Reexamining the Illegal Slave Trade in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic, Part 2: Circumventing Abolition: Slave Traders’ Strategies of Survival and Success

AHA Session 270
Conference on Latin American History 60
Monday, January 5, 2015: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM
Nassau Suite B (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Matt D. Childs, University of South Carolina Columbia
David Eltis, Emory University

Session Abstract

The new conditions created by the signing of abolition treaties between Britain and many slave trading nations in the early nineteenth century, led to a re-invention of the slave trade. A trade that had been widespread and legal until the first years of the century became illegal almost everywhere. Slave traders were forced to devise new stratagems to circumvent the new regulations that came into effect gradually after 1820. This panel looks at the economic side of the trade with the intention of examining slave traders’ strategies of dealing with these measures. By scrutinising what Professor Michael Zeuske has aptly termed the Hidden Atlantic, these papers disentangle a story that is not always forthcoming, precisely due to its illegal nature. The papers presented within this panel look at aspects as diverse –and yet truly interconnected– as the operations of slave trading firms and the ways they found to expand their African operations and to maximize their profits; the activities of those who carried out the trade (ship captains, cooks, surgeons, etc.); the economic diversification of their businesses; and the brutalities that frequently arose from the slave trade, and their tactics to cover them up.