African Diaspora Forum | Graduate Students
|African Diaspora Forum|
|Topic: The Trans Atlantic Voyage Database - Questions|
|The purpose of this theme is to raise questions arising from an examination of the voyage database published by David Eltis, et al on the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It is clear that the database is very useful as an historical tool, but it is also clear that there are problems in accessing data and analysing what has been accessed. The purpose of this page is to raise questions in the hope that an exchange will lead to useful analysis.|
I have one question re: the database.
When I query Slave revolt on board equals insurrection I cannot understand the analysis. For the period 1701-1725 it reads nine voyage samples of 3046 embarked peoples and 8 samples of 2488 disembarked and one voyage where slave voyage mortality is available.
a) Does this mean there are 9 recorded revolts but records of death rate for only one ship, it reads 5%?
b) Does this mean I have only one source where I can calculate the mortality rate on voyages where there were revolts within the 25-year period?
c) Does this mean it is impossible for me to calculate an exact number of slaves killed in slave revolts embarking from the Gold Coast?
|P. David Richardson|
|P. David Richardson
The answer to each of these questions is yes. Users of the database need to bear in mind that we have incomplete data for many ships and that levels of completeness vary. So the David Campbell's reading of the output is correct. One of the tasks of the current work is to reduce the gaps in data, though it would be misleading to pretend we can ever fill them all.
On the dataset query, the student needs to bear in mind that the data are incomplete, more than commonly so in the earlier period. This means that
(a) Some of the mortality calculations are based on fragile numbers of observations and cannot be totally relied on as indicative of levels in say five-year period (technically, the sample size is too small).
(b) It is sometimes, as yet, impossible to say how many or where slaves on individual ships landed in America. The record is sometimes silent are the ship loaded in Africa or sometimes ships were seized but the outcome of the voyage in terms of what happened to the slaves is unknown. The point is we still have much work to do to cover gaps and, in some cases, may never do so.
As for ethnicity, this is not a variable in the set, principally because, at the time of publication, there were few cases where there was a breakdown of ethnicity of individual ship's slaves. This may change (especially for the 19th century), and so a dataset on ethnicity could be linked to the larger voyage set.
On revolts, there are some cases where we have data on numbers killed, but often this information is not found in the record. All the data we've accumulated on revolts are in a separate set, with only the fact of a revolt on a voyage being flagged in the larger voyage set that you have.
|What materials in the Jamaican Archives are helpful for my topic 'The slave trade between Jamaica, the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua (mosquito shore)and Costa Rica, 1690-1787?|
"Slave revolts on board? = Insurrection" and "25-year period = "1702-1725"
yields 41 cases, not 9.
The "analysis" hot-button for this selection shows that voyage mortality survives for 20 of these voyages and the average mortality rate was 22.1% of those taken on board. Note that, as the label states, this is voyage mortality only. It includes slaves killed in the revolts, but also all those who died before and after on the voyage. Thus, it is not possible to calculate only those who died in the revolt itself.
In your last sentence you mention "Gold Coast".
Thus, is your query
1. Slave revolts
3. Only vessels from the Gold Coast.
If so, then the answers above will be different. Slave revolts were much less common on ships leaving the Gold Coast, than on those leaving other areas.
|Re-Maria's Question on Jamaica, whatever information is likely to be found on the topics in question will be found at either:
a) The Jamaica Archives (Spanish Town, Jamaica)
b) The National Library of Jamaica (East St., Kingston, Jamaica
c) The Elsa Goveia Reading Room, Main Library, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Kingston, Jamaica.
I believe that all of these locations have websites (I am quite certain about the second and third) and the archivists/librarians are extremely helpful. There are also Nicaraguan and Costa Rican representatives in Jamaica (Embassies/or some other sort of representation) and although it is unlikely that they would house materials in their embassies, perhaps, if contacted, they can direct her to materials in Nicaragua/Costa Rica, assuming she hasn't already covered these bases.
I do not know how much there might be in any of these places; however, if it is to be found, these are the likely sites.
|There is an awareness of the differential treatment and privileges of palace slaves, soldier slaves, agriculutural slaves etc, and that between the slaves of a monarch, slaves belonging to his/her chiefs and those belonging to the common citizens.
Given the gradations of power relationships in Africa,so who is an elite slave?
|It would appear as if the database doesn't specify revolt-mortality from the general. The difference between the numbers embarking and the numbers disembarking generally provides an indication of the mortality rate. However, if the given numbers in the database were derived from different samples then the matter is no longer that simple, and so the database merely provides the rate for its most accurate sample. In fact, 5% mortality seems far too good to be true in the best of times, not to mention during revolts at sea. My guess is that this is the most accurate sample it could produce, given its incomplete data.|
|Trevor Burnard's review of Bruce Mouser's edition of the Sandown’s logs led me to reflect on some matters relating to teaching the history of the slave trade, and also some perils of conducting research. I wonder if subscribers to this list have anything they might add to them. It struck me that this book, which seems fascinating, is a natural complement to Robert Harms' long account of the French slave ship Diligent, not the least because the foundation for Harms' book is a journal much like the one edited by Mouser. While the Diligent is quite long, and spins off on a number of tangents more or less related to the Diligent's mission, A Slaving Voyage to Africa and Jamaica appears to be remarkably short -- just over 150 pp. Yet, Burnard praises the book's annotations and remarks on the detail of Samuel Gamble's observations. I have considered using _The Diligent_ with high-level undergraduates and graduate students, but I am wondering if Mouser's book might be just as effective, maybe more so. On a more frustrating note, I looked up the Sandown on The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: A Database on CD-ROM and I found it sure enough. However, the information on the database is far more limited than that in the logbook, which is surprising given that Eltis' team lists it as one of their sources of information on the ship's 1793 voyage. There are also many puzzling differences in the data. Mouser's review indicated that the log contains data on the ship's crew (numbers, deaths), the dates on which it arrived at and departed the African coast, and slave mortality and embarkation. In addition, the log indicated that there was an insurrection on board, while no such disturbance is listed on the database (there are fields for all of these categories). And while the log indicates that ten slaves died in the revolt and another thirty-four en route from disease, the database states that 280 Africans embarked, while 250 disembarked in Jamaica. On a number of levels, the numbers do not add up.
I have used, and continue to use, The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade as a teaching tool, and as a resource for student research. But these discrepancies and omissions give me pause. Have other instructors or researchers encountered similar problems, or can anybody suggest remedies, including suggestions about ways I may be misreading this material?
To read the review Click here
|Courtesy: Colleen Vasconcellos firstname.lastname@example.org and H-CARIBBEAN@H-NET.MSU.EDU
Comments on the Review of _A Slaving Voyage to Africa and Jamaica_
Date: Fri, 24 Jan 2003
From: David Eltis email@example.com
Four main points in response to Daniel Kilbride's note on the Sandown and the slave trade database.
1. The database drew on nine separate sources of information for the voyage
of the Sandown. As soon as more than one source is involved in historical
research - indeed, often when there is only a single source available - the
problem of conflicting information arises. As explained in the Introduction
to the CD-ROM, where two or more conflicting reports of the number of
slaves on board are to be found in the sources, the policy of the editors
was to use the higher of the two numbers - or the middle value of three
numbers, etc., etc. Lloyd's List reported that the vessel arrived with 250
slaves. This was higher than the logbook listed, and this is the number we
2. The database does not state that the vessel left Africa with 280 slaves
as Daniel Kilbride indicates. In fact, the TSLAVESD (total slaves departed)
variable for this voyage is left blank. The figure of 280 is the "Imputed
number of slaves on board at the outset of the middle passage". Again as
explained in the Introduction, 280 is an imputed or inferred number which
we added when the actual number was not available. In this case the
inference was based on estimates of shipboard mortality added to what we
took to be the number on board when the vessel left Africa (250). Users
cannot use the database correctly without understanding the difference
between information that is reported directly from the sources, and
information that our research team imputed (a distinction to which much of
the Introduction is devoted to explaining).
3. What emerges from this is not erroneous data, but errors of omission. We
did not glean as much from the manuscript of the logbook as we should have
done - including the reference to the insurrection. These errors of
omission will be corrected in the second edition.
4. Despite these omissions, it should be pointed out that there is much
information in the data set that is not in the logbook (either in the ms in
the National Maritime Museum, or the published version). This is because
the editor, Bruce Mouser, evidently did not consult the CD-ROM when he was
preparing the ms for publication. Thus Mouser did not have to guess at the
identity of of other slave vessels that the Sandown encountered. Almost
every one of them in Gamble's log can be found in the data set. Among other
facts about this voyage readily available from the CD-ROM but not included
in the published log are the identity of the Sandown's owners as well as
the other slave vessels they owned, what happened to the Sandown after
Gamble left it behind in Jamaica, and the previous history of Captain
Gamble. He had fact in fact traded as a captain on this part of the coast
in 1789-90. Bruce Mouser has done an excellent job of editing the Sandown's
log, but he could have done an even better job with a few clicks of the mouse.
This data set could not exist without input from hundreds of people and we
welcome corrections. Indeed we have received many such corrections from
users since the CD-ROM was published. We do urge, however, that users read
the guide and instructions that accompany the set and, above all, respect
the fact that the historical record contains few certainties.
|To reply to a message or suggest a new topic click on|