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Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database


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Brian Hamm

EUH 5934


Dr. Harland-Jacobs

12 March 2012



LAH 3130:

Slave Trade Database Paper
“Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database” is a wonderful resources for all historians of slavery, early modern & modern empires, and Atlantic history. Although when it first appeared in CD-ROM format in 1999, Latin American slaving expeditions were heavily underrepresented, this deficiency has since been reduced, and the database now serves as a quite useful tool in understanding better the characteristics and dimensions of colonial Latin American slavery during its 350-year existence.1
This first part of this assignment is comparative. Pick one option from the first list. If you choose a “Spanish Mainland” option, then pick one option each from lists C and D. If you pick a “Spanish Caribbean” option, then pick one option each from lists B and D. After selecting the geographical/temporal sections for comparison, please select two variables from list E for comparison. (If you wish to select a variable that is not listed, please let me know first.) For each of the two variables that you choose, please answer the following questions: What similarities and differences emerge between the three regions that you have chosen? Are the shifts over time that you are able to observe small or large in scale? What factors do you think account for either the changes or the continuities? Also, as this assignment serves as a complement to the Klein/Vinson readings (from African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2nd ed. [2007]), feel free to incorporate relevant information from this monograph. Lastly, make sure to attach as an appendix any tables and graphs that you use for this assignment.
The second part is more reflective, and its purpose is to allow you to think about the advantages and disadvantages of the database as a resource for historical research. What dimensions of the history of slavery and the slave trade emerge from the database that did not come through so clearly in the Klein and Vinson book? On the other hand, what dimensions are perhaps obscured or reduced by a largely quantitative approach? Beyond the specific example of the Atlantic slave trade, how can history be quantified, and what aspects of history remain unquantifiable? Were there any apparent gaps in the historical record of this database? Finally, as you start to think about your future research projects as history majors—e.g., senior theses, etc.—what features of this database (or similar historical statistical databases) do you think would prove most useful to your research and why?
I expect this paper to be around 7-10 pages; however, it can be up to 15 pages, if you feel that you need that much space. But remember: it is quality, not quantity, that counts. The paper is due at the beginning of class on November 1.
The options for lists A-D can be found under “Voyage Itinerary”“Principal Place of Slave Landing.” The options for list E can be found under “Voyage Outcome,” “Voyage Itinerary,” “Slaves (numbers),” or “Slaves (characteristics).”
In order to get the data for the “Spanish Caribbean,” please go to “Voyage Itinerary”“Principle Place of Slave Landing” “Caribbean,” and select these four options: Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Other Spanish West Indies.

List A:


  • Spanish Mainland, 1500-1600

  • Spanish Mainland, 1600-1700

  • Spanish Mainland, 1700-1800

  • Spanish Caribbean, 1650-1800

  • Spanish Caribbean, 1800-1866

List B:


  • Spanish Mainland, 1500-1600

  • Spanish Mainland, 1600-1700

  • Spanish Mainland, 1700-1800

List C:


  • Spanish Caribbean, 1650-1800

  • Spanish Caribbean, 1800-1866

List D:


  • Virginia, 1600-1787

  • Carolinas (North and South), 1600-1787

List E:

The goal of the first part of the assignment is to expose the student to some of the varieties of slavery that existed from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth. The lists were purposefully drawn up in order to facilitate both comparisons between the two main regions of Spanish America—the mainland and the islands—as well as some comparisons between the Spanish Empire and the British mainland colonies, which I assume will be more familiar to American college students. Additionally, the various options were crafted in order for there be enough data to warrant meaningful comparisons. Thus, in order to avoid certain gaps in the database, some options—e.g., Spanish Caribbean, 1500-1650—were avoided.

Since I figured that most of the students taking an upper-division history class (like LAH 3130) would be history majors, I also wanted to give them the opportunity to think critically about the use of different types of historical sources, especially quantitative ones. How much can statistics, tables, and graphs tell us? What sorts of problems should we be attentive to? Furthermore, as I expect that most of these students will be writing a major research paper before their time at Florida is finished, I wanted them to reflect upon how they could incorporate findings from a database like this one in their own research.

Thus, I hope that this assignment will serve a dual function of not only teaching the students something about the slave trade and New World slavery, but also encourage them to think more critically about sources and how to incorporate statistics and large amounts of data in their own historical investigations.



1 For more on the history of the database, see “History of the Project,” <http://www.slavevoyages.org/tast/about/history.faces>.



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