Comments on Manning, Zhang, and Yi’s "Volume and Direction of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1650-1870”

David Eltis, Paul Lachance


Patrick Manning, Yun Zhang and Bowen Yi’s essay is, to our knowledge, the first since Slavevoyages went live in late 2008 to address the question of the size and direction of the largest coerced migration in global history. Given that the Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methodology that they employ has moved to center stage of statistical inquiry in this eight-year interval, their work is indeed timely. Our commentary has three parts. First we point out several problems in their use of data from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database (hereafter TASTDB) on which their estimates are based; second we call attention to our own estimates of the volume of the slave trade which are higher than those mentioned in the essay; and third we argue that, as currently constituted, their work is broadly supportive of the statistical picture that we drew in 2008 ­ albeit without the benefit of MCMC.

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