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Transatlantic Slavery transpired over 400-years across several European empires provoking the genocidal contact between Europeans, and Africans and Indigenous peoples on several continents.
Enslavers & the Enslaved
The study of these histories is necessarily complex, and the historical material (the primary sources) which scholars use to understand them are scattered across multiple regions, institutions, and collections. Understanding enslavers and the enslaved is also complicated since the former held the latter in bondage in part by controlling how enslaved people were documented and represented across various domains including art, culture, law, and politics.
The Absent Narrative
The strategic material deprivation, arduousness of labour, lack of leisure time, prohibitions on literacy, and the prolific use of corporal punishment, meant that the enslaved were almost universally blocked from leaving descriptions and representations of themselves and their communities. This means that although the archives are today full of documentation and cultural objects like business ledgers, slave ship cargo lists, personal correspondence, legislation, newspapers, bills of sale, hospital, and baptismal records, portraits, prints, and photographs, almost all of these types of sources were created by white people intent on maintaining or expanding slavery.
Meeting The Challenge
Researching slavery – especially in ways that centre the enslaved – is challenging and requires specialized knowledge and skills. BM’s Transatlantic Slavery Resources sheds light on what it takes to do this work, the questions that scholars are asking, and the ways they are seeking to engage with these difficult materials.