Eltis and Richardson Edited Volume on Slave Trade Database

Caption, "Branding a Negress," Brantz Mayer, Captain Canot; or, Twenty years an African slaver....(New York, 1854), facing p. 102. (Copy in Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library), as shown on http://www.slaveryimages.org, sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.

Eltis, David, and David Richardson. Extending the Frontiers: Essays on the New Transatlantic Slave Trade Database. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.

A series of scholars of slavery and the slave trade join Eltis and Richardson for a study on the function and utility of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database (available for use and viewing here).

Since 1999, intensive research efforts have vastly increased what is known about the history of coerced migration of transatlantic slaves. A huge database of slave trade voyages from Columbus’s era to the mid-nineteenth century is now available on an open-access Web site, incorporating newly discovered information from archives around the Atlantic world. The groundbreaking essays in this book draw on these new data to explore fundamental questions about the trade in African slaves. The research findings—that the size of the slave trade was 14 percent greater than had been estimated, that trade above and below the equator was largely separate, that ports sending out the most slave voyages were not in Europe but in Brazil, and more—challenge accepted understandings of transatlantic slavery and suggest a variety of new directions for important further research.

via Yale University Press

H-Net Review by Isaac Land available here.

Bristol on Black Barbers in Slavery and Freedom

Bristol, Douglas Walter. Knights of the Razor: Black Barbers in Slavery and Freedom. Baltimore, MD:  Johns Hopkins University Press Press, 2009.

Black barbers, reflected a freed slave who barbered in antebellum St. Louis, may have been “the only men in their community who enjoyed, at all times, the privilege of free speech.” The reason, of course, lay in their temporary — but absolute — power over a client. With a flick of the wrist, 19th—century black barbers could have slit the throats of the white men they shaved. In Knights of the Razor, Douglas Walter Bristol, Jr., explores this extraordinary relationship in the largely untold story of African American barbers, North and South, from the American Revolution to the First World War.

Besides establishing the modern—day barbershop, these barbers used their skilled trade to navigate the many pitfalls that racism created for ambitious black men. They dominated an upscale market that catered to prosperous white men. At the same time, their respect for labor itself preserved their ties to the black community. Successful barbers assumed leadership roles in their localities, helping to form a black middle class despite pervasive racial segregation. They advocated economic independence from whites and founded insurance companies that became some of the largest black—owned corporations.

via Johns Hopkins University Press.

H-Net Review by Scott Giltner

McIntosh on Yoruba Women and Work

Marjorie Keniston McIntosh.  Yoruba Women, Work, and Social Change. Bloomington  Indiana University Press, 2009

The Yoruba, one of the largest and most historically important ethnic groups in Nigeria, are noted for the economic activity, confidence, and authority of their women. Yoruba Women, Work, and Social Change traces the history of women in Yorubaland from around 1820 to 1960 and Nigerian independence. Integrating fresh material from local court records and four decades of existing scholarship, Marjorie Keniston McIntosh shows how and why women’s roles and status changed during the 19th century and the colonial era. McIntosh emphasizes connections between their duties within the household, their income-generating work, and their responsibilities in religious, cultural, social, and political contexts. She highlights the forms of patriarchy found within Yorubaland and explores the impact of Christianity, colonialism, and international capitalism. This keen and insightful work offers a unique view of Yoruba women’s initiative, adaptability, and skill at working in groups.

via University Illinois Press website.

H-Net review by Cyrelene Amoah available here.

Fields-Black on Deep Roots of Rice Cultivation in West Africa and the Diaspora

Fields-Black, Edda L. Deep Roots: Rice Farmers in West Africa and the African Diaspora. Indiana University Press, 2008.

Gilbert, Erik.  “Coastal Rice Farming Systems in Guinea and Sierra Leone, Deep Roots: Rice Farmers in West Africa and the African Diaspora. By Edda L. Fields-Black.”  The Journal of African History 50, no. 03 (2009): 437-438.

From the review by Erik Gilbert:

“The role of African technologies and agricultural knowledge in the development of rice farming in the Americas has drawn considerable scholarly attention in the last decade. That Africans might have contributed not just their labor to the tidal rice-farming systems of the South Carolina Low Country but also essential knowledge of the techniques needed to grow rice in that challenging environment is highly appealing. It gives agency to enslaved Africans and recognizes the sophistication of West African riziculture. The most recent expression of this idea has been Judith Carney’s Black Rice.1 Carney’s work has been challenged by David Eltis, Philip Morgan, and David Richardson, who have argued that the number of slaves coming to South Carolina from rice-growing areas of Africa is too small to explain the development of American rice farming.2

Edda Fields-Black’s new book contributes to this debate primarily by adding to our knowledge of the coastal rice-farming systems of Guinea and Sierra Leone, where rice-farming techniques most closely resemble the tidal irrigation systems of the South Carolina Low Country. In this part of Sierra Leone, farmers clear mangrove swamps and, through careful control of the movement of fresh water through the fields, drain and desalinate the soil. This is a process that can take years and that can be reversed almost instantly if embankments built to keep salt water out are breached. Managing the water supply to these fields requires careful harnessing of tides in the river estuaries so that salt water is kept out but fresh water is allowed in. Early observers of this system assumed that the stateless societies of the coast were unlikely to have created so complex a technology and that it must have been introduced either by Europeans or by Africans from the states of the interior….”

Read the rest at Cambridge Journals ($$)

Review: Divanna on Identity in Brazil

Carlos Juliao, Riscos illuminados de figurinhos de broncos e negros dos uzos do Rio de Janeiro e Serro do Frio (Rio de Janeiro, 1960), plate 27, as shown on http://www.slaveryimages.org, sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library."

Divanna, Isabel. “Multi-Faceted Approaches to Identity in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Brazil.” The Historical Journal 53, no. 01 (2010): 225-235.

First paragraph steal:

“The past four decades have seen the rapid expansion of the field of Brazilian studies in the Anglophone world. Brazilian scholars as well as their European and North American counterparts have re-evaluated the role of institutions, racial relations, party politics, and identity construction in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Brazil, replacing explanations of the colonial and imperial years based on economics with approaches that tend to prioritize politics, culture, and social relations.1 This review looks at recent Anglophone books about Brazilian history to understand how scholars have approached issues relevant to the construction of Brazilian identity from a variety of perspectives. Ranging from the matters of regional identity versus the national paradigm in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the contribution of race to the debates (historiographic and actual) about what constitutes the Brazilian character from 1750 to the present day, and the understanding of the Brazilian political culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the books surveyed here provide insight into the ways through which scholars are studying the creation and development of modern Brazilian identity. One possible comment about the state of Anglophone scholarship of Brazilian identity is, as will become clear in this review, that there is a lack of cross-methodological awareness from different fields of historical research, which often has led approaches to the question of identity to become compartmentalized and intra-disciplinary, as opposed to methodologically comparative. While this problem is not unique to Brazilian scholarship, it merits further attention….”

Cambridge Journals ($$)

Jacqueline Jones on Berlin’s The Making of African America

“Ira Berlin begins this book by recounting a conversation he had several years ago with a small group of black radio technicians, most of them recent immigrants born in Africa or the Caribbean. He had just been interviewed on a local public radio station on the topic “Who freed the slaves?” Berlin had argued that enslaved Southerners played a significant role in their own liberation. He found that the technicians were “deeply interested” in the events leading up to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863; yet he was troubled by the fact that they felt these events “had nothing to do with them. Simply put, it was not their history….”

Read the rest at Slate.

WEB: Institut Français de Recherche en Afrique – Nigeria

Re-launched website:

“IFRA-Nigeria is a non profit Institute set up to promote research in the social sciences and the humanities, as well as enhance collaborative work between scholars in France and West Africa. First established in 1990 and financed by the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Institute has now been operating from the Universities of Ibadan (Institute of African Studies) and Zaria (Institute for Development Research) since 2006. IFRA’s mandate includes subsidizing research programs, (…)”

Institut Français de Recherche en Afrique – Nigeria.

Charles F. Irons reviews Gabor Boritt and Scott Hancock’s Slavery, Resistance, Freedom (2007)

“Gabor Boritt and Scott Hancock, editors of Slavery, Resistance, Freedom, have combined under one cover six fine essays that illustrate ways in which African Americans shaped the course of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The slim volume is a fine capstone to a generation of scholarship in which historians have come to understand black Americans as central actors in the sectional conflict. Indeed, the contributors so effectively elaborate the extent of African American agency on the plantation, at war, and in politics that they highlight the interpretive limits of the current scholarly consensus. As Hancock writes in the introduction, the collection highlights “the rich diversity of African Americans’ experiences with and responses to freedom and slavery in the Civil War era.” He also makes clear, however, that the collection attends primarily to those “black people, both slave and free,” who “resisted all kinds of exploitation and degradation” (p. xviii). There is no room within the rich diversity of experience, in other words, for black Americans who decided against active resistance….”

Read the rest via H-Net Reviews.