Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation




College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Matt D. Childs


Beginning in the sixteenth century, as large quantities of produce were unloaded at ports throughout Northern Europe, consumer consumption of West Indies commodities drove demand for captive African labor. As a result, from 1556 to 1867, Europeans transported some 12 million West Africans to the Americas. Based on primary sources from over three countries and more than thirty archives, this study explores the structure and organization of the transatlantic slave trade to analyze the transformation of relationships and the commercial operation of the trade in West Africa, the circum-Caribbean, and more broadly the Atlantic world. This study of the transatlantic slave trade from the seventeenth to the eighteenth centuries is framed through the analytical concept of "Labor Wars" between rival empires (Spain vs Britain); between merchants (European, African, and New World merchants) and between masters and slaves themselves on plantations, ships, and slave dungeons. The geographic terrain of this study connected West and Central Africa to the Greater Caribbean, but also moved beyond the familiar terrain of Atlantic history to include Madagascar in the Indian Ocean and North Africa in the Mediterranean. The operation of the transatlantic slave trade was guided by the politics of power, war, violence and greed that directly impacted the flow of captives to the coast and the Americas.

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