘The origin of African slaves: the Dutch activities on the Guinea Coast, 1675–1795’, in Engerman and Genovese, Race and Slavery, 49; and ‘The Dutch slave trade: a quantitative assessment’, Revue française d'histoire d'outre-mer, lxii (1975), 237. Manning believes that the Dutch tended to buy gold at their forts on the Gold Coast and slaves further east.

50 See, especially, Debien Gabriel, Les Esclaves aux Antilles françaises (XVIIe–XVIIIe siècles) (Basse-Terre and Fort-de-France, 1974).

51 Geggus David, ‘Sex ratio, age and ethnicity in the Atlantic slave trade: data from French shipping and plantation records’, J. Afr. Hist., xxx, 1 (1989), 2344.

52 Higman B. W., Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807–1834 (Baltimore, 1984), 126133, 442458; and Karasch Mary C., Slave Life in Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1850 (Princeton, 1987), 828, 371–83.

53 Curtin Philip D. and Vansina Jan, ‘Sources of the nineteenth century Atlantic slave trade’, J. Afr. Hist., v, 2 (1964), 185208; Chilver E. M., Kaberry P. M. and Cornevin R., ‘Sources of the nineteenth century slave trade: two comments’, J. Afr. Hist., vi, 2 (1965), 117120; Curtin, Atlantic Slave Trade, 244–57; 289–98; Northrup, Trade Without Rulers, 60–1; 231–3. Also see Koelle S. W., Polyglotta Africa (London, 1854; reprinted with new introduction by P. E. H. Hair, Graz, Austria, 1963).

54 Geggus' sample can be compared with the smaller sample collected by Arlette Gautier, who has tabulated the ethnic origins of 1,812 slaves in southern St Domingue between 1721 and 1770. Her data are from the Archives de Nippes, which Geggus appears not to have used. Gautier also confirms the six principal ethnic categories, which comprised 78·3 per cent of her sample; see Gautier Arlette, ‘Les origines ethniques des esclaves de Saint-Domingue d'après les sources notariales’, Canadian J. Afr. Studies, xxiii, i (1989). If Gautier's and Geggus’ samples are combined, some of my conclusions would require adjustment, but the relative importance of the various ethnic categories would not change. The data complied for Guadeloupe would alter these percentages further; see Frisch Nicole, ‘Les esclaves de la Guadeloupe à la fin de l'ancien régime d'après les sources notariales (1779–1789)Bulletin de la Société d'histoire de la Guadeloupe, lxiii/lxiv (1985).

55 In many of the sources that identify the ethnicity of exported slaves, there is a category ‘Chamba’, ‘Thiamba’, etc. The correct identification is with the related Gurma languages, not with Chamba, an important ethnic group in the Benue River Valley.

56 Karasch, Slave Life in Rio, 828, 371–83.

57 Ibid., 10–20.

58 The data on ethnicity in early nineteenth-century Bahia reveal a very different pattern, which reflects the close ties between Bahia and the Bight of Benin. According to João José Reis, a very large proportion of identifiable ethnic groups between 1819 and 1836 were from West Africa. In one sample of 1,161 manumissions (1819–36), 76·2 per cent of individuals came from the Bight of Benin, and among the urban slave population of Salvador (sample: 1,480 slaves) between 1820 and 1835, 64·6 per cent of slaves came from the Bight of Benin. In contrast to Rio de Janeiro, far fewer slaves came from west-central Africa (13·4 per cent in the first sample and 24·1 per cent in the second sample). ‘Mina’ might refer to Akan and/or Ewe-Fon in this sample. It should be noted that the number of Hausa, Borno and Nupe slaves was a significant proportion of the total (15·5 per cent in the first sample and 13·9 per cent of the second sample), which reflects the importance of the Sokoto jihad as a supplier of slaves, especially since some Yoruba slaves would also have been a product of the jihad. Reis provides an excellent analysis of revolts in Bahia in this period, particularly with reference to Islam and Yoruba orisha; see Reis João José, ‘Slave rebellion in Brazil: the African Muslim uprising in Bahia, 1835’, (Ph.D. thesis, University of Minnesota, 1983).

59 Manning Patrick, Slavery, Colonialism and Economic Growth in Dahomey, 1640–1960 (Cambridge, 1982), 335–9. According to Manning, total slave exports from 1720 to 1800 were 799,300 slaves, of which 576,000 were Gbe (Aja), 124,300 Yoruba, 81,600 Voltaic, 7,900 Nupe, and 10,500 Hausa. These estimates were based on a combination of several New World slave inventories, including some from Brazil, which may explain the differences in the percentages.

60 Higman, Slave Populations, 129, 131–3.

61 Curtin, Atlantic Slave Trade, 244–57, 289–98. Also see Northrup, Trade without Rulers, 60–2, 231.

62 Higman, Slave Populations, 126–33; 442–57.

63 Geggus, ‘French shipping and plantation records’.

64 Eltis David, ‘Fluctuations in the age and sex ratios of slaves in the nineteenth-century transatlantic slave traffic’, Slavery and Abolition, vii, 3 (1986), 257–72; Eltis, Economic Growth, 6970, 255–9; Miller, Way of Death, 346–9, 387–8.

65 Geggus, ‘French shipping and plantation records‘, 24, Table I, but strangely not including Eltis, ‘Age and sex ratios’.

66 Geggus, ‘French shipping and plantation records’, 26.

67 Eltis, ‘Age and sex ratios’, 267–9.

68 Ibid., 259. It should be noted that Geggus (‘French shipping and plantation records’, 26) overstates his case in claiming that ‘in no trade from Africa did the known proportion of males exceed, or even equal, 70 per cent’.

69 Geggus, ‘French shipping and plantation records’. These conclusions are based on Geggus' analysis of French shipping records for all regions and French, British and Dutch records for the Bight of Biafra.

70 Ibid. Geggus includes British, Dutch and French samples for his calculation. The French sample alone was even lower: 53·9 per cent male.

72 Postma Johannes, ‘Mortality in the Dutch slave trade, 1675–1795’, in Gemery and Hogendorn, Uncommon Market, 257. Earlier statistics on the Dutch trade reveal only a slight difference in sex ratios between West Africa and west-central Africa. In Dutch shipments between 1637 and 1645, West Africa exported 1,791 males in a total trade of 3,086, or 58·0 per cent male, while west-central Africa exported 1,286 males in a total trade of 2,064, or 63·3 per cent. It is worth noting, moreover, that the West African ratio was lower than the pattern for the eighteenth century, when the ratio was 61·2 per cent, at least in the French trade. The west-central Africa ratio may have been on the rise and was already above the eighteenth-century ratio for West Africa. Statistics from the Portuguese trade, if available, should clarify the situation. For the 1637–45 period, see van den Boogaart Ernst and Emmer Pieter C., ‘The Dutch participation in the Atlantic slave trade, 1596–1650’, in Gemery and Hogendorn, Uncommon Market, 366.

73 Geggus, ‘French shipping and plantation records’.

74 Eltis, ‘Age and sex ratios’, 257, 259.

75 Geggus, ‘French shipping and plantation records’.

76 In the nineteenth century, the ratio was 195:100, based on a sample of 24,502; see Geggus, ‘French shipping and plantation records’. Eltis (‘Age and sex ratios’, 259) reports a similar ratio for the period 1811–67: 65–7 per cent.

77 Eltis, ‘Age and sex ratios’, 259.

78 Manning Patrick, ‘The impact of slave trade exports on the population of the western coast of Africa, 1700–1850’, in Daget S. (ed.), Actes du collogue sur la traite des noirs (Paris/Nantes, 1988). See also Manning, Slavery and African Life (Cambridge, forthcoming). I wish to thank Manning for showing me this important study.

79 Geggus, ‘French shipping and plantation records’. I have not included the Cuban sample, 1790–1829, in this calculation.

81 According to Miller (Way of Death, 159, 346–8, 387–9), one of the reasons west-central Africa led the way in the shift toward more children related to attempts at ‘tight packing’ as a result of Portuguese regulations on shipping slaves. Also see Eltis, ‘Sex and age ratios’, 262, for a graphic portrayal of the nineteenth-century trend.

82 Geggus, ‘French shipping and plantation records’, Table 1.

83 Eltis, ‘Age and sex ratios’, 259.

84 Ibid. 259.

85 Ibid. 259. Geggus, ‘French shipping and plantation records’, has virtually the same ratio for the Bight of Biafra as Eltis.

86 Manning argues that ‘Children had no special premium price in the interior, but they tended to be kept there because a long march to the coast would cost more in mortality and maintenance than what the child would bring on arrival’; see ‘Impact of slave trade exports’. His argument appears to be correct for small children but not for older boys; see Miller, Way of Death, 159, 347–8, 387–9.

87 Miller (Way of Death, 148, 149, 153–4, 159–64, 387–9) emphasizes distance from the coast as a factor that influenced the ratio of males to females in the export trade and notes that there was a tendency to bring increasing numbers of boys from the interior.

88 Manning Patrick, ‘Contours of slavery and social change in Africa’, American Hist. Review, lxxxviii, 4 (1983), 847; Manning, ‘Impact of slave trade exports’; Geggus, ‘French shipping and plantation records’; Miller, Way of Death, 159–69.

89 See Transformations in Slavery.

90 See his forthcoming monograph, Slavery and African Life.

91 Eltis and Jennings, ‘Western Africa and the Atlantic world’, 957. Eltis and Jennings define ‘western Africa’ as the region that supplied slaves to the Atlantic trade, including West Africa and west-central Africa.

92 Eltis relies on Gemery Henry A. and Hogendorn Jan S., ‘The economic costs of West African participation in the Atlantic slave trade: a preliminary sampling for the eighteenth century’, in Gemery and Hogendorn, Uncommon Market, 153, for the estimate on per capita income, although he inexplicably lowers Gemery's and Hogendorn's upper limit; see Eltis, Economic Growth, 72. For the estimated value of the export trade, see Eltis and Jennings, ‘Western Africa and the Atlantic world’, 956.

93 Manning, ‘Impact of slave trade exports’; and Slavery and African Life.

94 Manning, ‘Impact of slave trade exports’.

98 Blackburn Robin, The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776–1848 (London, 1988), 5.

99 Manning, Slavery and African Life, ch 4.

100 ‘Indigenous African slavery’, in Craton Michael (ed.), Roots and Branches: Current Directions in Slave Studies (Toronto, 1979), 1961; and Transformations in Slavery. As I have acknowledged, Walter Rodney, Philip Curtin, John Fage and other scholars provided-the inspiration for this insight.

101 Miller, Way of Death, 153. Miller is able to postulate which areas were most severely hit and when (see map, 148).

102 Miller, Way of Death, 160–5; see also Thornton John, ‘The slave trade in eighteenth-century Angola: effects on demographic structures’, Canadian J. Afr. Studies, xiv, 3 (1980), 417–27; Thornton, ‘An eighteenth century baptismal register and the demographic history of Manguenzo’, in African Historical Demography (Edinburgh, 1977). 1, 405–15; Thornton, ‘The demographic effect of the slave trade on Western Africa, 1500–1850’, in African Historical Demography (Edinburgh, 1981), 11, 691720.

103 Miller, Way of Death, 135.

104 Ibid. 135–9.

105 Curiously, Miller concludes that the slave trade had a marginal impact on the level of population west-central Africa, despite his convincing and overwhelming array of data to the contrary; see Way of Death, 165–9. It should be noted that Miller attempts to distinguish between sheer demographic impact and all other kinds of influence, mostly institutional, and his demographic analysis tries to identify population relocations, shifts in sex and age ratios, among other factors.

106 Eltis, Economic Growth, 226.

107 Ibid. 225. Eltis claims that this interpretation is a modification of my ‘transformation thesis’, but in fact an appreciation of the Islamic factor, virtually unrelated to the trans-Atlantic trade, is an integral part of my argument; see Transformations in Slavery, 184–219.

108 Eltis, Economic Growth, 227.

109 Ibid. 41, 260–4; see also Manning, Slavery and African Life.

110 It could be argued that a more accurate comparison would include slaves and the descendants of slaves. The purpose of the present comparison is intended to suggest the magnitude of the issue, not its complexity. To include the freed black population of the Americas in the analysis would require an inclusion of the descendants of slaves in Africa, which would greatly complicate the discussion, particularly since it would mean that the scale of ‘slavery’ in Africa would increase correspondingly. The usual argument is that slaves and their descendants tended to be ‘assimilated’, and hence the numbers of people affected by the ‘slavery’ legacy was geometrically greater in Africa than the Americas.

111 Blackburn, Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 5; Klein Herbert, African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean (New York, 1986), 295.

112 Curtin, Atlantic Slave Trade, 78.

113 Blackburn estimates the total in 1860 at six million; see Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 544.

114 Klein Martin A., ‘The demography of slavery in Western Soudan: the late nineteenth century’, in Cordell Dennis D. and Gregory Joel W. (eds.), African Population and Capitalism: Historical Perspectives (Boulder, Colorado, 1987), 52, 54.

115 Hogendorn J. S. and Lovejoy Paul E., Legal Slavery Abolition. The Decline of Slavery in Northern Nigeria (Cambridge, forthcoming).

116 Unfortunately, all too few Americanist historians take this point seriously. Blackburn, for example, analyses the end of ‘colonial slavery’ only in the colonies of the Americas (Overthrow of Colonial Slavery). For an example of an historian who does make the attempt to consider slavery in a trans-Atlantic framework; see Klein, African Slavery. Both Eltis and Miller try to bridge the Atlantic gap as well by examining change throughout the Atlantic basin, including the interior of Africa. They reach remarkably different conclusions, nonetheless. In my opinion, Miller's approach is truly global and represents a dramatic break with past scholarship. He has succeeded in following slavery from deep within west-central Africa to Brazil and Portugal. He has set an example that will be difficult to follow. Eltis has made a similar attempt, but less successfully from an African perspective.

117 Thomas Robert Paul and Bean Richard, ‘The fishers of men: the profits of the slave trade’, J. Econ. Hist., xxxiv, 4 (1974), 885914.

1 I would like to thank Patrick Manning, J. S. Hogendorn, Joseph C. Miller, José Curto, Charles Becker, Allen Isaacman, and Stuart Schwartz for their comments on this article.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of African History
  • ISSN: 0021-8537
  • EISSN: 1469-5138
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-african-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 232 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1679 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 22nd October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.