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  • Anthologizing the Atlantic Slave Trade Literature
  • Joseph C. Miller
Jeremy Black , ed. Atlantic Slave Trade. Volume 1: Origins–1600. Volume 2: Seventeenth Century. Volume 3: Eighteenth Century. Volume 4: Nineteenth Century. Aldershot, England, and Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2006. Introductions with short bibliographies. Indexes. Vol. 1: xx + 401 pp. $195.00. Vol. 2: xix + 548 pp. $225.00. Vol. 3: xxii + 535 pp. $225.00. Vol. 4: xxii + 474 pp. $225.00. Cloth.

The ever-prolific Jeremy Black has assembled these four volumes of eighty-five photo-reproduced articles in English. Ashgate, of course, specializes in this style of print reader and has produced a vast array of topically organized collections, supplementing the growing availability of at least some of the same materials in digital formats. (Readers of this journal will recall that more than ten years ago Patrick Manning published a similarly formatted collection centered on Africa, also through Ashgate/Variorum.)1 I have not confirmed Internet access to the entire collection, but scanning the sites from which the contents of these volumes were taken suggests that nearly all may also be downloaded. The essays included date from 1940 (John Blake on the English trade to the Portuguese empire in West Africa) through 2004 (Guillaume Daudin on profitability in the eighteenth-century French trade). Three were published before 1960, seven in the 1960s, twenty in the 1970s, twenty-four in the 1980s, twenty-two in the 1990s, and eight after 2000. This is not the place to speculate on various publishers' marketing strategies aimed at instructors seeking print collections for college and university classes, but presumably commercial as well as academic considerations led to the exclusion of the considerable scholarship in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Danish.

Black opens each of the century-defined volumes with a short introductory essay placing the articles in their historical contexts. In the editor's vision, the articles fit into a general conceptual framework focusing on the challenges that Europeans eventually addressed by sailing captives across the Atlantic from Africa to the Americas. Examples include the role of disease in the demographic collapse of Native American populations and the contemporaneous expansion of commercialized serfdom in eastern Europe. Black's thoughtful quest for context thus occasionally reaches well beyond a geographical definition of "the Atlantic"; Araucanian responses in southern Chile, for example, are included as an example of the resistance Europeans encountered as they sought to seize labor from local populations in the Americas. Volume 1, on the early phases of the trade, thus includes two theoretical essays (Domar and Engerman), classic writings on Africa (Wilks and Fage—but not Meillassoux), half a dozen essays on the Americas, two minor pieces on the English involvement (Blake and Hair), and framing pieces on historiography (Ewald), volume (Lovejoy from the [End Page 156] pre-database era), and ethnicity (Palmer). The editor's command of English and European history brings out issues (and bibliographic references) in the introduction that the Africa- and America-oriented majority of students of Atlantic slaving will find stimulating.

The second volume, on the seventeenth century, includes four (of 21) selections on Africa (Rodney, Fage, Law, and Evans and Richardson) that support an introductory discussion emphasizing warfare—with significant acknowledgment of disease factors, African political dynamics ("tribes"), and American demand. The detailed references to events in Africa are broadly informed but not entirely precise; in the following volume Gorée turns up as a "major slave-trading post" (xiii) in spite of the extended discussion in the literature on the minor standing of the island in the trade—in contrast to its major role in present-day heritage tourism and politics. Most selections trace the European wars and politics implicated in the demand for African labor in the West Indies, with a nod to North America (Edmund Morgan—but not Jennifer Morgan or Philip Morgan—Menard twice, Vaughan, and Dunn). Two chapters (Ferry on encomienda in Caracas and Russell-Wood on "black brotherhoods" in Brazil) touch on the majority of the Africans taken in this century to Latin America. Brief acknowledgments of "resistance" and culture supplement the core concentration on market economics and European politics.

More than 50 percent of Africans in the trade...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1555-2462
Print ISSN
0002-0206
Pages
pp. 156-158
Launched on MUSE
2008-12-17
Open Access
No
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