Routes of Atlantic Slave Voyages: Revised Framework and New Insights

Patrick Manning, Yu Liu


This study explores data on the Atlantic slave trade through a revised framework, focusing not simply on voyages of individual slave ships but on aggregating them by route, linking an African region of departure with an American region of arrival. The result shows a total of 40 slave routes, for which documented voyages are aggregated by decade from the 1650s through the 1860s. Within this framework, analysis is conducted at the level of documented voyages (by route and by decade) and also at the level of documented captive flows (by route and by decade). This intermediate frame of analysis lies between analysis of individual voyages and aggregate figures for the whole slave trade. Results of this analysis show the variation among routes: ten out of the forty routes account for 85% of the voyages. For each route, it is shown that the average numbers of captives departing Africa remained roughly constant from the 1650s through the 1830s; the same is true for the numbers of captives arriving in the Americas. These and other characteristics of the routes, as seen through voyages and captive flows, allow for new insights into the character and the changes in the Atlantic slave trade over two centuries.


slave trade; voyages; captives; routes

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