The Atlantic Slave Trade
Philip D. Curtin
Curtin combines modern research and statistical methods with his broad knowledge of the field to present the first book-length quantitative analysis of the Atlantic slave trade. Its basic evidence suggests revision of currently held opinions concerning the place of the slave trade in the economies of the Old World nations and their American colonies.
“Curtin’s work will not only be the starting point for all future research on the slave trade and comparative slavery, but will become an indispensable reference for anyone interested in Afro-American studies.”—Journal of American History
“Curtin has produced a stimulating monograph, the product of immaculate scholarship, against which all past and future studies will have to be judged.”—Journal of American Studies
“Professor Curtin’s new book is up to his customary standard of performance: within the limits he set for himself, The Atlantic Slave Trade could hardly be a better or more important book.”—American Historical Review
“Curtin has written a brilliantly provocative book that should lead to a range of new inquiries.”—Hispanic American Historical Review
About the Author
Philip D. Curtin (1922-2009) was author of The Image of Africa and Two Jamaicas. He edited Africa Remembered, a collection of narratives by former slaves and others involved in the slave trade. He was a member of the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin from 1956-1975. From 1975 until the time of his death, he was a member of the faculty of Johns Hopkins University.
claiming to be an authentic record of imports is rare. For nineteenth-century Cuba, however, overlapping estimates abound. H. H. S. Aimes produced an annual series of estimates from 1790 to 1865. This series drew partly on Humboldt's work, and it closely follows the official customs house figures for the period 1791-1820. It can therefore be accepted as reasonable for that period. 29 For the period after 1821 Aimes's series continues (see Table 9, col. 1), based on a variety of different data. He
Prof. Franklin Knight, State University of New York, Stony Brook, based on his forthcoming study of Cuban slavery in the nineteenth century. 40 THE A'ILANTIC SLAVE TRADE TABLE 9B NINETEENTH-CENTURY CUBA: ACCEPTED ESTIMATES OF SLAVE IMPORTS SUBDIVIDED ACCORDING TO CENSUS DATES No. imported Annual average 1801-7 1808-16 1817-26 1827-40 46,000 57,800 103,500 176,500 6,570 6,420 10,350 12,610 1841-47 33,800 4,830 2,000 11,800 123,300 49,500 12,000 616,200 2,000 5,900 12,330 12,380
continues to pose some difficult problems. The Portuguese imperial bureaucracy was not so tightly organized as that of Spain, and the slave trade was not so closely controlled. Archival data are therefore fewer to begin with, and in Brazil they are scattered among the half-dozen principal ports of entry. Since the trade was open to Brazilian as well as Portuguese shipping most of the time, metropolitan sources tend to be weak, though the Portuguese posts in Angola have produced longer time-series
fact, the French slave trade rarely met the demands of the French islands, and the deficit was made up illegally by buying slaves from the North Americans, British, Danes, and Dutch. On the other hand, the French administration called for relatively frequent reports of slave population. These records have nothing like the accuracy of a modem census, but they provide a useful clue to the possible movement of the slave trade. (See Table 19 and Fig. 4.) The most important of the French colonies was
meaning often lies in the smaller numbers behind the global figure. The slave trade was a process, constantly changing and closely integrated with other processes in the Atlantic economy over more than four centuries. As with most economic processes, the changes are more important than the totals, and the slave trade was a pattern of changing sources of supply, changing destinations, and changing rates of flow. Sometime, when more basic research has been done, historians will be able to construct