The Slave Trade, the Spanish Empire, and Foreign Powers in the Atlantic World

AHA Session 37
Conference on Latin American History 9
Thursday, January 5, 2017: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Mile High Ballroom 4A (Colorado Convention Center, Ballroom Level)
Jorge Felipe, Michigan State University
The Ill-Fated Attempt to Establish a Spanish Slave Trade in the Gulf of Guinea
Emily K. Berquist Soule, California State University, Long Beach
Routes into Slavery in 18th-Century Cuba
Elena Schneider, University of California, Berkeley
Manuel Barcia, University of Leeds

Session Abstract

Although the scholarship on slavery in Spanish America has excelled at presenting the lived experiences of slaves, the politics of slave rebellions, and the regional economics of slavery, separate national historiographies have left it largely unable to adequately address the broader role of the slave trade in the Spanish empire. Within the often Anglocentric field of Atlantic history, the Spanish trade in slaves has received even less attention -- although the recent research of Alex Borucki, David Eltis, and David Wheat with Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database in the Spanish American context has highlighted just how important it is to fill this void (see American Historical Review, April 2015.) These papers highlight research at the forefront of reconceptualizing the importance of the slave trade in the late Spanish Empire. They pay special attention to the political, economic, and intellectual contexts that are essential to deepening our understanding of the place of the slave trade in the Spanish Atlantic world and beyond. The panel's geographic diversity reflects the expanses of the Spanish Atlantic as it was lived in the late-colonial period: from Spanish and Portuguese ministers on the Iberian peninsula; to Spanish, Portuguese, and Spanish American soldiers and ship captains in Africa; to African slaves arriving in Cuba and the Río de la Plata, and the international community of slave traders and merchants who linked the Americas, North and South, to the broader Atlantic world. The papers by Prado and Schneider consider the broader commercial system of the slave trade in the Spanish Empire, highlighting its trans-Atlantic economic and political importance with special attention to the Río de la Plata and Cuba. Berquist Soule and Borucki offer case studies that demonstrate these plans and policies in action; both in Africa where Spain attempted to establish itself as a slave trading power, and in the Spanish South Atlantic, where the slave trade flourished at the end of the colonial period.
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