Research Note on Captive Atlantic Flows: Estimating Missing Data by Slave-Voyage Routes


  • Patrick Manning World History Center, University of Pittsburgh (emeritus)
  • Yu Liu Department of Statistics, University of Pittsburgh



slave trade, voyages, routes, captive flows, Missing data, Bayesian estimates, Comparative methods and results


This essay provides new estimates of the number of captives carried in the Atlantic slave trade during each decade from the 1650s to the 1860s. It relies on two categories of known data—on the routes of voyages and the numbers of captives recorded on those voyages—as a basis for estimation of missing data and totals of captive flows. It uses techniques of Bayesian statistics to estimate missing data on routes and flows of captives. As a framework for the Bayesian estimates, it focuses on analysis of 40 distinct routes linking the African coast to the Americas and traces the captive flows—that is, the number of captives embarked on or disembarked from voyages along those routes. The dataset that provides the basis for this research note is available at:


Casella, George, and Roger L. Berger. 2001. Statistical Inference, 2nd ed. Pacific Grove, CA: Duxbury Press.

Curtin, Philip D. The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969.

Eltis, David, and Paul F. Lachance. 2010. ”Estimates of the Size and Direction of Transatlantic Slave Trade.” method.pdf.

Eltis, David, et al. “Slave Voyages.”

Eltis et al. 2010. SPSS dataset available online at

Lovejoy, Paul E. “The Volume of the Atlantic Slave Trade: A Synthesis.” Journal of African History, 23 (1982): 473–501.

Miller, Joseph C. Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730–1830. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.




How to Cite

Manning, P., & Liu, Y. (2020). Research Note on Captive Atlantic Flows: Estimating Missing Data by Slave-Voyage Routes. Journal of World-Systems Research, 26(1), 103–125.



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