The Shipping of the British Slave Trade in its Final Years, 1798-1807
journal contributionposted on 19.11.2007, 15:56 by D.M. Williams
Of all modern forms of ocean-going commerce, the transatlantic slave trade arguably has generated the richest literature. In its own lifetime, growing moral and social concerns, as well as important economic realities, gave rise to a massive amount of documentation, official enquiry and contemporary comment. This great body of material has been drawn upon by generations of historians, but never more so than in the past thirty years. The publication in 1969 of Phillip Curtin's 'The Atlantic Slave Trade: a Census' was an important milestone in the historiography, for it marked the beginnings of a shift towards quantitative studies. Many aspects of the trade have been subject to this type of analysis: apart from the 'numbers game' of calculating the total number of slaves transported, such studies have focussed on topics such as profitability, voyage duration, mortality, and shipping.