Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade

David Eltis
David Richardson
Foreword by David Brion Davis
Afterword by David W. Blight
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
Stable URL: http:/stable/j.ctt5vm1s4
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
    Book Description:

    Between 1501 and 1867, the transatlantic slave trade claimed an estimated 12.5 million Africans and involved almost every country with an Atlantic coastline. In this extraordinary book, two leading historians have created the first comprehensive, up-to-date atlas on this 350-year history of kidnapping and coercion. It features nearly 200 maps, especially created for the volume, that explore every detail of the African slave traffic to the New World. The atlas is based on an online database ( with records on nearly 35,000 slaving voyages-roughly 80 percent of all such voyages ever made. Using maps, David Eltis and David Richardson show which nations participated in the slave trade, where the ships involved were outfitted, where the captives boarded ship, and where they were landed in the Americas, as well as the experience of the transatlantic voyage and the geographic dimensions of the eventual abolition of the traffic. Accompanying the maps are illustrations and contemporary literary selections, including poems, letters, and diary entries, intended to enhance readers' understanding of the human story underlying the trade from its inception to its end.

    This groundbreaking work provides the fullest possible picture of the extent and inhumanity of one of the largest forced migrations in history.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18529-4
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Geography

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xvii-xxii)

    The transatlantic slave trade, which persisted for 366 years and resulted in the forced deportation of 12.5 million Africans to the New World, ranks as one of history’s greatest crimes against humanity. Unlike the Nazis’ five-year Holocaust in World War II, it was not driven by hatred and a desire to exterminate an entire people—although one of slavery’s long-term effects was a widespread contempt and even racist hatred for people of African descent. The overriding motive that lay behind the uprooting, enslavement, and coerced long-distance transport of millions of sub-Saharan Africans was greed—the desire of European colonizers, including...

  5. About This Atlas
    (pp. xxiii-xxviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    Slavery is as old as recorded history; it was present in all ancient civilizations, and in the Mediterranean and the Middle East it was a major feature of empires and societies from the Roman Empire to the nineteenth century. Wherever slavery has existed, it has almost invariably been accompanied by slave trading: the buying, bartering for, and selling of people. Those enslaved were people of all colors; people of different religions; people of every social class. They worked in households and workshops, served in galleys, marched in armies, and, perhaps most important, cultivated crops, including sugarcane.

    Sugarcane cultivation emerged in...

  7. Part I Nations Transporting Slaves from Africa, 1501–1867
    (pp. 21-36)

    Every nation that had an Atlantic coastline and merchants involved in Atlantic trade participated in the transportation of slaves from Africa to the Americas during the slave-trade era. The era is generally considered to have begun in 1501, when vessels crossing the Atlantic from Spain began to carry some African captives for sale in the Greater Antilles (the larger islands of the West Indies), and ended in 1867, when the last slave ship from Africa is thought to have disembarked its captives in Cuba (also in the Greater Antilles). For most of this time, buying and selling human beings was...

  8. Part II Ports Outfitting Voyages in the Transatlantic Slave Trade
    (pp. 37-86)

    The transatlantic slaving business was probably the most international of all commercial activities before the nineteenth century. The trade routes passed through various jurisdictions as they crisscrossed the Atlantic, and much of the merchandise that was exchanged for captives was assembled from many parts of the globe. Textiles from Asia, cowrie shells from the Indian Ocean, and tobacco, rum, and gold from the Americas were packed together with manufactured goods from all over Europe. The mix of the cargo had to be targeted for the particular region in Africa where slaves were to be purchased. Add to this the financial,...

  9. Part III The African Coastal Origins of Slaves and the Links between Africa and the Atlantic World
    (pp. 87-158)

    Information on the sources of African captives entering the Atlantic slave trade is limited, as is information on the circumstances in which they were enslaved and moved to the coast for the voyage to the plantations and mines of the Americas. Some came from several hundred miles inland and took months to reach the African coast. Many, if not most, came from places much closer to the coast. Some captives from Senegambia and West Central Africa were victims of drought and famine. Others found themselves enslaved because of debt. But the largest single source of captives was violence, including warfare,...

  10. Part IV The Experience of the Middle Passage
    (pp. 159-196)

    Despair and degradation were inevitable consequences of being herded naked onto small, overcrowded vessels and dispatched to far-off lands from which no return was possible. Although it is impossible to measure psychological trauma in ways that can be represented on maps, it is possible to measure and represent mortality on the Middle Passage. It is also possible to measure two obvious ways in which the slave trade, like any form of migration, restructured the populations of both the society of origin and the society of arrival: by calculating the ratio of males to females and of adults to children, both...

  11. Part V The Destinations of Slaves in the Americas and Their Links with the Atlantic World
    (pp. 197-270)

    We use 1501 as the starting date of an uninterrupted slave trade, but African captives may have arrived in the Americas on Columbus’s third voyage in 1498. The first transatlantic slaves came by way of Europe rather than directly from Africa until 1525. It is estimated that a total of 10.7 million captives arrived from Africa, or about 30,000 a year over three and a half centuries. (See theVoyagesWeb site for details.) Table 6 shows the distribution of these arrivals over regions of the Americas; an “Africa” category accounts for those whose transatlantic voyages were diverted as a...

  12. Part VI Abolition and Suppression of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
    (pp. 271-290)

    In a very real sense, captives on board slave vessels attempted to suppress the slave trade by attempting to capture the vessels taking them away from Africa. European nations took action against the slave trade from 1792, when Denmark outlawed its slave trade, a ban effective in 1803. Both Britain and the United States outlawed theirs in 1807, with their bans effective the next year, but in most countries abolition came about in two stages. The first was the struggle to pass formal laws against transatlantic slave trading, and the second was the fight to make the laws effective. Unlike...

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 291-298)

    Its high walls of dark brown stone still stand guard after five centuries, looking toward the Atlantic Ocean on one side and looking inland on the other, toward vast river systems, rain forests, and some of the most important trade routes in West Africa. Built by the Portuguese in 1482–1483, Elmina Castle (São Jorge da Mina, or St. George of the Mine) is an imposing square structure with steep stone stairways, forbidding dungeons, a large interior courtyard, and the ever-present sound of waves. In the fifteenth century it declared by its presence that Europeans had come to the coast...

  14. Timeline
    (pp. 299-300)
  15. Glossary
    (pp. 301-307)