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Materials for LG449

Out of Africa: …Black Englishes

by Prof. Peter L. Patrick

University of Essex



How many people died in the Atlantic Slave Trade?


Some quick answers scholars given over the years:

Philip Curtin, 1969, The Atlantic slave trade: A census

·              conservative figure of about 9 million


Joseph E. Inikori, 1976, “Measuring the Atlantic slave trade”:

·              15 million


Patrick Manning, 1998, W.E.B. DuBois Institute Data Set of Slaving Voyages.

·              12 million transported with 10.5 million arriving alive in the Americas


More radical critiques extend beyond the number of people taken from African coasts in slave ships, e.g.:

·              start with a number, e.g. 11 million

·              then estimate (very roughly!) that for each person who ‘arrived alive’, between 2 and 5 others died

o       in the sea passage,

o       in holding-prisons on the African coast,

o       or in the process of capture and transport from the interior to the coast

·              giving a range of deaths due to the slave trade of anywhere between

o       22 million

o       and 55 million,

·              not to forget the numbers who dued in the ‘seasoning period’ after arrival in the New World.

[These estimates, references and comments were partly gleaned from discussion on H-CARIBBEAN in 2001. As I am not a historian of slavery, I have taken the various words of several well-known historians and put them together here for us to think about.]


But how did people arrive at these counts? How can they differ from each other so much? Isn’t there bias behind any estimate? And most of all, why should an outsider to thisdebate accept one estimate rather than another?


It’s now possible for anyone (that is, who has a few spare hours to learn about demographic modelling and simulation!) to visit the World History Network Migration Simulation project:


and select the Atlantic Slave Trade data-set:

where you canlearn to:

·              Simulate constraints on the Atlantic Slave Trade mathematically

·              Vary 5 typical conditions of enslavement to see different results

·              Even prepare your own data files and simulate all conditions.


This is harder than it sounds, but even stumbling blindly through it for 10 minutes will give you a rough sense of:

·              How complicated the questions are,

·              How much we don’t know,

·              How many plausible guesses exist,

·              How different their outcomes are, and most of all,

·              How staggering the numbers are, under any reasonable guess.


A Brief Bibliography

Curtin, Philip D. 1969. The Atlantic slave trade: A census. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. [HT 1332]

Eltis, David. 2000. The rise of African slavery in the Americas. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [HT 1048.E6]

Eltis, David, and David Richardson, eds. 1997. Routes to slavery: direction, ethnicity and mortality in the transatlantic slave trade. London: Frank Cass. [HT 1332]

Eltis, David, Stephen D. Behrendt, David Richardson, & Herbert S. Klein, eds. 2000. The Transatlantic Slave Trade: A Database on CD-ROM. New York.

Inikori, Joseph E. 1976. Measuring the Atlantic slave trade: An assessment of Curtin and Anstey. Journal of Africa 17: 197-223.

Inikori, Joseph E. ed. 1982. Forced Migration: the impact of the export slave trade on African societies. New York: Africana Pub. Co. [HT 1321]

Inikori, Joseph E., and Stanley L. Engerman, eds. 1992. The Atlantic slave trade: effects on economies, societies, and peoples in Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Durham: Duke University Press. [HT 855]

Lovejoy, Paul E. 1982. The volume of the Atlantic slave trade: A synthesis. Journal of African Studies 22.

Lovejoy, Paul E. 1983. Transformations in slavery: a history of slavery in Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [HT 1321]

Manning, Patrick. 1981. The enslavement of Africans: A demographic model. Canadian Journal of African Studies 15(3): 499-526.

Manning, Patrick. 1990. Slavery and African life: Occidental, Oriental, and African slave trades. Cambridge University Press.

Stannard, David E. 1992. American holocaust: The conquest of the New World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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Last updated 25 October 2007