Article

Atlantic Slavery

Matt Childs

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online May 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0051
Atlantic Slavery

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  • History of the Americas
  • European History
  • African History
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  • Regional and National History

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If historians were forced to name the one institution or historical phenomenon that most decisively fostered the creation of the Atlantic world by connecting the four continents bordering the Atlantic Ocean, many would undoubtedly name slavery. From the first arrival of sub-Saharan African slaves in Europe via the Atlantic slave trade in 1441, to the final abolition of Brazilian slavery in 1888, slavery bonded together the Atlantic world through the chains and links of human enslavement. If scholars reduced the importance of Atlantic slavery to the estimated 11 million enslaved Africans forced across the Atlantic and their New World destinations, historians would be telling only a small part of how slavery created the Atlantic world. Atlantic slavery sustained colonies and empires by the goods and products slavery could produce at an ever more abundant and profitable rate for consumption on the other side of the Atlantic and in far-flung destinations across the globe. Even more importantly, and a legacy still shaping the world we live in today, Atlantic slavery created new racial identities whereby people of European descent increasingly embraced a “white” identity and people of African descent embraced a “black” identity. Moreover, the struggle to end slavery gave rise to some of the most momentous, radical, and contradictory political movements of the modern era, which slowly ushered in the ideology of natural rights and, eventually, the widespread belief that freedom and liberty should be regarded as basic human rights. Given the weighty historical influence of Atlantic slavery in shaping the past five hundred years of human history, it is not surprising—and only appropriate—that the literature on the topic is just as massive and complex. The literature cited and described below grapples with many of these defining elements of Atlantic slavery. In addition, over the past forty years historians have tackled the empirical, conceptual, and methodological challenges of placing slaves individually and collectively at the center of the story of the rise and fall of Atlantic slavery in the New World. As a result, some of the most outstanding social and cultural history, representative of the best work in the historical profession, has emerged from scholars writing on Atlantic slavery.

Article.  12472 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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