Project 4: Documenting the Ethnic Origins of Captives in the Atlantic Slave Trade

Fellow:  Carlos da Silva Junior
Supervision:  Prof. David Richardson
Host Institution:  Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, University of Hull
Duration:  3 years – starting from 1 June 2012

This project aims to identify the ethnic origins of the enslaved Africans taken to Bahia, Brazil, in the second half of the eighteenth century and first half of the nineteenth century. Archival records have shown that the port of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, was one of the major slave ports in the Americas, receiving people of different ethnic backgrounds either from West Africa, West Central Africa and – although in a small number – East Africa. This project will re-evaluate new and existing primary source evidence to build a more nuanced picture of African ethnicity in Bahia at the height of the transatlantic slave trade.

This project has four main components, each of which has a specific outcome. The first is to review the literature on ethnicity in the context of the Transtlantic slave trade to the Americas (specially to Brazil) as a platform for exploring its usefulness in terms of assessing the slave trade’s impact on Africa and the African diaspora.

The second is to build on the work of Ugo Nwokeji and David Eltis developing current knowledge about the ethnic origins of African captives taken to Bahia, Brazil. This will include refining and improving the evidential base of the existing records database in the light of recently discovered archival data from Sierra Leone. The third aspect is to consolidate and expand the historical evidence of African ethnicity beyond existing published sources through new research in European and Cuban archives.

The fourth is to trace chronologies of the ethnic composition of Africans entering the slave trade through time, using the Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade as a template for mapping regional and global movements of people, with a view to exploring the impact of the trade on African source populations.

This project will be carried out in close collaboration with Prof. David Eltis, coauthor of the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database, and will provide an evidential context for all other EUROTAST projects.

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