Transatlantic Slavery

BookTransatlantic Slavery

Transatlantic Slavery

An Introduction

National Museums Liverpool


September 14th, 2010





Between 1500 and 1870, millions of Africans were transported across the Atlantic by European traders to work as slaves in the Americas. They were shipped in conditions of great cruelty to lead lives of hard, unremitting labour, subject to degradation and violence. The products of their labour – primarily sugar, coffee and tobacco – were sent back to Europe and the profits derived from slavery helped fuel European economic development in the 18th and 19th centuries. The cost in lives and human suffering was enormous. First published to accompany a permanent gallery in the Merseyside Maritime Museum, this reissue of Transatlantic Slavery with new material documents this era through essays on women in slavery, the impact on West and Central Africa, and the African view of the slave trade. Richly illustrated, it reveals how the slave trade shaped the history of three continents—Africa, the Americas, and Europe—and how all of us continue to live with its consequences.

Over a four-hundred-year period at least twelve million Africans were taken into slavery in the largest forced migration in human history. This introductory book, which draws upon a wealth of material held by the International Slavery Museum, tells their story and examines the legacy of this bloody trade. Richly illustrated and with a foreword by Reverend Jesse Jackson, Transatlantic Slavery: An Introduction will be required reading for all those approaching the subject for the first time. ‘The enslavement of Africans fuelled the economic development of the US and the world – so in that sense, African people, whether in the US or Britain, are creditors, not debtors. From finance to cotton, shipping and trade, no economic development in the world could have evolved without the contributions – as enslaved people – of African people.’ - From the foreword by Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

…very readable collection of articles from leading experts in the field of slavery studies. Walvin’s account of the move towards abolition makes particularly pertinent reading as we approach the 2007 bicentenary of the ending of the slave trade in Britain, but perhaps most relevant are the essays on how, and why, we should commemorate this difficult aspect of our history.

David Musgrove, BBC History magazine

The essays consistently challenge the lay reader to reconsider received wisdom about slavery and its consequences, and cause the specialist to rethink approaches to primary sources, the categories we use, and the meaning of our research… a good introduction to the questions and themes that drive scholarship about the waxing and waning of the international enslavement of Africans.

Anna S. Agbe-Davies, Department of Anthropology, DePaul University

Author Information

David Fleming is Director of National Museums Liverpool. Dr Richard Benjamin is Head of the International Slavery Museum, part of the National Museums Liverpool.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Foreword – Reverend Jesse Jackson
What is slavery?
A history of transatlantic slavery
African pasts
Why Africans?
Why slavery?
Operation of the slave trade
Liverpool: Capital of the transatlantic slave trade
Reasons for Liverpool’s success
Economic benefits of slavery
Tropical goods and the rise of the consumer society
Enslavement and the Middle Passage
The Middle Passage: voyage through death
Impact on Africa
Life and death in the Americas
Sale and ‘seasoning’
Chattel slavery
Plantation life
Pioneers of the Americas
Pro-slavery arguments
The end of slavery
Abolition of the British slave trade
Freedom in the Americas
The legacy of slavery
The fight for civil rights
Global inequalities
Since colonisation
Cultural transformations
‘The sun never sets on the children of Africa’
An unquenchable spirit
The International Slavery Musuem
Further Reading
Museums and websites to visit