- Networks and Trans-Cultural Exchange: Slave Trading in the South Atlantic, 1590–1867 ed. by David Richardson and Filipa Ribeiro da Silva
Although as many Africans were forced across the South as the North Atlantic, historians have paid far more attention to the latter [End Page 292] than to the former branch of the traffic. David Richardson and Filipa Ribeiro da Silva’s edited volume, Networks and Trans-Cultural Exchange: Slave Trading in the South Atlantic, 1590–1867, seeks to address this problem by providing a collection of new essays by scholars in Brazil, Canada, Mozambique, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. They each examine a different aspect of the trade with all but two essays focused on the Portuguese and later also Brazilian slave trades, the main carriers in the South Atlantic, from what was at the time conventionally called Angola, or West Central Africa south of the Congo River.
Networks and Trans-Cultural Exchange is the product of an intellectual partnership that transcends political and cultural boundaries, but which may unfortunately cease to exist in the near future. Richardson is emeritus professor of economic history at the University of Hull and founder and former director of the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE), both institutions located in the UK. Ribeiro da Silva is currently senior researcher at the International Institute for Social History of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences. She had been previously a two-year post-doctoral fellow at WISE under Richardson’s supervision and support from the European Union Framework Seven Project, Slave Trade, Slavery, Abolitions and Their Legacies in European Histories and Identities. It was indeed under the auspices of the EU and its research programs that mentor and mentee were able to draw from each other’s expertise and contacts to lay down the foundations for Networks and Trans-Cultural Exchange. Now that voters have chosen to withdraw the UK from the EU, researchers, especially from Britain, are left wondering whether such collaborations and exchange of knowledge will survive into the future.
Richardson and Ribeiro da Silva’s edited volume is divided into eight chapters. Chapter One, co-authored by the editors themselves, introduces the book’s main theme by stressing the idea that “cultural encounters have been defining characteristics of the modern world” (p. 1). Richardson and Ribeiro da Silva further emphasize that a key goal of this collection of essays is “to shed new light on the workings of such exchange and thus on our overall understanding of the Atlantic slave trade as a cultural encounter” (p. 2). Chapter Two, by Gustavo Acioli Lopes, examines the role of the Brazilian colonial economy in the southern Atlantic slave trade. Chapter Three, by Ribeiro da Silva, provides a rare insight in the activities of Dutch private businessmen in the traffic from Angola between the 1590s and the 1780s based on insurance, finance, and other commercial papers from Amsterdam’s [End Page 293] Notarial Archives. It argues that these papers highlight “the range and nature of connections between private businessmen in geographical spaces and locations around the Atlantic world and operating under different political and other jurisdictions and across religious and cultural boundaries” (p. 98). Chapter Four, by Arlindo Manuel Caldeira, discusses the slave trade in seventeenth-century Angola, especially the Portuguese, and its connections to the wider Atlantic Ocean.
The remaining chapters examine in more detail the relationship between commercial networks and cultural exchanges in the South Atlantic slave trade. Chapter Five, by Mariana Cândido, argues that the introduction of new consumer practices in Benguela and the central plateau of Angola between 1700 and 1850 allowed “the establishment of new commercial elites associated with the international slave trade and the colonial state” (p. 144). Chapter Six, by José Capela shifts the book’s focus to eighteenth-century Mozambique, on the southeastern coast of Africa, calling attention to the fact that the commercial relationships dominating the slave trade there were...