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Crossing the Atlantic: More thoughts on the Slave Trade

Monday, January 30, 2012 at 2:30 p.m.
Beinecke Library, Room 39

The Atlantic slave trade continues to intrigue - and confuse. The best part of twelve million Africans were loaded onto the slave ships: eleven million survived to landfall. But many of the older ideas of the precise nature of that trade are now under scrutiny. The violent experience on board the slave ships attracts less attention than it ought. And what persuaded generations of slave traders to inflict such sea borne horrors on so many Africans? More perplexing still, why did the western world turn against the slave trade ( which yielded so much material bounty and prosperity) - and in so short a span of time? In 1700 few questioned the trade: by 1800 it was roundly condemned.

James Walvin is Professor of History Emeritus at the University of York U.K. where he taught for many years. He has published widely on the history of slavery, and on modern British social history. Among his recent books are The Slave Trade, (Thames and Hudson, London, 2011) and The Zong. A Massacre, the Law, and the End of Slavery, (Yale University Press, 2011.) At the Beinecke he plans to continue his work on the slave trade by exploring the manuscript and printed collections relating to the slave trade in the South Atlantic in the nineteenth century.


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