Skip Navigation Links and Jump to Page Content  The Library of Congress >> Researchers
Business Reference Services (Science, Technology, and Business Division)
  Home >> Guides >> BERA >>
   Issue 27, Spring 2017

Print shows the harbor in Boston, Massachusetts, two ships at anchor, British soldiers and men working, merchandise on shore; an idealized view depicting Boston as a typical European city.


This section looks at the Atlantic System - the trade of enslaved Africans. It has been broken into two parts – the First Atlantic system which is primarily in the 16th century and has the Spanish and Portuguese trade as its focus and the Second Atlantic system focuses on the English, Portuguese, French and Dutch traders in the 17th century onward.

We decided to create a specific section on the Atlantic slave trade with material that is separate from that found in the broader Trade & Mercantilism section.  While discussions about the slave trade may be found in material that is broader in nature, the material here is primarily about the slave trade.  Given the time period covered by this guide and the relationships between the colony and the home country, it may be that some of the material included may not be explicitly tied to a colony or colonies, but be broader and more general in scope.  

BERA - Business & Economics Research Advisor - A Quarterly Guide to Business & Economics Topics

Issue 27: Spring 2017

The Colonies in America: Commerce, Business, and the Economy

Table of Contents

General History
The Local Perspective
Trade & Mercantilism    New resource
   Atlantic Slave Trade   New resource
Money, Prices, & Banking   New resource
Statistics & Data
Internet Sources & Map Collections
LC Subject Headings


Caption (image left):
Vuë de Boston. Prospect von Boston gegen der Bucht am Hasen Vuë de Boston vers le Cale du Port.
Habermann, Franz Xaver, 1721-1796.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

There are many books and sources on this topic but what is included here is broad in nature and it is intended to be just a starting point. For more particular discussions – about particular colonies, commodities, situations, etc., other books and articles are going to be necessary to supplement and expand on what is found below.

Because the slave trade took place both before the Revolution and after, much of the literature and discussion is outside of the period covered in of this guide. However, given that some of materials cover both the period before and after the Revolution, when appropriate they have been included here. This section doesn't include all books or articles in this growing area of research, additional titles can be found by using the LC subject headings at the end of this section.

Berlin, Ira. Many Thousands Gone : The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America. Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998.
LC Call Number: E446 .B49 1998 OVERFLOWJ34
LC Catalog Record: 98019336

This book traces the evolution of black society from the first arrivals in the early seventeenth century through the Revolution. It isn't a strictly business title but can provide a broader picture of slavery prior to the Revolution. There are three separate sections. Section one – Societies with Slaves: The Charter Generations – looks at the earlier picture along the Atlantic. Section two – Slave Societies: The Plantation Generations - that includes chapters looking at Tobacco in the Chesapeake, Rice Revolution in the Lowcountry, etc. The last section – Slave and Free: The Revolutionary Generations - has specific chapters on the disappearance of slavery in the north and its situation in the south.

Blackburn, Robin. The Making of New World Slavery : From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800. London ; New York : Verso, 2010.
LC Call Number: HT1048 .B56 2010
LC Catalog Record: 2011290096

This book provides a survey of most of the major features of the slave trade though specific sketches, on topics ranging from earlier slavery within Europe to the work routines of plantations on the British-held islands as well as including accounts of specific trading systems looking at the European systems that would be expected - Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, English and French.

Curtin, Philip D. The Atlantic Slave Trade; a Census. Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1969.
LC Call Number: HT975 .C8
LC Catalog Record: 69017325

Attention is paid to the various European spheres of the trade at different points in time. It was intended to bring together bits and pieces of information already published in an attempt to measure the number of people brought across the Atlantic. Given that this book was written in 1969, more current literature on this may update/revisit this topic.

Daudin, Guillaume. "Profitability of Slave and Long-Distance Trading in Context: The Case of Eighteenth-Century France." The Journal of Economic History, 64 no. 1 (2004):144–171.

This article is not explicitly tied to specific colonies and looks at the investment in these trades. However, it is helpful for understanding some of the mechanics of the trade from the French perspective which is why it has been included.

Emmer, P. C. The Dutch in the Atlantic economy, 1580-1880 : Trade, Slavery and Emancipation. Aldershot ; Brookfield, Vt. : Ashgate, c1998.
LC Call Number: HF3615 .E47 1998
LC Catalog Record: 98014277

Much of this title is outside of the scope of this guide either because of time or geography and is included because it provides a necessary piece of the larger picture. Generally it provides a picture of Dutch involvement in the Atlantic slave trade and slave system from the Dutch conquest of part of Brazil in the early 17th century, to the abolition of slavery in the Dutch West Indies.

Klein, Herbert S. The Atlantic Slave Trade. 2nd ed., New ed. Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2010.
LC Call Number: HT1322 .K54 2010
LC Catalog Record: 201000232

This books covers four hundred years of Atlantic slave trade, covering the West and East African experiences. Chapters deal with the African picture and how they organized slave trading and how Europeans organized the slave trade and how they needed the labor. The second edition incorporates new information including on voyages that hadn't previously been explored.

Rawley, James A. The Transatlantic Slave Trade : A History. / James A. Rawley with Stephen D. Behrendt. Rev. ed. Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, c2005.
LC Call Number: HT985 .R38 2005 FT MEADE
LC Catalog Record: 2004028349
Table of contents

This is a revised edition of a book originally published in 1981. It is a discussion of the slave trade from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century covering the economics, demography, epidemiology, and politics of the trade. It begins with the early years and does cover the Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch activities but more attention is paid to French activities and English activities in Bristol, Liverpool, and London. It then focuses on the trade as an American activity. The revised edition includes expanded data tables.

Solow, Barbara L. ed. Slavery and the Rise of the Atlantic System. Cambridge : New York : Cambridge University Press ; Cambridge, Mass. : W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research, Harvard University, 1991.
LC Call Number: HT855 .S58 1991
LC Catalog Record: 90044953
Table of Contents

This is a series of articles from various academics and covers a lot of ground from the background of European views on slavery, to individual European empires slave trade, to the picture in the colonies in the Chesapeake and New England.

Solow, Barbara L. The Economic Consequence of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014.
LC Call Number: HT901 .S65 2014 OVERFLOWJ34
LC Catalog Record: 2014005649

This is a posthumous volume that brings together some of the author's seminal publications based on her research and provides insights for understanding the economics of slavery in the Americas. Chapter one looks at the centuries long history of slavery followed by colonization and slavery in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 is an unpublished piece "Eric Williams and His Critics" which synthesizes and defends his arguments. Chapters 4 and 5 looks at the establishment and growth of slavery as an economic engine.

Stanley Engerman, "The Slave Trade and British Capital Formation in the Eighteenth Century: A Comment on the Williams Thesis." Business History Review, XLVI (1972)

Thomas, Hugh. The Slave Trade : The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870. New York, NY : Simon & Schuster, c1997.
LC Call Number: HT985 .T47 1997
LC Catalog Record: 97017234

This book looks at the rise of the maritime and commercial Atlantic slave trade. While the author traces slave trading history from ancient times, for the purposes of this book he begins with the early Portuguese slaving expeditions. It looks at the trade as a business, with chapters devoted to the nautical details of ships, the traders, and the commodities brought to Africa.

Thornton, John. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1800, 2nd edn Cambridge University Press, 1998.
LC Call Number: DT31 .T516 1998
LC Catalog Record: 97039728

This book has as its focus, Africa's involvement in the Atlantic world from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries. It is grouped in two major section. The first is Africans in Africa and looks at the commercial ties between Europeans and Africans as well as the processes of enslavement and the slave trade. Section two is Africans in the New World and looks at the places of Africans in colonial society, their life and labor, and their culture, religion and resistance.

Williams, Eric. Capitalism and Slavery. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c1994.
LC Call Number: HC254.5 .W5 1994
LC Catalog Record: 94008722
Digitized version available from Internet Archive External Link

This title was originally published in 1944 and has been republished several times. It is considered a seminal work in this area – sometimes referred to as the "Williams Thesis". It was written as an attempt to place in historical perspective the relationship between early capitalism – particularly as it relates to Great Britain – and the slave trade of the 17th and 18th centuries. Because this is an economic study of the role of the capital created with slavery and the slave trade and what role that played in financing the Industrial Revolution, much of the title covers a period after the American Revolution but the first six chapters cover the time before and during the Revolution.

William and Mary Quarterly. Vol. 58, No. 1, Jan., 2001.
This entire issue was devoted to the Atlantic slave trade. Articles include but are not limited to:
Behrendt, Stephen D. "Markets, Transaction Cycles, and Profits: Merchant Decision Making in the British Slave Trade."
Eltis, David: "The volume and structure of the transatlantic slave trade: a reassessment"
Geggus, David. "The French Slave Trade: An Overview."
Solow, Barbara L. "The Transatlantic Slave Trade: A New Census."
Walsh, Lorena S. "The Chesapeake Slave Trade: Regional Patterns, African Origins, and Some Implications."

Last updated: 02/20/2018

Top of Page Top of Page
  Home >> Guides >> BERA >>
   Issue 27, Spring 2017
  The Library of Congress >> Researchers
  February 21, 2018
Legal | External Link Disclaimer

Contact Us:  
Ask a Librarian