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Ship Crowding and Slave Mortality: Missing Observations or Incorrect Measurement?

  • Peter M. Solar (a1) and Nicolas J. Duquette (a2)
Abstract

Inconsistent measurement of ship tonnage, the denominator in the usual measures of crowded conditions on slave vessels, may confound estimated associations between crowding and slave mortality on the Middle Passage. The tonnages reported in Lloyd's Registers are shown to be consistent over time and are used to demonstrate that both the unstandardized and standardized tonnages in the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database are deeply flawed. Using corrected tonnages, we find that crowding increased mortality only on British slave ships and only before the passage of Dolben's Act in 1788.

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Footnotes
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This research was generously supported by graduate fellowships and research funds from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Economic History Association, and the University of Michigan. We thank Luc Hens and Cormac Ó Gráda for comments on an early draft and Jean-Laurent Rosenthal for suggesting this collaboration.

Footnotes
References
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The Journal of Economic History
  • ISSN: 0022-0507
  • EISSN: 1471-6372
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