The Trans Atlantic Slave Trade

2208 WordsDec 16, 20149 Pages
In 1969 Philip Curtin described the historiography of the Atlantic slave trade as a “Numbers Game.” Curtin found that historians conceptualized the commodification of human beings through quantification. A year earlier in 1968, Frederick George Kay claimed in The Shameful Trade that fifty million Africans were exported into slavery in foreign lands. Twenty years later, Paul Lovejoy offered a summary of the field. He argued “that known scale of the slave trade was on the order of 11,863,000” Africans were exported into bondage. Then ten years later, in 1999, the work of David Eltis, Stephen D. Behrendt, and Herbert S. Klein was published as The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: A Database on CD-ROM. This work built upon the work of other historians who have largely dealt with the issue of the Atlantic Slave Trade by counting and quantifying human suffering. This database slowly grew and now includes documentation “on more than 35,000 slave voyages that forcibly embarked over 12 million Africans for transport to the Americas between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.” This database has made it easier to quantify the Atlantic slave trade. Historians now could use the power of a computer to understand the sheer number of transportations. With the publication of this database it seemed likely that historians would continue the “numbers game” and get to the heart of the Atlantic slave trade. However, recent work on the Atlantic slave trade has gone in a different direction.

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