Ending the history of silence: reconstructing European Slave trading in the Indian Ocean

Encerrando a história do silêncio: reconstruindo o tráfico europeu de escravos no Oceano Índico

Richard B. Allen About the author


Thirty-eight years ago, Hubert Gerbeau discussed the problems that contributed to the “history of silence” surrounding slave trading in the Indian Ocean. While the publication of an expanding body of scholarship since the late 1980s demonstrates that this silence is not as deafening as it once was, our knowledge and understanding of this traffic in chattel labor remains far from complete. This article discusses the problems surrounding attempts to reconstruct European slave trading in the Indian Ocean between 1500 and 1850. Recently created inventories of British East India Company slaving voyages during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and of French, Portuguese, and other voyages involving the Mascarene Islands of Mauritius and Réunion between 1670 and the 1830s not only shed light on the nature and dynamics of British and French slave trading in the Indian Ocean, but also highlight topics and issues that future research on European slave trading within and beyond this oceanic world will need to address.

slave trade; Indian Ocean; slaving voyage inventories

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