David Eltis, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of History at Emory University, on the making of the Transatlantic Slave Trade database, a landmark collaborative digital project he has co-edited for two decades. Eltis discusses the research process, online dissemination, and new directions for the initiative. This is the second part of a two-part series recorded at the Atlantic Slave Biographies Database Conference at Michigan State University in November 2013.
Paul Lovejoy, Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History at York University, discusses building an international database of biographical information on all enslaved Africans. He outlines this digital history project’s contribution to the study of slavery, race, and broader themes in global history. This is the first part of a two-part series recorded at the Atlantic Slave Biographies Database Conference at Michigan State University in November 2013. (Click here for Jessica Johnson’s Twitter timeline of the conference.)
Henri Medard, Marie-Laure Derat, Thomas Vernet, and Marie Pierre Ballarin, eds. Traites et esclavages en Afrique orientale et dans l’océan Indien. Paris: Karthala, 2013.
Aucune région au monde n’a connu une histoire aussi longue de la traite et de l’esclavage que l’Afrique orientale et l’océan Indien. Très loin des modèles simplificateurs du complexe atlantique, les sociétés de l’océan Indien ont éprouvé des modalités de traites et des situations serviles très diverses, où tous les systèmes esclavagistes européens, orientaux et africains se mêlent. Les Africains et les Malgaches sont majoritaires parmi les esclaves mais ils côtoient des compagnons d’infortune d’origines géographiques extrêmement variées, et en particulier des Asiatiques. Les esclaves sont redistribués et vendus aux quatre coins de l’océan Indien mais aussi vers l’Atlantique, alors que se développent en Afrique de façon croissante les logiques serviles qui connaissent leur apothéose à Zanzibar au XIXe siècle.
Cet ouvrage complète magistralement une historiographie qui demeure largement dominée par les études sur l’Atlantique. Par le biais d’une approche globale, océanique comme continentale, il renouvelle en profondeur les questions de la traite et de l’esclavage ainsi que de leurs mutations complexes du XVe au XXIe siècle dans l’espace de l’Afrique orientale et de l’océan Indien. Il offre ainsi au public francophone une approche novatrice et percutante à partir d’études de cas originales et fouillées menées par les meilleurs spécialistes de ces questions.
Articles of interest in the May 2013 Hispanic American Historical Review.
Alex Borucki, “Shipmate Networks and Black Identities in the Marriage Files of Montevideo, 1768–1803.” Hispanic American Historical Review 93, no. 2 (May 1, 2013): 205–238.
The experience of enslaved Africans in the Atlantic crossing redefined the meanings of the nomenclature emerging from the slave trade. Under violent conditions, captives developed networks with shipmates on board slave vessels. These ties survived for decades if shipmates stayed together in the same region, as they did in Montevideo. Shipmate ties represented a living connection for Africans not only with their experience in the Atlantic crossing but also with their homelands. Shipmates provided support to their fellows when they needed trusted associates, as the marriage files of Montevideo clearly demonstrate. Enslaved Africans commonly asked fellow shipmates to testify about their past when marrying into the Catholic Church. Marriage files contain data on the routes Africans took across the Atlantic and the Americas. They indicate the origins of the groom, bride, and witnesses, their shared itineraries, and how these itineraries changed over time. Thus they reveal patterns of geographical mobility and networks created by common experiences. Marriage files can be easily quantified, which allows us to track historical trends. At the same time, each file offers a unique story. A close reading of these stories contextualizes the experiences of slaves in the Catholic Americas and underscores common patterns in ways that lie beyond quantification.
Paul Lokken, “From the ‘Kingdoms of Angola’ to Santiago de Guatemala: The Portuguese Asientos and Spanish Central America, 1595–1640.” Hispanic American Historical Review 93, no. 2 (May 1, 2013): 171–203.
The evidence presented in this article establishes the era of the major Portuguese asientos (1595–1640) as a key moment in the history of African migration to Spanish Central America. Between 1607 and 1628 alone, Portuguese slave traders made at least 15 voyages from Angola to the Caribbean coast of Central America, landing in most cases “by accident” at the Honduran port of Trujillo while allegedly en route to Veracruz. Many of the West Central Africans carried on these voyages were subsequently marched inland by the same Portuguese merchants to be sold in Santiago de Guatemala, capital of the Audiencia of Guatemala. Their final destinations were often rural properties located in or near the Pacific lowlands of modern-day Guatemala and El Salvador, where the largest sugar and indigo plantations counted dozens of Angolans among their enslaved workers. A decided majority of these involuntary migrants were young men, most no doubt having departed from Luanda following misfortune in the wars that, with a good deal of Portuguese encouragement, wracked their homelands after 1575. Their migration experiences testify to a significant shift in the point of origin of Africans brought to Central America away from Senegambia and neighboring regions of West Africa, birthplace of the majority of Africans transported to Central America prior to 1595. The later-arriving and larger West Central African workforce played a more important role than heretofore understood in satisfying the demands for labor that arose in the early seventeenth century as commercial agriculture briefly boomed amid persistent indigenous population decline.